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Omicron cases in Dartford leads to Covid warning about socialising before Christmas


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Rapidly increasing Covid cases in Dartford is leading to residents being warned to "think carefully" about meeting up with others before joining family for Christmas.

The infection rate – driven by the prominence of the Omicron variant – has now soared in the borough to 1,144 per 100,000 people.

Positive cases of Covid are rising rapidly with latest data showing 25% of cases in Dartford are now the Omicron variant
Positive cases of Covid are rising rapidly with latest data showing 25% of cases in Dartford are now the Omicron variant

Almost a quarter of cases in Dartford in the week to December 6 have been confirmed as the new variant leading the number of cases to be among the highest in the country for the past week.

On Friday it was the eighth highest in the UK. Since the weekend, cases have increased dramatically in London but Dartford remains among the most infected areas outside of the capital.

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite has now urged caution in the lead up to Christmas Day.

He said: "We want to keep every resident safe, and I would encourage them to regularly get tested before going out, and to get the booster jab as soon as they can.

“We would echo the Chief Medical Officer’s message to think carefully before mixing with others in the run up to Christmas and prioritise those events that matter most to you.”

Cllr Jeremy Kite has issued the warning to Dartford residents
Cllr Jeremy Kite has issued the warning to Dartford residents

Events have been cancelled during the festive season with Dartford council abandoning the Santa On Tour events to protect staff and volunteers and the hundreds of people set to attend, Cllr Kite said.

"Sadly, visits to Santa traditionally involve close contact and it was a wise but sad decision to take," the council leader said.

Meanwhile, in Gravesham the annual pantomime has been affected with a confirmed Covid case among the cast forcing Monday's matinee performance at The Woodville in Gravesend to be cancelled. The evening show went ahead as scheduled after back-up cast members rehearsed for the show.

Latest figures show in the seven days to December 15 there were 1,305 new cases in Dartford – 59.7% higher than the previous seven-day period.

In Gravesham, the infection rate in the week to December 15 was 40.2% higher than the previous seven days at 806.4 per 100,000 with 862 new cases.

Hospitalised patients remains at a steady level for the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust with 25 people currently admitted, according to latest data for December 12.

Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford
Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford

The latest full week admissions data between December 5 and 12 showed there were 19 new hospital admissions.

It means the trust has now treated a total of 2,678 patients since the start of the pandemic.

The infection rate in Medway has soared to 806 per 100,000 people – doubling in the space of a month.

With the new strain now well set among the community, 329 cases of Omicron were confirmed in the Towns in the week to December 6 – the highest of any area in the county.

This is equal to 19.5% of the 1,688 cases recorded in the Towns that week.

Cases in Medway have increased 32.3% with 2,250 people testing positive in the latest available data showing the weekly rates up to December 15.

Incomplete data for December 16 show there were 462 new cases in the Towns, the highest single daily rate since January 4.

"Think carefully before mixing with others in the run up to Christmas and prioritise those events that matter most to you"

The number of patients admitted to hospital in Medway is also steadily on the increase with the latest numbers showing 52 people were in hospital on December 14 – four were on ventilator beds.

This was slightly down on the most recent peak of 59 patients at Medway NHS Foundation Trust on December 11.

It is also far lower than the 215 patients admitted on December 14 last year

Alarming new figures suggest Omicron is already the dominant variant in Kent.

Analysis of the current situation in Kent is made difficult by a 10-day delay in the government sharing full and complete data for local authorities – with the latest full data for the week to December 6 published on Friday.

Worryingly, early figures for the week that followed, up to December 13, already show 997 such cases in the county - more than 20 times higher than the same data set last week.

The government figures show 321 positive tests up to December 13 were either confirmed or probable cases of the Omicron variant.

Canterbury was next highest with 199 while Thanet was the lowest with just 63 – 4.2% of total new cases for the week up to December 6.

Cllr Kite added: "The record high number of cases nationally, reflected in our own local figures, combined with the message from Professor Chris Whitty to ‘deprioritise’ social mixing in the run up to Christmas, has shown the impact the Omicron variant has had in a very short amount of time."

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