Published: 15:26, 27 November 2020
| Updated: 17:11, 27 November 2020
The military need to be drafted in to help mass testing in Kent, councillors have said.
Kent County Councillors have argued that help from the Armed Forces is needed to help in rolling out a county-wide Covid testing programme.
The news from a KCC meeting today came after high infection rates plunged the county into Tier 3 restrictions ahead of the end of lockdown on December 2.
Officials from across the county - including at least seven MPs - attempted to convince the government to restrict individual districts or boroughs rather than the whole county, to no avail.
KCC Leader Roger Gough said that the outcome "isn't one that we would have wished for", and that the lead up to Christmas would be "different to what we had hoped".
However, he announced that a localised tracing programme, Kent Local, is set to go live to support the national test and trace system - but that the county would need help with the logistics of mass testing.
He said: "I'm pleased to announced that Kent Local tracing partnership is going live to support the national test and trace system.
"We are looking forward to implementing government plans for mass testing across scale at the county, providing a clear focus on the greatest infections.
"We have been pushing towards this for a long time. Andrew (Scott-Clarke) has worked hard on this, and we are asking for military assistance in terms of logistics to make sure it will be delivered.
"There is no denying that the next few weeks will be tough, but we will do everything we can to get those numbers down, and get us out of Tier 3 as quickly as we can."
Andrew Scott-Clark, Director of Public health for KCC, said that the data supplied by Public Health England supported the county being in Tier 3.
He said: "Across all of Kent and Medway, the NHS is under pressure from Covid admissions.
"The case rates in the over 60 group - who are more likely to get the virus- were high in districts and continuing to rise as the national lockdown decision was made. That is a key indicator on the impact on hospitals."
However, Mr Scott-Clark said that there was "light at the end of the tunnel".
"We know that the vaccine is looking promising," he explained, "and are waiting for it to be licensed.
"Contact tracing has gone live today, and we would urge anyone who's tested positive to respond so we can make sure all close contacts are contacted.
"We've also talked about wider asymptomatic testing, so more than just PCR testing, and we are workinghard behind the scenes, ready to swing into action on testing when we get the government's offer."