World Travel Market 2021 has partnered with ExpressTest by Cignpost– a global diagnostics leader that has done 3 million tests to date and is one of the leading testing providers in the United Kingdom. From Monday 1 November to Wednesday 3 November, testing will be provided on-site at ExCeL London. This partnership is part of the ‘new-normal’ within the events and exhibition landscape, so Ramy James Salameh, Travel Editor & Journalist, posed some questions to Professor Denis Kinane, Founding Scientist at Cignpost Diagnostics:
I understand that you will be the official testing partner at World Travel Market 2021 (WTM), coming after your attendance at ‘The Meetings Show’ (TMS); do you believe testing at major events will be a constant both now and in the future?
Testing will always be required whilst the government legislates for it in terms of international visitors. However, even when not legislated for, there are still many concerns around Covid transmission, which is understandable when you consider the sharp rise in numbers of infection over the past few weeks.
We all witnessed the increased cases after large scale events earlier this year, whether people were gathering for social or business reasons. Therefore, it’s understandable that event organisers are taking steps to ensure the safety of exhibitors and visitors. They recognise the need to ensure events are underpinned with robust testing and viral hygiene protocols, including masks and social distancing measures. So, as long as Covid is with us, we expect testing to remain.
Did you approach WTM and TMS about being an official testing partner or did they approach you – have you seen a rise in event organiser requests for your services?
TMS approached us to help protect the health of those attending the show, and to take care of their Hosted Buyers travel tests for ease and convenience. While at the TMS show; WTM London 2021 came to discuss the logistics of providing the same high level of service for their exhibitors and attendees, bearing in mind it’s a destination event for people around the globe. We have definitely seen a rise in demand for our services, particularly at Exhibitions where the provision of timely, reliable and trusted testing is needed, particularly for international delegates.
COVID-19 created a massive growth surge in testing companies such as yours, how do you differentiate yourself from competitors, is it through sectors such as TV/ Film production and the MICE market, where the threat of sudden cancellation can be incredibly costly?
Cignpost Diagnostics has quickly evolved into a global leader in diagnostics providing services across the world including the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Our offering is diverse, from B2C testing for travel and general wellbeing checks, to a comprehensive B2B testing offer for corporates, film and TV productions, sporting, and large-scale events.
We have 37 health centres around the country and are the chosen partner of the largest airports across the UK including Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh, and Birmingham where we deliver lateral flow tests and our gold standard PCR test results in as little as 2 hours through our network of labs. Over the past 18 months we have created safe environments, enabling businesses to operate safely and people to travel and go about their lives with confidence.
Do you believe testing will be needed into the foreseeable and distant future, even if the pandemic is contained and managed to levels where there are no governmental restrictions?
While vaccination rates are increasing and coverage becomes more widespread, testing will certainly continue to stay relevant. In addition, comprehensive testing frameworks also have the potential to identify a range of respiratory viruses and keep large-scale events secure. The Government’s mass pilot events assessments appear to indicate that transmission can be restricted when proper viral hygiene and gold-standard PCR testing is deployed before and after events. As well as this, the pandemic has shown how easily new variants can enter the country, with many going undetected for long periods of time, as the symptoms differ slightly to what the public expect. It is therefore highly important that we are still able to track dangerous Covid-19 variants, to help prevent them from spreading quickly throughout the UK. This means tests should be performed correctly upon arrival into the country, so any positive cases, however rare, can be immediately reported to Public Health England. If we do not have testing in place, we would risk increasing UK Covid-19 cases again if we lose the ability to monitor for these new variants.
The meetings and events industry will need to adapt to this ‘new normal’, so could you see major event organisers formulating long-term partnerships with a testing/diagnostic company such as yours to almost become an in-house part of their event management plans?
Most definitely. Cignpost Diagnostics has been instrumental in keeping workspaces and businesses safe since the start of the pandemic, supporting elite sports such as Formula 1, The Ryder Cup and Wimbledon, as well as over 200 TV and film productions. It is essential that elite sports and the film and television industry rely on a robust testing framework to keep things operating, and we don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.
In terms of large events we expect that immunization passports and lateral flow tests will likely play a large part. However we must recognise the fact that testing needs to be conducted away from the event, otherwise organisers could be creating contagion pinch points.
Do you think consumers, whether for business and leisure travel, will drive demand in DIY testing kits to be able to move abroad with confidence even if it is not required – do you see that as a future trend, will it become as common as travel insurance?
Through Covid-19 people are now incredibly aware of the power of testing for infectious diseases and how easy it is to do this from home or at easy and accessible testing centres. With this in mind, I think yes there will continue to be a drive-in demand for DIY testing kits, whether that’s for Covid, or another diagnosable test that can be done without a visit to the Doctor. Covid has proven that people are comfortable with the concept of self-testing and are prepared to take responsibility for their own health.
Can you future-gaze and forecast where your company will be in 5-years and what our ‘healthy’ travel habits might be?
Cignpost already has a network of 37 regional health centres around the country, and we scaled this up very quickly. We will continue to look to provide a breadth of affordable and easy testing according to the changing needs of consumers as travel opens and also as people start to take a more active role in testing to lead healthier lives.