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Coronavirus Kent: Here's how Covid-19 is affecting Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh

Along with fear and uncertainty, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is bringing a lot of changes to the district.

Thousands of people are working from home, most children will stop attending school after today and small businesses are closing temporarily, all in an attempt to delay the spread of Covid-19.

Coronavirus is affecting every day life
Coronavirus is affecting every day life

Here we take a look at how Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh is being affected by the outbreak.

This includes events being cancelled, attractions closing temporarily and alternative services being offered to customers.

- Folkestone and Hythe District Council is advising residents to call or to go online to access information about services.

The appeal has been made to reduce visitor numbers at the Civic Centre in Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone.

Leader Cllr David Monk said: “We are committed to providing essential services and helping our residents.

WATCH: A message from Cllr David Monk

"But we would ask people to think very carefully before coming into the council offices. This is to help protect both their own health and that of our staff.”

In light of the current situation and advice from government all formal council meetings have also been cancelled and legislative changes are expected which will advise local authorities how to proceed with meetings.

In addition, council staff have been instructed to work from home where possible.

The council can be reached on 01303 853000 or online at folkestone-hythe.gov.uk

- The authority has also announced that all events due to take place on its land before July 31 have been cancelled.

Shoppers queue outside Boots in Folkestone as panic buying sweeps the nation
Shoppers queue outside Boots in Folkestone as panic buying sweeps the nation

The decision will be reviewed in June for events in August onwards.

Cllr Monk said: “Clearly we regret having to make this decision but the welfare of our residents is our top priority.

“Some organisations have already been in contact with us to cancel their event which is very sensible.

"We are all in this together and we must do what we can to curb the spread of this virus.

"There are events planned on land not owned by the council. I would strongly urge organisers to consider the government advice about social distancing and give very careful thought and discuss with the land owner as to whether their event should go ahead.”

Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has closed
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has closed

Cancelled events include bootfairs, the Folkestone 10 Mile Road Race, Hythe Bay Triathlon, Bandstand summer concerts, Normandy Veterans Day Service and Folkestone Pride 2020. For a full list of cancelled events, visit here.

- The Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway has closed temporarily.

A spokesman said: "The need for social distancing would mean continued operation is not in the national interest as our journeys are not essential and our visitors would be in potentially close contact for a lengthy journey.

"There will therefore be no public train services for the forseeable future. A very sad situation but it is essential we all play our part.”

- Some smaller events have also been cancelled.

Coronavirus causes flu-like symptoms and can result in pneumonia
Coronavirus causes flu-like symptoms and can result in pneumonia

The RNLI Dungeness Lifeboat Station has scrapped plans for an Easter Craft Fair on Sunday, April 5 and a performance of Stainer’s Crucifixion, due to take place at St Martin’s Church in Cheriton on Sunday, March 29 has been postponed for 12 months.

A concert run by the Haywardians in New Romney in aid of the mayor’s charity fund on Saturday, March 28 has also been cancelled.

The Folkestone Channel Rotary Club has cancelled two of its charity events due to coronavirus. There are the Golf Day on May 15 at Sene Valley Golf Club and the Charity Bike Ride on Romney Marsh on July 5.

- And while all singing sessions for the The Marsh Choir have been axed, that won’t stop members connecting online.

Choir leader Carly Bryant has organised for sessions to be live streamed to all 422 members from the comfort of their own homes.

Marsh Choir leader Carly Bryant has organised online singing sessions
Marsh Choir leader Carly Bryant has organised online singing sessions

- The Great British Spring Clean has been postponed until September.

The annual event, which is organised by Keep Britain Tidy and invites communities to clean their local environments, usually takes place between March and April.

The Litter Picking Watch Romney Marsh group had arranged to take part. But it is now being delayed.

- One of the area’s biggest employers - Saga - has temporarily suspended all cruise operations between March 15 to May 1.

A statement from the firm said: “The government announced changes to cruise travel advice for those over 70 and those with an underlying medical condition. For 20 years, we have taken guests on Saga cruises with many leaving us feeling like family.

