Published: 06:00, 11 June 2020
| Updated: 09:44, 11 June 2020
Ashford is to get a new Covid-19 test centre within days as the town continues to suffer one of the highest infection rates in the country.
The opening of the new regional test site in Victoria Road car park was confirmed by the health secretary Matt Hancock in a letter to the town's MP Damian Green yesterday.
Latest statistics show Ashford is second only to Barrow-in-Furness in number of confirmed coronavirus cases by population, with 660 infections per 100,000 people.
This makes the rate of infection in the borough roughly twice that of Kent as a whole, with the countywide figure standing at 336 per 100,000.
Mr Green has been lobbying Government for a test centre to be set up, raising the question during a House of Commons session last Tuesday.
Currently the only purpose-built test centre in Kent is situated in Ebbsfleet - a sparsity that has been criticised in light of the prevalence of the virus in the east of the county.
The MP is urging people displaying Covid-19 symptoms - which include a persistent cough, a fever, or a change to your sense of smell or taste - to go to the new centre once it is operational.
"All anyone can do is say to people if you have symptoms, get tested," he said.
"The NHS has found people still want to go to test centres because they like having someone there to advise them rather than doing it at home."
Mr Green added that though the infection rate is cumulative and therefore can not be lowered, he noted that: "Obviously for the test and trace to work - which is what we’re going to rely on to bring incidents of the virus down - you need as many tests completed as possible to do the tracing as fast as possible.
"Having a centre in Ashford will keep the tracing up, which will keep us all safer."
The health secretary's letter confirms the Victoria Road facility will be a hybrid test site, offering both assisted and self-administered tests.
Located just over the train tracks from the Elwick Place leisure complex, the 99-space car park was opened to the public in February.
Covid-19 testing has been run from the town's Stour Centre car park in recent weeks, but only on an ad-hoc basis.
More by this authorRhys Griffiths
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