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Helen Whately’s Parish Update – February 2021

Light at the end of the tunnel

I know for many people these past few weeks have been some of the hardest of the pandemic.

These dark winter days have been made so much harder by lockdown and not being able to see friends and family.

We also heard the sad news about Captain Sir Tom Moore. His service to our country and our NHS, and the inspiration he gave us all, will live on.

While these continue to be tough times, there are good reasons to be hopeful.

I’ve been chairing a Task Force to help bring down rates of infection in Kent. I’ve seen the hard work and dedication of people and groups across the county in bringing the virus under control – and we are seeing these efforts pay off with infection rates falling.

Our vaccine rollout has reached over 17 million people, and we are on track to have vaccinated the top four priority groups – which includes people most at risk from Covid along with health and social care workers – by the middle of this month.

Our testing capacity goes from strength to strength. Over 19 million rapid PCR tests have now gone out to care homes so they can regularly test staff and residents. And when a new variant of the virus was detected in parts of Maidstone, we were able to deliver 9,600 home testing kits within 72 hours to help contain the spread.

We’re continuing to support people and businesses through these difficult times, including a boost for local services with Kent County Council seeing its budget from central government increase by 5.5% to just over £1.1 billion for the next financial year.

As the lighter days of spring appear, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. But we mustn’t stop now. We can all do our part by following the guidance and keeping each other safe.

Support during lockdown

Councillors and volunteers are playing a crucial role in our response to Covid.

I’ve been truly impressed at the scale and speed of the response here in Faversham and Mid Kent, from our County Council to parishes and community groups, charities, and local businesses.

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to look for help, which is why I’ve put together a list of local contacts on my website.

If you’re self-isolating and need help getting food, if you’re a business looking for grants, or you want more information on testing and the vaccine rollout in Kent, then take a look on my website: www.helenwhately.org.uk/news/coronavirus-local-contacts-page

Mass testing comes to Maidstone

Almost 10,000 testing kits were delivered to parts of Maidstone within 72 hours to help contain the spread of a new strain of the virus.

Operation Barton involved Kent Police, Kent Search and Rescue, Kent Fire and Rescue, and Kent County Council, with more than 300 staff on the ground.

Huge thanks to everyone involved, including people in parts of Shepway and Park Wood for their co-operation in the mass testing rollout.

It’s vital we come down hard on the new South African variant to contain it and help prevent further outbreaks.

Community testing more important than ever

Along with the vaccine rollout, increased testing capacity is also helping to offer us a way out of lockdown.

We now have 24 symptom-free Covid testing sites across Kent – including the Detling Showground and County Hall in Maidstone, as well as sites in Canterbury and Swale.

These tests are so important for helping to pinpoint where the virus is in our community, as we know around 1 in 3 people with Covid have no symptoms.

It’s particularly important you get tested if you need to leave home for work. More information, including how to book a test slot, can be found on KCC’s website.

Boost to police numbers in Kent

We’re getting an extra 145 police officers in Kent over the next year.

Kent Police is on track to get an extra £19.5 million next financial year, and Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott has said the money will be spent on extra officers for the force. This is good news for people across Kent.

We already have record numbers of police officers in the county. The latest announcement means Kent is on track to have 3,970 officers by March 2022. That’s 183 more officers than 2010.

Kent Police has launched its #MoreThanTheBadge campaign to help recruit new officers.

Taste of Kent Awards are back

Voting is open for the Taste of Kent Awards 2021. Now in their 17th year, the Awards showcase the best that the Garden of England has to offer.

If there’s a Kent beer or cider you particularly enjoy, a brilliant butcher who deserves recognition, or a local supplier that has gone the extra mile during the pandemic, you can nominate them online here: www.tasteofkentawards.co.uk