Published: 11:08, 15 January 2021
| Updated: 16:19, 15 January 2021
More than 750 people have died with Covid in Kent since Christmas - almost a quarter of the county's death toll since the pandemic struck.
Public Health England figures show the number of people dying after testing positive for the virus has continued to soar after the festive break
Alarmingly, 757 deaths - 23% of the 3,286 recorded since March - have been reported since Christmas Day.
And North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale expects deaths to surge further due to a Christmas spike caused by families meeting on December 25, despite government rules banning festive gatherings.
The veteran Conservative said: “Given the incubation period of the virus, I fear we’ve still got to face the deaths from Christmas.
"There were the tougher, Tier 4 rules in place, but families were still meeting for one day.
“I think what we’re seeing in the deaths figures now is a reflection of people mingling and shopping before Christmas, before we locked down hard enough.
“To be fair, the government didn’t know about the new strain until December 18 and they took action the following day – but by then the damage had been done.”
Sevenoaks has been the hardest-hit district in the county,recording almost a third of its total Covid-19 deaths in the last three weeks.
Canterbury and Maidstone have also been heavily impacted by the virus since the festive period, with analysis showing that 29% of each area's deaths have been recorded since Christmas.
In Medway, 112 people died over the same period; while Dartford had 25 fatalities.
This comes as new NHS data shows that east Kent hospitals have continued to be the worst-affected by the virus.
Since Christmas, 223 people have lost their lives at sites in Canterbury, Ashford, Margate, Dover and Deal – 89 more than in any other trust.
Sir Roger says the figures are “horrific, but not surprising” as the new, more transmissible variant of the disease is thought to have originated in the county.
“The mortality and infection rates are higher in areas where people are not working from home,” he added.
“West Kent has a lot of professional people working from home at the moment, and a sizeable amount of employment in the east Kent hospitals area will be people not working from home.”
In all, Kent hospitals have recorded 512 deaths since Christmas.
But despite the worrying findings, Canterbury’s Rosie Duffield believes “we are starting to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel” as the rollout of the vaccines continues to gather pace.
The Labour MP added: “I am extremely worried about the rise in Covid cases and deaths that the Canterbury area is sadly seeing.
“The discovery of the variant, with the dithering and uncertainty from the government on schools reopening after Christmas, cannot be a coincidence.
“Thankfully we are starting to see glimmers of hope with the start of vaccinations in our communities.”
And government statistics published yesterday show cases have dropped across Kent by 15%, with Canterbury being the only part of the county not to have seen a fall in diagnoses.