Published: 17:09, 27 February 2021
| Updated: 07:31, 28 February 2021
People in Kent have been warned "lockdown isn't over" as Covid outbreaks in the east of the county lead to a rise in infection rates.
Case numbers have been falling rapidly across Kent since the start of the third lockdown in January, and the county's rate remains half the England average.
But two neighbouring districts have recorded week-on-week rises for the first time since shortly after the national restrictions were imposed.
Eyethorne and Shepherdswell in Dover has seen cases jump from just four in the week up to February 15, to 19 the following week.
In Thanet, cases in Salmestone have risen from five to 19 over the same period.
The remaining 11 districts in Kent and Medway continue to see case numbers dropping, but the speed of the decline has slowed in the past fortnight.
At the start of the month the weekly rate was regularly falling at more than 40%, but the most recent figure for the county shows a decrease of 18%.
Canterbury's Labour MP Rosie Duffield fears the Government’s roadmap messaging has not been clear enough and “some will think that the lockdown is now over”.
She said: “Unless the rate is kept under control, or if we see another spike, the Government will roll back on the easing of restrictions and we will all face full lockdown once again, something which nobody wants.
“The four stages and timelines are dependent on the number of infections dropping, therefore it is crucial that we continue to abide by the guidelines and do our best to keep our distance, wear masks and regularly sanitise our hands.
“We must continue to play our individual, small part so that all of us can have the freedom that we miss so much and are so close to getting.”
With the sun shining and temperatures rising today, the county's beaches and parks have been much busier, despite rules allowing people to socialise outdoors not coming into effect until March 29.
One onlooker told how Mote Park in Maidstone has been particularly busy.
"You wouldn't think there is a lockdown," they said.
"The play park has well over 100 people in it and no maintaining of social distancing at all."
Another resident told how people were gathered on benches at a busy Lullingstone Country Park, near Eynsford.
"Why should I obey the rules when no one else is?" she said.
"Clearly everyone is meeting up. I know people who still see all their family. I’ve seen nine boys playing football this week.
"Is everyone’s doing what they are told? Nope!"
Trish Mannes, deputy director for health protection with Public Health England South East, says we should not let our guard down at this stage.
"Rates across the country are still relatively high and things will only be eased as the rates come down, numbers of people vaccinated increase, the number of new variants is low and we are sure that the vaccines offer protection against hospitalisation and death.
Transmission rates have fallen significantly and this in turn has eased the pressure on the NHS. This has only been possible thanks to the sacrifices you have made by staying at home.
But this virus is far from beaten and even as we can start to look forward to better times, we still have to keep doing the simple things that save lives.
Cover your face, wash your hands and make space will all be with us for some time. For now, you should continue to stay at home as much as possible. When you are offered a vaccination, take it.
Gradually we can reopen the country but we can only do that through small, cautious steps.
We know how quickly infections and deaths can rise when we let our guards down and the future will be informed by ‘data, not dates’. Let’s pull together and we can look forward to a brighter summer."