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Enhanced Covid-19 testing to take place in Maidstone after 20 cases of the Indian strain identified in ME14 1 postcode

An enhanced testing programme is being rolled out across a postcode in Maidstone after around 20 cases of Covid-19 linked to the variant first identified in India have been confirmed in the town.

It affects those in the ME14 1 postcode with 'one or two' having been traced back to the Quaker Meeting House in Union Street.

The targeted programme will begin on Friday
The targeted programme will begin on Friday

In a bid to stop the strain - formerly known as the Indian variant - a mobile testing unit capable of testing 400 people each day is being deployed.

It will be stationed outside the venue on Union Street from tomorrow until Monday, June 7.

Those living or working in the postcode, and anyone who has attended the Quaker Meeting House, within the last month, without symptoms of the virus and over the age of 12, is invited to get a PCR test at a new mobile testing unit.

It will be open between 9am and 5pm for walk-in appointments only which means you cannot book a slot online.

Kent's interim Director of Public Health, Dr Allison Duggal, said: "The reason we are doing this testing is because we have had some cases of the Delta variant in the ME14 1 area.

Quaker Meeting House in Union Street. Picture: Google Street View
Quaker Meeting House in Union Street. Picture: Google Street View

"We have had some cases associated with Quaker Meeting House, we don't believe all the cases are from there but we know there have been one or two.

"Same as Canterbury, the best thing for us to do is jump on it straight away, go and find out exactly how many people have Covid in the area, and see whether people have the variant and then take appropriate public health action."

The 20 cases in Maidstone is a cumulative number. These have been identified over the past three months from when sequencing for the strain first began.

Dr Duggal added: "It’s important to remember that the number of cases of the Delta variant of concern in the county are still low – and that those identified positive cases have isolated appropriately, with their contacts traced and testing offered.

“But we don’t want to take anything for granted. Working closely with Public Health England and Maidstone Borough Council, we are adopting a highly precautionary approach, continually assessing the situation and acting quickly to tackle outbreaks before they have a chance to spread.

Coronavirus testers went door-to-door in February. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Coronavirus testers went door-to-door in February. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“If you live or work in the ME14 1 area, I urge you to get tested at the mobile testing site even if you have had one or two Covid vaccinations.

"While the vaccination prevents most people from suffering from severe illness, it doesn’t mean you cannot get Covid-19, and we need to do everything we can to keep the most vulnerable in our communities safe and well.

"If everyone plays their part by continuing to follow the public health advice in their local area, we can break chains of transmission and keep Kent safe."

The PCR test is available for anyone over the age of 12 that's asymptomatic. Those under the age of 15 must be accompanied by a parent or carer.

Those taking part will be notified of their result – whether positive or negative – by NHS Test and Trace and are not expected to self-isolate while awaiting the outcome.

A mobile testing unit at Wincheap Park and Ride, Canterbury
A mobile testing unit at Wincheap Park and Ride, Canterbury

All positive results will be sent for further analysis and genome-sequencing to determine which strain of the virus is present.

Cllr David Burton, Leader of Maidstone Borough Council (MBC), said: “We all need to play our part in getting tested to help us combat this virus at such a vital time.

“MBC is encouraging everyone who lives or works in this area of Maidstone to get tested at the mobile site in the town.

"We’ve come this far having pulled together at every stage and we have to keep that going.”

Duncan Dwinell, convenor of trustees for West Kent Area Meeting, Maidstone Quaker Meeting House said: "Please be assured that the people responsible for the building and its hygiene have been following a strict regime of cleaning and disinfecting over the entire period since March 2020.

"... the people responsible for the building and its hygiene have been following a strict regime of cleaning and disinfecting."

"Our policy and protocols are fully compliant with government regulations. We have stressed to all our hirers the necessity of maintaining the necessary standards while in the building.

"Each new hire session has been preceded by a thorough clean.

"Environmental Health has visited the Meeting House in the past week and has advised that we continue with our vigilance and social distancing.

"We are grateful for the support being given to the residents and visitors to the area by the Health authorities by the temporary ‘surge testing’ centre outside the Meeting House from Friday, June 4 ,to the following Monday.

"We encourage anyone who might be anxious to visit the health workers available."

People who do not live in the ME14 1 postcode are still encouraged to get tested at one of the symptom-free testing centres.

To find out more details and to book a test visit KCC’s website here.

Anyone who currently has symptoms of coronavirus – high temperature, a new or continuous cough, a loss or change in taste or smell – should not take part in this enhanced testing initiative and should instead book a test by visiting the government's website.

The targeted programme comes just four months after previous enhanced testing was carried out across the county town in response to the South African variant.

In February a huge operation saw 9,633 tests delivered in three days to residents across Maidstone after the variant was found in the ME15 postcode.

Emergency service workers went door-to-door to drop off swabs to get as many people tested as possible in a bid to prevent the spread of the strain.

Elsewhere in Kent, surge testing started in Canterbury this week which had the highest number of Indian variant cases in the county. The infection rate has already dropped significantly since the testing began.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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