There was good news this week in our local fight back against the virus as new cases fell below 400 per 100,000, which is back to levels last seen in early December. This is half the number of cases that were reported in mid-December when we were in Tier 4. This shows that, even against the Kent variant, the restrictions are working. Our area has had one of the most impressive turnarounds and that is a credit to everyone locally who is sticking to the rules and being sensible.
In addition, we have seen the increasingly fast roll-out of vaccinations across our area, with thousands of vaccinations taking place at the Dover District vaccination centre in Dover for residents across our community. The Balmoral surgery has stepped forward to host an additional vaccination centre for Deal and Walmer. The Clockwork Pharmacy on Deal High Street is approved to be our first pharmacy hub and is scheduled to start vaccinating the priority groups from tomorrow. Sandwich residents can also now access a vaccination clinic in Broadstairs. A new East Kent major mass vaccination hub at Debenhams in Folkestone is up and running, with a second East Kent centre expected to be announced shortly.
Community testing centres continue to provide hundreds of appointments at locations right across the area, based at Dover, Sandwich, Canterbury and Folkestone. But lots of appointments are going to waste. Non-symptomatic testing – where you don’t have symptoms but get tested at the community testing facility – is a vital part of the virus strategy. It helps to identify and control incidence of the virus. Please do get tested if you don’t have symptoms, and let’s not waste the opportunities provided for this.
But as we feel some cautious optimism about the rapid progress in the three pillars of the virus strategy – lockdown, vaccination and testing – it is inevitably tinged with sorrow at the high daily deaths and infection rates at this point in time. For some, the pace of vaccination and the effectiveness of the restrictions have not been enough. We must remain vigilant.
The roll-out includes care homes, staff and residents, in line with the Government’s target. However, where there is an outbreak of Covid in a particular setting, a risk assessment needs to take place to decide when to complete the vaccinations. For care homes, additional precautions are required. It’s a stark reminder of the pace and virulence of the virus and of the importance of remaining vigilant.
I will continue doing all that I can to accelerate the vaccination programme for the benefit of everyone in Dover and Deal. Alongside this, I am working with businesses, Dover District Council and others to plan and prepare for the economic recovery that will come as we get through this current stage of the pandemic.
Keep safe, stay strong. Let’s all look out for each other and support each other as we move through the next stage of this virus journey together.