The Prime Minister’s ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’ announcement has been welcomed in Kent as residents are thanked for their efforts in bringing Covid-19 rates across the county down during the last lockdown.
Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for allowing schools, socialising and some sports to return next month under Government plans to relax lockdown restrictions. From 8 March, all pupils in all years will be returning to the classroom, outdoor after-school sports and activities will resume, and socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be allowed. Further dates and easing of restrictions have also been outlined and can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Cases in Kent are currently 74.9 per 100,000 which is below the South East and England averages.* Hospitals across the county continue to be extremely busy with the numbers of severe cases still causing concern while the Kent and Medway CCG has been rolling out the vaccine programme, delivering more than 450,000 jabs so far.
KCC Director for Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark says the drop in cases is positive but warned against relaxing too soon and urged residents to continue following social distancing guidelines which currently means restrictions to travel and people should stay at home, only going out for essential reasons such as shopping, to picking up medication or one period of exercise per day. He said: “It is great that we are seeing numbers fall but we are getting to the point that even a small local outbreak in a workplace of community setting can make a big difference and this still causes us huge concern for the more vulnerable residents who are at risk of severe symptoms.
“We are revising our outbreak control plans in light of the government announcements and are working with partners across the system to ensure we are ready to manage the easing of restrictions carefully.”
He added: “Our NHS colleagues are doing a fantastic job with the vaccination rollout but there is still a responsibility for all residents to play their part by limiting their social interaction and carefully following any restrictions, while also continuing to adopt hands-face-space guidance and please avoid crowded popular places such as beaches and parks. We’d also urge residents to continue getting a symptom-free test at one of the 24 sites across Kent and following the guidance if found positive so they do not unknowingly pass the virus on. Until any of the changes outlined by the Government are in place, we advise people to still follow the current lockdown restrictions and remind them that Kent Police will be enforcing against unlawful gatherings.”
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough praised residents for following the national lockdown restrictions. He said: “We know it’s been an incredibly tough period for people with Kent facing tougher measures since before Christmas and we are seeing the rewards of that hard work. With the latest Government announcement, we hope to be able to start supporting that road to recovery and we remain committed to four crucial actions that will help us get out of restrictions – following the guidelines; symptom-free testing; contact tracing and enforcement. With these four measures, we have all made significant strides in identifying and containing the virus across the county but we need to keep that focus going.”
Speaking about plans to re-open schools, Roger Gough added: “Teachers and school staff across Kent have done a fantastic job educating and supporting all our children and young people in very challenging circumstances throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and I would like to once again thank them for all their efforts. Parents and carers deserve praise too as do the children and young people themselves. Juggling home-schooling with work and other responsibilities, and adapting to new ways of working, have not been easy so well done and thank you to all families who have risen to the challenge throughout the past year.
“Our priority is to ensure all pupils in Kent can reconnect with school staff and peers through daily attendance in school, to benefit from high quality face to face learning in a safe environment and the social connections that are so important to everyone’s health and wellbeing. Kent County Council has supported schools throughout the pandemic and this will continue as they welcome back all pupils and look towards a more positive future.”
More than 315,000 symptom-free tests have now been carried out in Kent. Residents can book a test at www.kent.gov.uk/symptomfreetest If you have symptoms, you should book through https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Kent County Council’s 24-hour helpline is still available and ready to support Kent’s vulnerable people who need urgent help, supplies or medication.
The Kent Together helpline provides a single, convenient point of contact for anyone in the county who is in urgent need of help during the Coronavirus outbreak. It is a collaboration between KCC, central Government, District, Borough and local councils, the voluntary and community sector, the NHS, emergency services and other partners to ensure help is at hand for vulnerable people and those who are shielding. It is also the place to report your concerns about the welfare of someone else. Go to www.kent.gov.uk/KentTogether or call the 24 hour helpline at 03000 41 92 92.
*Latest figures can be found at www.kent.gov.uk/covidcases