A COMMUNITY centre in Wantage used for live concerts and cinema screenings has now been transformed into a Covid-19 testing facility for people in public-facing roles who are not displaying any symptoms.

The Beacon – the popular arts and community centre in the heart of the town – reopened yesterday after months of being shut to offer lateral flow tests to workers and volunteers in Wantage and surrounding areas.

The free, rapid tests are for people who do not have access to workplace testing through their employer.

This includes the self-employed and people who work for small businesses, for example taxi drivers, independent retailers, and tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians.

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South and Vale district councils have worked closely with partners across Oxfordshire to help set up this rapid symptom-free testing venue, which is one of only three in the county.

Councillor Helen Pighills, Vale of White Horse District Council cabinet member for healthy communities, urged everyone eligible for the free test to book a slot as soon as possible.

Vale councillor Helen Pighills

Vale councillor Helen Pighills

She commented further on the project: "We are really pleased to have been able to put forward The Beacon, along with over a dozen staff from the South and Vale district councils, to help with this vital part of the local response to the pandemic.

"I am also delighted that the programme has been expanded to include all public-facing workers much earlier than originally anticipated.

"I strongly encourage all those who leave home to work or volunteer to get a test as soon as you can.

"There is financial support available for workers who test positive and therefore have to self-isolate.

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"Our community hub is also available for anyone struggling to access food or facing financial hardship."

Data shows that around one in three people with Covid-19 have no symptoms but can still pass it on and so regular testing of public-facing workers will help to stop the spread of the virus.

Oxfordshire County Council is working with Public Health England to run three sites across the county with support from the district councils.

Employees from Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue were the first to be tested at the centre, followed by early years workers and council staff in other key public-facing roles.

Now workers and volunteers are also being invited to get tested once a week.

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The programme is set to help identify and self-isolate those who are unaware they are carrying the virus, which will protect work colleagues, customers and communities alike.

The 15-minute test involves taking a swab of the back of the throat and inside the nose, which is then given to trained staff at the test centre who process the test at the facility.

Results are then given within an hour by text message or by email.

To find out more information about the lateral flow tests visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/symptomfreetesting