Saga has suspended all cruises for two months
Saga has suspended all cruises for two months

“Given the government advice, we have taken the very difficult decision to temporarily suspend our Ocean Cruises onboard Saga Sapphire and Spirit of Discovery from 15 March 2020 to 1 May 2020. This is a decision we have not taken lightly.

“However, with the current circumstances, we no longer believe that we can give you the cruise experience you would expect from Saga.”

- Eurotunnel is still operating, but users are advised not to leave their cars due to 'social distancing' advice.

- Bobbies Bakehouse, based in the Old Signal Box on Folkestone Harbour Arm, has decided to close until further notice. A spokesman for the cafe said: “We are taking precautions as we are such a confined space to keep our clientele safe.”

- Folkestone Town Hall is now closed until further notice.

Bobbies Bakehouse in the Old Signal Box is temporarily shut due to the virus
Bobbies Bakehouse in the Old Signal Box is temporarily shut due to the virus

The Guildhall Street building is the offices for Folkestone Town Council and the Folkestone museum.

A sign on the door reads: “We apologise for the inconvenience and hope you stay safe and well.”

- The New Surgery, in Canterbury Road, Folkestone is closed "to protect patients and the public". The surgery is undergoing a week of "cleaning" and plans to re-open on Monday, March 23. It is not known if someone with symptoms entered the building.

Patients are advised to call 111 for an appointment, or 999 if it's an emergency.

- The Leas Cliff Hall has decided to close for the foreseeable future, with all shows and performances having now been suspended.

A statement from Mark Cornell, CEO of Ambassador Theatre Group said: "In response to the Prime Minister’s statement, advising the UK public to avoid unnecessary social contact, including in theatres, we regret to inform you that shows in all Ambassador Theatre Group UK venues are temporarily suspended with immediate effect."

Folkestone's Leas Cliff Hall is now shut. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone's Leas Cliff Hall is now shut. Picture: Paul Amos

Tower Theatre has also cancelled all shows and has set up a crowd funding page to support the theatre.

- The manager of the Silver Screen cinema in Folkestone announced its closure.

Chris Lightwing said on Tuesday that the movie theatre is now temporarily closed until further notice.

Mr Lightwing said: “Our team works very hard to provide Folkestone with a great cinema experience and the decision to close has not been taken lightly, particularly as we are a small independent business.”

- From today, schools will close to most pupils, with only children of key workers advised to attend.

- The Hythe Imperial Hotel is remaining open for 'business as usual' but has adapted its cancellation policy for guests.

Folkestone Silver Screen Cinema has also closed to visitors. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone Silver Screen Cinema has also closed to visitors. Picture: Paul Amos

Nick Gauntlett, managing director, said: “We are currently facing the very difficult challenge of responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We want you to know that we have been adapting our cancellation policy to provide customers with extra peace of mind during these challenging times.”

- The Folkestone Trawler Race has been postponed. The annual event was due to take place in July but a statement from organisers said: "It is with regret after serious consideration that we shall be postponing this year’s Trawler Race/Raft Race Weekend due to be held on the July 25/26, 2020.

“We feel with the pressure that everybody is currently experiencing - we did not wish to add to this by asking you for your full support to our community event as we do every year. We are still keen to work with you all in the future in an atmosphere where you feel safe and happy to enjoy yourselves in a social capacity, but due to these uncertain times we feel this is the best decision at this stage.”

- Folkestone’s Age Concern is are preparing a system of staff alternating between self-isolating and visiting clients.

The system will be put in at the branches in Deal and Folkestone once the government formally gives the order for over-70s to self-isolate for up to three months.

Each week 23 of the staff will be attending the centres at Park Road, Deal, and Shaftesbury Avenue, Cheriton, and going out in the field as normal.

Rocksalt will operate a call and collect service
Rocksalt will operate a call and collect service

The other 23 will self-isolate and work from home using their phones and computers.

- A fish and chip shop is offering home delivery for elderly customers. Beach 48 based in Dymchurch said: "We will now be offering a takeaway service to our elderly customers and those that are self isolating due to government advice."

