Published: 20:46, 22 July 2020
| Updated: 20:49, 22 July 2020
A second coronavirus wave is not guaranteed to take place in Kent this autumn, says an NHS boss.
Wilf Williams, the chief accountable officer of the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said he had been "broadly reassured" due to the declining case numbers but also warned the public against complacency.
His comments came earlier today and were made shortly after members of Kent County Council's (KCC) health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC) said they were worried about a rapid rise of Covid infections from September.
Speaking during a virtual public meeting, Mr Williams said: "Any talk of a second wave being in September is an estimation rather than inevitability."
The senior NHS manager, who was installed to his new post in February ahead of the integration of Kent and Medway's health service, said the county was in a much better position for managing future coronavirus outbreaks.
More than 1,500 people have died from coronavirus in Kent and Medway, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on July 7. This has been described as a "tragedy" by the NHS, which is working with public bodies to prevent wider outbreaks across the county.
Testing capacity has grown significantly and data collection has massively improved in hospitals and care homes, KCC's HOSC committee was told.
Two regional testing sites have been set up in Ashford and Ebbsfleet, with another planned at Manston. In addition, all 9,000 NHS staff working across East Kent Hospital Trust sites have been tested in a five-day blitz. However, the trust has also suffered more Covid-19 deaths than any other in England.
Kent's NHS 111 calls are being closely tracked because health officials say this could be a potential marker for an upsurge in coronavirus cases. Mr Williams said the health service had not seen "anything concerning on that front yet".
He also told the 16-person committee: "We are in a better situation now. We have much better data in terms of testing. That is broadly reassuring in terms of what we are finding there in terms of new cases. There is all sorts of data thrown around in public. That's relatively stable and on the decline."
But he also warned: "This is critically dependent on everyone's behaviour."
Despite this, Kent councillors remain unconvinced and expressed their fears around a resurgence of Covid resulting from the huge crowds visiting the county's beaches last month. Around 60,000 people went to Margate and Broadstairs in a single day in June.
Maidstone county councillor Dan Daley (Lib Dem) told the KCC committee: "When you look at the stupidity factor of the pictures of the beaches in the last couple of weekends, the question of when the second wave is going to hit us is no longer in my view something to be speculative."
Agreeing with her counterpart, Thanet county councillor Karen Constantine (Lab), of Ramsgate, said she was equally anxious.
She added: "I think there is a lack of understanding around the public health messages and a great deal of confusion and I see different groups of people operating in different ways.
"That concerns me for the potential for any future outbreak which we are anticipating in September."