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Kent director of Public Health plays down Ashford and Folkestone lockdown fears

A health boss in Kent has played down fears that two Kent districts could be forced into local lockdown as the government seeks to further limit the spread of coronavirus.

Kent County Council's Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, said that there is "no comparison to be made" between cases in the county and Leicester, but said that the council "will not hesitate to take further steps" if necessary.

There are fears Ashford or Folkestone could be forced to go into a second lockdown. Stock Image
There are fears Ashford or Folkestone could be forced to go into a second lockdown. Stock Image

Both Ashford and Folkestone were listed as 'areas of concern' for further coronavirus outbreaks in a government list that emerged over the weekend.

The data could be used to enforce more local lockdowns like the one implemented in Leicester, where schools were closed and pubs and restaurants ordered to shut.

Leicester remains top of the list with 5.7% of individuals who underwent a test found to have the virus. Kirklees, in West Yorkshire followed with a 5% rate. Bradford, and Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire, were the next highest.

Ashford and Folkestone were in seventh and eighth place respectively, with the former recording a figure of 3.9 cases per 100,000 people based on a 14-day rolling average; the latter recorded 3.6.

In the areas 3.5% and 3.8% of all those tested had coronavirus.

Mr Scott-Clark issued a response today to the claims in the list after it was leaked to The Guardian on Saturday.

KCC Public Health Diresctor Andrew Scott-Clark
KCC Public Health Diresctor Andrew Scott-Clark

He said: `The seven day rolling average for Ashford and Folkestone continues to decline from the peak seen in April/May, so this PHE report does not mean there is a current need for any local lockdowns.

"While the figure for cumulative confirmed cases will always appear high for these areas, there is no comparison to be made between the rates of new cases currently occurring in Ashford and Folkestone, and areas such as Leicester.

"We have not seen any evidence of any widespread community transmission of COVID-19 and there are currently no plans to introduce any lockdowns specifically these areas.

"Should, however, the need arise, we will not hesitate to take further steps should it be necessary."

Ashford MP Damian Green
Ashford MP Damian Green

The two districts have been seeing much higher infection rates than others, a situation that has been the case for Ashford for much of the outbreak.

The area's MP, Damian Green, previously warned that a second lockdown would be catastrophic for the area.

Mr Scott-Clark said that the higher rates were down to a combination of higher testing rates earlier in the pandemic and a larger number of care homes, as well as the 'London commuter effect' and Ashford's William Harvey Hospital.

He said: "As a result [of these elements] we are finding more positive results because we know that some people can be infected with Covid-19, but not exhibit symptoms (asymptomatic cases).

"The public should be reassured that the levels of testing across the whole of Kent have also been ramped up and we would expect to see a rise in the number of cumulative confirmed cases.

"The message to residents remains clear – to follow national guidance on social distancing, use thorough and regular handwashing, and follow advice if contacted by the NHS Test and Trace system."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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