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Kent public health director Andrew Scott-Clark worried about summer events as he warns Covid has not gone away


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The county's public health director has raised concerns about the full lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions from June, warning the pandemic has not gone away.

Kent County Council's Andrew Scott-Clark says he is "worried" about the return of large-scale summer events, such as festivals.

Huge crowds when Simply Red played at the Spitfire Ground in Canterbury
Huge crowds when Simply Red played at the Spitfire Ground in Canterbury

Potentially attracting crowds of 20,000 people, Canadian singers Michael Buble and Bryan Adams are due to perform at an open-air concert at Kent Cricket Club's Spitfire Ground St Lawrence in Canterbury in July.

Meanwhile, organisers of other July gigs at Leeds and Rochester castles have expressed "cautious optimism" of returning this summer after they were cancelled last year.

It comes three weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his hopes that all limits on social contact would be removed from June 21.

Despite this, Mr Scott-Clark urged caution during a County Hall scrutiny committee virtual meeting yesterday.

He said: "I do worry about the summer because it feels like a lot of entertainment is going to happen throughout and there may well be large events. That does worry me.

"I do not think for one minute that Covid has gone away and now social distancing won't happen."

Michael Buble is set to perform at the Spitfire Ground in Canterbury in July
Michael Buble is set to perform at the Spitfire Ground in Canterbury in July

In Kent, the coronavirus transmission rate has dropped by 92% since the start of the third national lockdown in January, falling from 480 weekly cases per 100,000 people to about 37 cases in March.

However, Mr Scott-Clark says the number of people contracting coronavirus remains "too high" as he told a panel of councillors: "We have not eradicated Covid, nowhere near it. The virus is here to stay in some shape or form."

KCC ordered the closure of three events last year amid Covid safety concerns, worrying about adequate social distancing, including Circus Zyair in Paddock Wood in October and Broadstairs Christmas Market in December.

Over the last three months, at least 635,806 residents across the county's 13 districts have received at least one vaccine dose.

Dover and Folkestone and Hythe have seen more than half of their over-18s inoculated.

But six different variants of concern are being investigated globally, including Antigua, Brazil and South Africa, which could cause another rise in cases.

Kent's director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark has concerns
Kent's director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark has concerns

It means there remains uncertainty over whether the vaccines will stop the virus being transmitted, or work against the new variants.

At yesterday's online debate, Mr Scott-Clark said: "Although there is some emerging good news, I do not think we have got the full scientific advice yet and that is why we are being cautious."

Mr Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown has been divided into four stages, which started with the return of all pupils to schools in England this week. In addition, care home visits are allowed, while two people can meet outdoors.

Non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers can reopen their doors on April 12, while pubs, restaurants and hotels may be able to open again from May 17.

However, Mr Johnson has warned that there is no zero-Covid Britain and his future decisions would be led by "data not dates".

Agreeing with this approach, Mr Scott-Clark told the scrutiny panel: "I think we are in a dynamic situation where we may go back to life as more normal and we may not.

"It just depends on what happens over the next couple of months. We are certainly in a much better place than we have been."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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