Published: 17:59, 28 November 2020
| Updated: 18:09, 28 November 2020
A part of Kent is one of only three in England to see an increase in its covid infection rate.
Figures updated yesterday show the current rate of infection in Medway is 414.6 cases per 100,000 people – an increase of 28.4% in the week leading up to November 22.
The other two areas reporting an increase are East Sussex, with a rise of 5.2% and an infection rate of 122.9 and Redbridge, in London, with a rise of 5% and a rate of 295.8 –both significantly lower than Medway's.
However, more than half of authorities across the country saw their numbers plummet by at least 25% according to the Public Health England weekly infection surveillance report.
The data compares Medway with the rest of Kent, which between November 15-22, saw a decrease of 7.3% to 260.6 cases per 100,000 people.
Swale has been met with the brunt of the blame for sending Kent into Tier 3 as of next Wednesday when the national lockdown ends and several Kent MPs are to meet with Matt Hancock to show their concerns about the tier restrictions facing the county.
However, Medway Council leader Cllr Allan Jarrett believes the sharp increase in cases is due to an overspill of patients needing treatment for the virus from the Swale and Thanet areas.
He said: "Our numbers have gone up a lot over the past few weeks.
"Residents from Swale use our hospitals, people from the area work in Medway and commute regularly back and forwards, so it was pretty inevitable, unfortunate, but inevitable.
"The next week or so will be very insightful. Our cases haven't plateaued as yet, we just have to hope that we are near the top end and all we can do is to keep working hard together to improve things."
When asked about the recent news of asymptomatic testing coming to the county, Cllr Jarrett said it is the right step forward to help stop the spread of the virus.
He added: "I'm expecting it to happen in Medway very soon indeed.
"It is going to help, testing people who aren't showing symptoms is definitely one of the ways forward.
"It will highlight people who are actually contagious without showing it, meaning we can get them isolated which will help stop the spread of the disease."
The accountability officer for Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, Wilf Williams, highlighted the pressure hospitals across the county are under.
He said: "We have more Covid patients now than we did at the peak of the first wave, which illustrates the extent of the pressure our hospitals are facing.
"There is a lag of a few weeks between infection and people being hospitalised, so we are probably looking at another few weeks of that sort of pressure even if rates start to dip.
"Our hospitals are at the sort of levels of occupancy they would be at the height of winter, which has been made more complex by the fact that we have had to manage patients with Covid.
"It has been very challenging, but they are at levels at which they can cope.
"All of our hospitals are under some degree of pressure but the ones with the highest rates of community infection, around Medway, Thanet and Dartford are seeing the highest numbers of Covid admissions."
After consulting with hospital bosses Sevenoaks MP Laura Trott offered some guidance as to why Kent has been plunged into Tier 3.
She said: "Medway and Swale have some of the highest case rates of Covid in the entire country and as a result the NHS in Medway and Swale is deploying full 'business continuity measures,' which basically means they have declared a major incident and can no longer accept new cases.
"As a result, Tunbridge Wells Hospital, in particular, is taking a number of cases from wider Kent, with a third of its critical care patients diverted from other areas.
"At times up to 20% of ambulance admissions at Darent Valley have been diverted from elsewhere."
"Tunbridge Wells is currently at 90% capacity and Darent Valley is full - but trying to add additional beds to keep up with demand.
"All 15 of the intensive care beds in Darent Valley are occupied and they are using mutual aid."