Proposal to create major coronavirus testing site in Kent

KCC County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Plans are underway to create a major coronavirus testing site in Kent.

The centre is expected to be built at an undisclosed location in the county after a proposal was discussed between the NHS, Department for Health, public health bosses at Kent County Council and consultant firm, Deloitte, yesterday (April 20).

Boris Johnson’s Government and NHS will have the final say on the testing centre plans, with more details expected from the Government later this week.

The talks came ahead of an 80-minute virtual meeting involving Kent County Council’s cabinet. Several councillors and senior officers discussed Maidstone County Hall’s response to the global pandemic.

KCC’s public health director, Andrew Scott-Clark, said: “We are starting to talk about broadening the testing to all key workers and all symptomatic family members through the institution of a mass test site.

“That won’t be far from being set up in Kent. We are in the very early planning stages of that, so I can’t offer more information about it at the moment.”

NHS workers from Medway and Swale had started to receive swab tests at the county’s first drive-thru testing centre at Medway Maritime Hospital last week.

QEQM Photo Chris Constantine

Other testing sites have opened at major Kent hospitals, including the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Dartford’s Darent Valley, Ashford’s William Harvey and  QEQM in Margate.

However, KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), was critical about the lack of “universal” testing facilities in place across Kent.

He said: “One of the key issues in terms of resolving the pathway to removing the lockdown is getting more universal testing facilities in place.”

Some 2,400 positive coronavirus tests have been confirmed in Kent (excluding Medway which has recorded 478). This figure only represents those who have been tested and not all of those who have symptoms. However, KCC’s public health director said he was “reassured”  about the county’s COVID-19 situation.

Mr Scott-Clark (pictured) said: “What we are not seeing is an exponential rise in numbers and that gives some cause for hope, given that in a classic epidemic curve you would see the rates going up exponentially.

“We are seeing about an average number of 100 new cases a day, which by all accounts is manageable by the NHS and our system.”

He added that the coronavirus case numbers in Kent represented “about half” of London’s total while stressed that testing will be “ramped” up across the county, particularly for NHS staff in East Kent.

KCC’s cabinet was later told about other ongoing concerns, including COVID-19 outbreaks at care homes, prisons and hospices. They said around 67 coronavirus cases have been reported in these institutions across the county.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages continue to be a cause of concern for county council bosses, particularly due to high demand.

KCC’s leader, Cllr Roger Gough (Con), said: “Staff have done remarkable things to ensure that we get PPE orders delivered and seek to respond to the very, very severe pressures there have been in the care sector and elsewhere.”

His comments come three weeks after KCC agreed to spend around £2million on “bulk” emergency supplies, including hand sanitisers, aprons, masks, gloves and goggles, from its original £39m COVID-19 Government grant.


  1. What is meant by a centralised COVID testing site. Does this mean a laboratory to run the tests? The article wasn’t clear.
    If a mass testing site means a place where staff and people with symptoms go to have the swabs taken then this is a very dangerous idea. Travelling to a testing site will spread the virus & swabs should be performed as locally as possible. The swabs can be transported to labs, not carriers of the virus.
    I see KCC is relying on yet another management consultant firm Deloitte to be paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to tell the NHS And local authority how to plan services. Shameful waste of public money.

  2. I think, under these extreme circumstances, that the Labs in the Pfeizer building be opened up. With slight modification these could be more or less a Local testing central for diagnosing swabs.
    The results, being local, could be sorted according to results very quickly.
    A good testing area could be a closed school. Of course it would have to be organised with Military precision.
    My thoughts only….
    I would not mind helping getting this organised.

  3. Most hospitals have pathology departments why can’t the staff who work at each hospital be tested in their work place with a section of the pathology lab analyses the test whether they be negative or positive.?

  4. Good old KCC, we have had a major problem with Covid-19 since mid March and only now are they talking about possibly setting up a testing centre, probably in West Kent anyway.

  5. I am a high risk single pensioner, and have to go out to for essential shopping, but always wear a face mask, and gloves. This morning on my return, my nose began to run, and I was sneezing! I began to panic, but then remembered there are High pollen counts out there now! This afternoon it seems to have cleared up, but the point is, where could I have gone to for a test? Best make a pot of tea before trying to get though to NHS 111, but I like the idea of opening local schools for testing! KCC should be able to do this without any trouble, and most people would have easy access to one.

  6. It is not at all clear whether KCC are seeking a location for a ‘lab’ to analyse test samples, or a location for people to go to actually be tested. If both cases it surely shouldn’t be necessary to consider *building* anything major. There must already be lab space available (such as Pfizer as already suggested) to set up any additional analysis that might be considered necessary. If a location is required for the actual testing, then why is anything more complex than the tents currently located at Chessington World of Adventures for just this purpose. Where to locate it? Why not Manston Airport to at least service East Kent… but there are many other possibilities… it doesn’t need to be that large. One of the main problems is how those without transport can access facilities such as this without access to a car.

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