The Government’s decision to extend lockdown will be tough for many in Kent but latest COVID-19 figures show the virus has not gone away, the county’s senior council and health leaders said today.
Uniting to acknowledge the impact of maintaining all legal restrictions on social contact for another four weeks will have on Kent communities and businesses, the Leaders of Kent County Council and Medway Council, along with the Director of Public Health for Medway, said they understood how disappointed people will be and urged anyone struggling to get advice and support.
Under the fourth phase of the Government’s roadmap for recovery, all remaining restrictions were due to be lifted in England next Monday, 21st June.
The move would have enabled venues and events to operate without any limits on numbers. It would have also meant home gatherings would no longer be limited to six people and two households.
But amid rising cases of the Delta variant, the Prime Minister announced last night that the re-opening would be pushed back to allow more people to be vaccinated. Boris Johnson said it would also give health experts more time to assess whether vaccination is breaking the link between infection and hospitalisation.
Speaking to the media earlier today Director of Public Health for Medway, James Williams, said: “I want to reassure everyone in Kent that we will continue to review the challenge of COVID-19 and we will gauge our response in order to deal with that challenge.
“I thank everyone for everything you have done so far to keep each other safe, but if we are to reach the new goalpost of 19th July we need to, for a little while longer, stick to the guidelines – hands, face, space – and keep testing ourselves twice a week to ensure we don’t have the virus.
“Testing is so important. It gives us a real understanding about what is happening in communities. We can therefore do enhanced testing and immediately get ahead of any outbreaks or clusters that we see and take action to isolate those cases. That’s what we have been doing and what we will continue to do.”
Leader of Kent County Council, Roger Gough, added: “We all want to regain our full freedoms and the decision by government to delay the end of lockdown restrictions will be hugely disappointing for many people and businesses in Kent.
“From couples planning that big family wedding, to those who make their living in sport and leisure industries, to those organising large events, last night’s announcement is the set-back to recovery none of us wanted to see.
“But as the latest figures show, COVID-19 and its variants, particularly the Delta variant, are still very much with us. Indeed, for some parts of Kent, infection rates are rising.
“We must be evidence-led and the numbers are showing us we must remain cautious and, having come this far, we have to dig deep and stay strong for one more month. And for anyone struggling – be it individuals or businesses – it is important to remember help is at hand.”
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “I want to pay tribute to all those residents and businesses who have reacted so responsibly to this crisis by continuing to follow the guidelines and continuing to take COVID-19 tests.
“There are more than 14,000 businesses in Medway, to whom many of which government grants have been an absolute lifeline. Lockdown has been particularly hard for the hospitality sector and some businesses have not survived, which is a tragedy for those affected.
“We have now distributed £99million of government funding to businesses in Medway and we still have the significant Additional Restrictions Grant, which will enable us to continue to support businesses.
“I would encourage business owners to access the support available. We all need to continue to follow government restrictions to ensure we keep ourselves, and our loved ones safe from this deadly virus.”
Dedicated COVID support is available to employers and the self-employed, including sole traders and limited company directors. In addition to loans, people may be eligible for tax relief and cash grants, whether your business is open or closed. To learn what help is available use this ‘support finder’
Kent County Council’s Kent Together initiative is also still available and ready to support Kent residents who may need a bit of extra help during the pandemic, including with food deliveries and medication.
Launched over a year ago, the Kent Together helpline is a collaboration between KCC, central Government, local councils, the voluntary and community sector, the NHS, emergency services and other partners to ensure help is at hand for those who need it most. 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.
The Kent Together advice pages can also guide people who have had a reduction in their household income and are struggling.
In addition to practical and material challenges, Coronavirus has also created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Read more about all the wellbeing support available via the Kent Together wellbeing page at kent.gov.uk/wellbeing