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Newburytoday goes behind the scenes at Newbury's lateral flow testing centre

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Inspirational group working tirelessly to get the country running again

The woman managing the district’s lateral flow testing system has said she is “very humbled and very inspired” by everyone she has met since the service began last month.

Wendy Tafi, the project manager covering the four testing sites in West Berkshire, invited the Newbury Weekly News along to meet her team and find out what it is like to be working tirelessly to help get the country out of lockdown again.

“We have all been brought together and are from different age groups, different
backgrounds, but I have seen a real comradeship,” she said. “Everyone is there to make a difference and they are trying to work within their communities and give something back. Some people have had incredibly hard times in lockdown; everyone has a reason why they get involved.

“I am very humbled and very inspired by everyone I have met. I absolutely love this job; it’s a lot of fun and they are all great people.”

The centre we visited at the new Highwood Copse Primary School, Newbury, was the first to open at the beginning of
February, with further centres in Thatcham, Hungerford and Burghfield now also in operation.

Asymptomatic testing is seen as key to getting the country back open again and staff at the site said every single person who has passed through the doors has been really grateful for the opportunity to know they are Covid-free and can, therefore, continue to work safely.

Charlie Connor (above), 20, was a shift manager at Domino’s before he decided to quit his job and begin working at the testing site. He is now a team lead.

“It’s been really good working here,” he said. “A lot of people who come in are quite scared of the tests, quite nervous, but we are there to calm them. We are there to help everyone; they don’t need to worry. We will make sure everyone feels comfortable.

“We also see a lot of people who haven’t been out of their house for so long and they just want to chat, which is nice.

“If people want to sit and have a little chat then we are happy with that; we will never rush anybody.

“We have got to meet a lot of new people who you wouldn’t usually meet. We all live in different areas and are from different backgrounds, but we all get on really well.”

Matthew Weeks (below), 24, agreed and said he’d found it really interesting to see how the testing sites work ‘behind the scenes’.
Mr Weeks, who moved to England from New Zealand in 2017 and lives in Newbury with his father, had worked at the Hog and Hedge, in Northbrook Street until it closed permanently in September.

He said: “I started working at the showground testing site when it first opened and I met a lot of people who I would never have met before. It’s been an interesting but weird time.

“We are always wearing PPE and social distancing so I always feel safe at work. If I hadn’t been working through this I would have gone crazy.”

His colleagues Flo Piddington, 21, and Ryan Miles, 19, praised the people who have been using the testing site and said they have all been polite and incredibly grateful to be able to use the service.

Newbury-based Miss Piddington (below), who hopes to restart work as a personal trainer as soon as lockdown restrictions ease, added: “Some people have even been saying we are heroes, which is really weird to hear. Testing is so important and it is what is going to get us out of this. It feels a bit strange to be involved in it.

“We are getting to see regular faces now and it’s just become part of their weekly routine. We have all come from different backgrounds and just ended up here, together, and get on really well. It’s been really good.”

Digital marketing student Ryan (above), who also lives in Newbury, said: “I wanted to get out because staying at home is not good for anyone’s mental health and what we do here is really beneficial to the whole community.

“Everything has been really positive. The team I work with are amazing and everyone who comes in here is lovely.”

Last week saw 262 people tested at the Newbury centre; 255 in Thatcham, another 88 in Hungerford and 326 in

The lateral flow testing centres are supporting emergency service testing too, with 93 police officers and 109 members of the fire brigade tested last week.

The sites are run by Solution 4 Health, on behalf of West Berkshire Council, and offer testing, twice a week, to eligible key workers. All businesses – now including those with less than 50 employees – can apply for the free Covid-19 working testing programme, while self-employed individuals can visit one of the sites to get regular testing.

You can find out more on the testing here.

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