Published: 11:09, 27 November 2021
| Updated: 11:25, 27 November 2021
The number of coronavirus deaths in the county since the start of the pandemic has now passed 5,000.
Kent's number - excluding Medway - is the second highest in the country, with only Essex having recorded more deaths at 4,239.
However, death rates per 100,000 of the population - 265.4 for Kent and 284.8 for Medway - are lower than many other areas, although still above the UK average of 215.5. The highest rate is for Barnsley in Yorkshire, at 380.9.
The county's first death was a 64-year-old man with underlying health conditions at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham on March 18.
Figures given by the government are for deaths within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19.
Across the whole of the UK, 144,593 have now died after contracting the virus.
Aside from Medway, the Kent council area with highest number of deaths is Thanet with 472, although the highest rate is in Folkestone and Hythe, at 378.6 per 100,000 of the population.
The number of deaths since the start of the pandemic in each council area - with the rate per 100,000 of the population in brackets - are as follows:
Ashford: 361 (275.5)
Canterbury: 456 (273.4)
Dartford: 290 (254.3)
Dover: 353 (297.9)
Folkestone & Hythe: 429 (378.6)
Gravesham: 309 (289.1)
Maidstone: 405 (233.9)
Medway: 795 (284.8)
Sevenoaks: 266 (219.1)
Swale: 451 (298.6)
Thanet: 472 (333.7)
Tonbridge: 223 (168.2)
Tunbridge Wells: 202 (169.8)
In total, Kent has recorded 220,743 cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, with cases for Medway standing at 44,170 - a total for the county of 264,913.
The latest figures come amid reports that a worrying new variant of coronavirus has been found in Belgium as the UK’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there was “huge international concern” over the strain.
Meanwhile, work is underway to tweak vaccines against the new strain of coronavirus that has sparked travel bans.
The strain, named Omicron and designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has reached Belgium after being discovered in South Africa.
The WHO warned that preliminary evidence suggests the variant has an increased risk of reinfection and may spread more rapidly than other strains.
A number of pharmaceutical firms have said they are working to adapt their vaccines in light of the emergence of Omicron.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there is “huge international concern” surrounding the strain after banning flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to limit its spread
Mr Javid told MPs there are concerns the variant may be more transmissible, make existing vaccines less effective, and it may hinder one of the UK’s Covid treatments, Ronapreve.
Ministers were facing calls to go further to prevent a wave of the new variant arriving in Britain while a Delta surge is ongoing, as Belgium became the first EU country to announce a case.
Professor John Edmunds, who advises the Government as part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that could create a “very, very, very difficult situation”.
The EU, US and Canada all followed Britain’s move to impose travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa ahead of the WHO adding the strain, also known as B.1.1.529, to its highest category for concerning variants.
Experts at the WHO said there is early evidence to suggest Omicron has an “increased risk of reinfection” and its rapid spread in South Africa suggests it has a “growth advantage”.
The government added South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to the UK’s travel red list on Thursday evening.
A health expert has warned the new variant may already be in the UK although current signs are reassuring.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser of the UKHSA, said scientists are very concerned about the new variant.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the new variant had around “30 different mutations that seem relevant – that’s double what we had in Delta (variant)”.
She added: “If we look at those mutations, there’s mutations that increase infectivity, mutations that evade the immune response both from vaccines and from natural immunity, mutations that cause increased transmissibility.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK was “buying time” by adding the new countries to its travel red list, adding that the government was taking a “safety-first approach”.