Other restaurants offering delivery or collect services include Market Square in Rendezvous Street and Rocksalt on the harbour.

- The Folkestone Harbour Arm 2020 Season was due to launch on March 27. However this has now been postponed.

A spokesman said: "Although we will not be staging events that draw large crowds, as an open-air space the Harbour Arm will remain open for promenading.

The Harbour Arm has postponed the launch of its 2020 season. Picture: Alan Langley
The Harbour Arm has postponed the launch of its 2020 season. Picture: Alan Langley

"We hope this will enable you to enjoy the fresh sea air and incomparable views as the days get longer and the weather improves."

-The opening of a new cinema on Romney Marsh has been delayed.

Cinemarsh was due to open in the Marsh Academy's leisure centre next month.

The independent movie theatre will have 46 seats and top of the range sound and visual equipment.

Manager Jason Mahoney said: "It is with much regret that we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the opening of Cinemarsh.

"We are responding to the government’s latest public health advice and we very much hope to launch this fantastic community resource as soon as the situation improves.

"The team here would like to extend our thanks for your understanding and patience and we hope to be in a position to welcome you all soon."

The opening of Cinemarsh has been delayed
The opening of Cinemarsh has been delayed

- The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) based in Folkestone has decided to close its watch station.

The organisation is run by volunteers, some of an older age.

A statement said: "It is with regret that in light of the current escalating situation, together with the age profile of our volunteer membership, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close our watch station as from 5pm on Friday, March 20 2020.

"All emergency services including HM Coastguard have been notified."

- The New Romney County Fayre has been cancelled. Due to take place on July 25 the annual event will no longer take place.

A spokesman said: "Clearly, this is not a course of action we have taken lightly, but the coronavirus outbreak has brought unprecedented times.

"This decision is devastating for us, as we were so looking forward to welcoming our visitors and participants to this year’s Fayre.

"We would like to extend our sincere apologies to all our supporters, as well as the community of New Romney, for the disappointment this decision will cause.

"This is not the end of the Country Fayre - we will be back with a vengeance next year to once again stage an event the whole town can be proud of."

- All events at the nature reserve at Dungeness have now been cancelled.

A spokeswoman for RSPB Dungeness said: "As of today, our visitor centre, hides and toilets will be closed until further notice.

"We have also cancelled our events programme up until the end of May (although we will review this regularly as the situation changes).

"Anyone who has booked and paid for an event will be notified today.

"Our car park and nature trails will be open to all visitors for free.

"We are asking people to stick to trails, only walk dogs on leads in the correct places and to maintain the social distancing guidelines of 2m away from others.

"The joy of Dungeness is that is a pretty remote area of Kent anyway, so we hope people will still venture out for some fresh air and to enjoy the amazing wildlife and being out in nature."

To get in touch with the reserve email dungeness@rspb.org.uk

And here's a few places staying open:

- The Battle of Britain Memorial, at Capel-le-Ferne, is staying open to visitors for the time being.

But the museum, which is a tribute to those who flew in the battle, has introduced new restrictions to keep staff and the public safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

The car park will be open 9am-5pm, while The Wing, which houses the shop, cafe and Scramble Experience attraction, will be open 11am-3pm.

Captain Patrick Tootal, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, said: "We want people to continue to enjoy the Memorial and we hope they will remember that the Trust receives no public funding. During these difficult times, when revenue has been badly affected, it is more important than ever that people continue to donate generously using the collection boxes around the site."

Visitors are asked not to enter The Wing if they are unwell and all visitors should keep two metre distance from staff.

- Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve in Hythe and its sister site Howletts, both remain open to visitors.

Restrictions have been put in place however.

This includes suspension of all animal experiences, rearranged seating in restaurants and reduced number of people on each safari.

- The Fishing and Heritage Museum in Folkestone also remains open.

Volunteer Alan Taylor said the team will 'play it by ear' about any possible closures.

It currently has a new exhibition on a four ship disaster in the Channel, which killed more than 40 people. The museum is open daily 10am-2pm.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here

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