As the threat from Covid-19 continues, especially with the exponential speed at which the Omicron variant spreads, Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) partners continue to work together to manage the impact of the virus across the county.
The forum includes representatives from Kent County Council and Medway Council, Kent and Medway NHS, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Kent Police and district and borough Councils, all working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the NHS nationally. The group has tried and tested plans in place to respond collectively to the pandemic and to support the measures being introduced in this evolving situation.
The priority of the group is to support communities through the challenges they are facing as a result of the pandemic, and to ensure that vulnerable people and those most affected by Covid-19 get the help they need.
The emergence of Omicron is concerning and it is sensible to take precautions until we know more about the new variant, the symptoms it causes and how the vaccine will perform against it. It does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are vaccinated. For this reason, the KRF is strongly urging everyone to continue doing all they can to reduce the risk of infection and protect themselves and those around them.
Allison Duggal, Interim Director of Public Health for Kent County Council said: “Omicron numbers are now increasing exponentially across Kent and Medway. Together with KRF partners we are working hard to meet vastly increased demand for tests and vaccinations.
“We urge residents to book their Covid-19 booster, and the NHS booking system is open with significantly increased availability. If you haven’t had a jab yet, we know that even one dose provides some protection, while a full course significantly increases that protection.
“Remembering the basics can also help more than people might imagine. Wash or sanitise hands regularly, meet in groups outside, or open doors and windows inside. Remember to wear a face covering where required, or in any busy areas, and take regular lateral flow tests, even if you’ve been vaccinated.
“We know this is a hugely challenging and uncertain time for all our residents and we will do everything we can to offer support as the situation unfolds.”
Face coverings are now legally required in a number of venues, including shops and on public transport. Please also continue to take precautions as advised when out and about or mixing with people outside your immediate family.
NHS ramps up vaccinations
In just one week, NHS vaccination capacity across the county has more than doubled. Existing sites are drafting in more staff, with support from the army in Dartford and Maidstone, and increasing opening hours. A number of new sites are being set up in Walderslade, Tunbridge Wells and Sheppey.
Chief Nurse Paula Wilkins said: “Our vaccination teams are pulling out all the stops to boost capacity so we can get more people boosted. Last week we saw a huge increase in appointments with 196,000 available across over 60 vaccine sites. On Saturday 18 December we had our biggest ever Covid-19 vaccine day with over 33,700 jabs given; beating our previous record of 28,000 from March.
“Vaccine teams across Kent and Medway are bringing in more staff and extending hours and days to help more people get boosted. It’s been an amazing response to the Government’s call to offer a booster to all eligible over-18s by the end of the year.
“In most cases we are focussing on bookable appointments. With demand high and it being winter we want to limit the need for people to queue outside without a confirmed appointment. There are a few walk-in options and if specific sites have spare capacity on any given day, they may promote time-limited walk-in options; but please double check a clinic is offering walk-ins before travelling.”
For full details of all the hard work going in to reaching record-beating vaccination numbers see the NHS website.
Kent and Medway services stepped up
Kent County Council and Medway Council have responded to a surge in demand for symptom-free tests. In-person test sites are open for appointments in Maidstone and Ashford, with support from pop-up sites run by Medway Council. Residents overwhelmingly choose pharmacy collect or online ordering of symptom free tests, so these supplies in particular have been bolstered.
Council Contact Tracing teams work with people who have had a positive test. Their aim is to help and support those with the virus, while also doing crucial work to help stop onward transmission. Residents are urged to do what they can to comply with contact tracers’ requests if they receive a call.
Meanwhile, Kent Together offers advice and support to people who are struggling in the pandemic and can connect residents with people and services for financial, practical and mental wellbeing support.
Covid-19 vaccinations are available to anyone over-12, while anyone over-18 can book their booster jab no less than three months after their second dose.
Appointments are available via the national booking system at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination or by calling 119.
To see a map of all the vaccine sites across Kent and Medway, including those organising their own invitations, go to www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/covid19vaccine
Visit www.kent.gov.uk/symptomfreetest for details of all the ways to access symptom free tests.
Find help and support from Kent Together at www.kent.gov.uk/kenttogether.
The Kent Resilience Forum will continue to work together to ensure immediate response to the evolving picture of the Covid-19 pandemic.