Specially trained staff at a North-East college are ramping up efforts to combat COVID-19 by setting up virus testing stations for when students return to the classroom.

A team of around 20 volunteers at Darlington College have undergone hours of official Government training in readiness for the easing of lockdown and students returning to site.

Staff are already trialling the weekly COVID-19 testing facility set up in the college’s atrium. People being tested first scan a NHS QR code which enters their details into the system. They are then equipped with a self-testing kit comprising nasal and throat swabs. Samples are analysed on site giving a result within 30 minutes.

Manager Vanessa Smith said: “We had a great response from staff who wanted to do something to help and they underwent extensive training. As a dry run to the proposed mass testing for students we are trialling the system with around 60 staff a week.”

Assistant principal Mike Chapman said: “It is a very slick process with staff supporting people at every step while following strict COVID guidelines. We are all working towards the possible easing of lockdown on March 8 but appreciate this might change as new variants emerge.”

Darlington College has around 1,500 full and part-time students who will get the opportunity to be tested twice over a period of five days of returning to college.

Admissions and inquiry assistant Annelie Whitfield was one of the first to volunteer. She said: “I feel it is important to give something back and was very keen to get involved to help the college and its students. We have a really good system in place which I’m enjoying being part of.”