“EVERY sphere of my life has been invaded by this virus” – these are the words of a hospital worker describing how Covid has impacted her over the last year.

Speaking at a meeting organised by Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust (HHFT) titled Covid: One year on, Dr Avneet Shahi spoke about her experience working on the frontline at Basingstoke hospital.

The joint chief registrar has split her time working with Covid patients and in the microbiology department, which has led the way in innovation, becoming the first laboratory in the country to validate a test to detect Covid-19 last year.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Shahi said: “We are on call 24 hours a day. Our labs run 24 hours a day processing new results.”

Describing the last year, she said: “It’s been a year of change. We have rapidly scaled up our processes in the fight against this virus. We were the first lab to process Covid testing. The speed we can get results has improved on and on.”

When there was a national shortage of swabs for Covid testing, the microbiology team validated a test using saliva instead.

“It makes me proud to be part of this department where we are so innovative,” said Dr Shahi.

Since the pandemic began, the hospital’s lab has processed 81,355 tests, of which 76,930 were negative and 4,425 positive.

However, the last year has also presented numerous challenges, with Dr Shahi moving out of her family home last year so she could care for Covid patients.

“I think this has been the hardest year of my career and probably the most challenging for the NHS. It’s been tragic and tiring. I moved out of my family home for the first six months. I also developed white hair having no white hair before. It invaded my life,” she said.

Dr Shahi’s father caught Covid which she said caused “a lot of anxiety”, particularly because he was on the shielding list.

Thankfully, he is now recovering, but Dr Shahi said it had been a tough year, adding: “It’s felt like every sphere of my life has been invaded by this virus. But we made it through.”

She said the hospital has constantly evolved as the virus evolves, explaining: “Just as the virus is dynamic, we are dynamic too. Science is what will prevent the virus getting the best of us.”

Her message to others was to stay healthy, eat well, exercise and look after your mental wellbeing.

She added: “The second thing is to practice government guidelines around social distancing and hygiene. It’s really important in preventing this virus.”

The doctor urged people to take part in twice weekly lateral flow testing, saying: “Regular testing is essential in how we go forth. One in in three people can have no symptoms which is why it’s so important to test. It’s one box per household, it’s free and it’s one additional tool for staying safe in this pandemic.”

However, her last message was to “be kind”.

She said: “I have not met a single person who hasn’t been untouched by this pandemic. Whether you have had Covid or are bereaved or you are anxious or you are a frontline worker, this year has affected us all and it’s really important that we all are kind to each other.”