The former chief executive of a well-known Cumbrian company has launched a new venture aimed at helping businesses get back to work while avoiding the spread of coronavirus.

Firms across the country are considering how they can safely return to work at the same time as protecting staff.

Stuart Maclennan, former chief executive of Cows and Co, based near Carlisle, set up his new venture Circular 1, in March.

He said Cows and Co, which worked across the fields of cheesemaking and renewable energy, had separated the business’ interests with him retaining the energy business and rebranding as Circular 1.

He said Circular 1 aims to work with businesses and partners in the field of the “clean growth economy”.

However, as the coronavirus shutdown has hit the economy, he has been focusing on developing a service which can be deployed by businesses as the country attempts to get back on its feet.

Circular 1 is working with a laboratory with bases in Manchester and London which has developed a method of testing people to quickly determine whether or not they have Covid-19.

At the same time, it has joined forces with North West-based company FNS, which has developed the Steriloc door security system that ensures that no one can enter a building without first sanitising their hands.

Stuart says combining the technologies can help businesses test staff and control the spread of the virus.

The test, which is known as a LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) test has already been used for some time to test for human tuberculosis.

Circular 1’s technology supplier has been involved in research work with King’s College and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London to develop it to test for Covid-19.

The test can be carried out by people themselves, using a nasal swab, with results available within hours.

If the test comes up positive, then it can be followed up with another polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm people are Covid-19 positive and that they should stay at home.

Stuart says the firm is in a position to provide this as a service to businesses, with the capacity to deal with 1000 tests a day and rapidly scale up as demand requires.

“It’s quite plausible you could have a mobile lab somewhere and test people at a care home, for example,” he said.

“If we learn from countries like South Korea and Germany where there has been a big, big focus on testing; you can see that when you put testing and control protocols in place the ability to control this type of virus is much, much greater.

“There will be subsequent outbreaks of this. The ability to test and control is really important.”

Steriloc is essentially a hand sanitising unit which people have to use in order to gain entry to a building or section of a building.

Circular 1, which is based at Warwick Mill Business Centre, near Carlisle, has already installed one of the units at the office block and with others ready to be deployed elsewhere.

“The idea is to test and control and then record,” says Stuart.

“I am a massive believer that business has got to play a part when something goes wrong.

“Business should get hold of this and fix it.

“The way you fight back is by making sure that society can function again and the only way society can function again is if we’ve got the ability to control the environment around us so the virus can’t take hold.”

He said a typical way businesses may use the testing system was for staff to take their temperature before coming to work and on arrival.

If there was a fluctuation they could undergo a LAMP test and, if necessary, stay at home.

“That way it cuts down all the concern and fear in the workplace,” said Stuart.

“For a period of time, we are going to have to do something really, really robust just to get on top of this.

“We are a service and we can deploy mobile labs to people who need it. We can send kits out so people can do it at home and companies can have them.

“We are looking at aspects which are about what we learn from the data about how the virus behaves and how we behave and how it affects our wellbeing.

“The learning that is going to come from this is going to be really interesting for society because we just cannot afford to close the doors again.”