Published: 17:28, 03 March 2021
| Updated: 18:24, 03 March 2021
Nearly half of Kent's libraries will reopen their doors to the public over the next eight weeks, it has emerged.
Kent County Council (KCC) revealed a route out of lockdown for some of its community services across the 12 districts during a virtual meeting yesterday.
Councillors were told 43 libraries, out of a total of 99 run by KCC, would reinstate full services, including computer browsing and studying, by the end of April.
Social distancing rules will still apply for book browsers, three months after tight lockdown restrictions were announced by the government to reduce the spread and transmission of coronavirus.
Cllr Mike Hill (Con), KCC's cabinet member for communities, said yesterday: "The end of June holds a prospect of an end to all restrictions and potential for full service restoration over the course of this summer."
In early April, there will be an initial opening of 35 libraries, including some based in Ashford, Dartford, Dover, Folkestone, Gravesend, Sevenoaks, Swale and Tonbridge.
Eight more will reopen by the end of next month: Coxheath, Greenhithe, Higham, Lenham, New Romney, Minster on Sheppey and New Ash Green, near Sevenoaks.
Snodland Library will also reopen by the end of April, subject to the completion of building works at the site.
Two of the 43 libraries, Folkestone and Larkfield, were converted into Covid asymptomatic testing centres in the last few months and the ability to reopen them will depend on their need for the pandemic response.
After the meeting, a KCC spokesman said: "We will look to reopen both sites as soon as possible, but these two dates are subject to change."
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease next week, there will be a return of face-to-face birth registration appointments and essential library computer use in March.
In April, some libraries will reopen for browsing and study space while opening hours will return to those prior to Covid, details of which can be found on KCC's website.
Archive search rooms will also reopen for bookable appointments during April.
The 35 libraries reopening in April are:
Ashford, Allington, Birchington, Borough Green, Broadstairs, Canterbury, Cliftonville, Cheriton, Dartford, Coldharbour, Eden Centre, Deal, Cranbrook, Fleetdown, Folkestone, Dover, Margate, Gravesend, Faversham, Sandgate, Herne Bay, Hythe, Sandwich, KHLC, Larkfield, Sheerness, Sevenoaks, Ramsgate, Whitstable, Sittingbourne, Showfields, Tonbridge, Southborough, Swanley and Tenterden.