By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
A total lockdown of Kent must be avoided if a second coronavirus wave occurs within the county, a councillor has said.
Kent county councillor Dan Daley (Lib Dem) has called for clarity around Boris Johnson’s Government’s pledge to impose local lockdowns rather than a UK-wide one if there is another spike in Covid infections.
No guidance has yet been issued by Whitehall about how this would work in Kent, it has emerged during a full council meeting earlier today (June 17).
KCC’s leader Roger Gough (Con) said: “Our focus will be on local responses, very localised responses depending on the nature of the outbreak.”
A suggestion was put forward by Cllr Daley, saying that any future coronavirus lockdowns should be imposed at district level rather than county-wide.
He said: “The objective must be that in the event there is a high spike in one particular district there has to be an opportunity to deal with that locally and not make it pan-Kent as is currently faced.”
Their comments come just two weeks after Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed that local lockdown measures had been enforced in Weston-Super-Mare to curb a rising spike in coronavirus infections in the Somerset town.
Weston General Hospital was shut due to an outbreak among health staff, but no further details were provided by Government on how this worked. Some Somerset councillors have disputed that lockdown measures were imposed.
KCC’s full council was told that Whitehall has not given any indication to Kent councils on how these lockdown restrictions would work, but Cllr Gough said outbreak control plans are being formulated by Public Health England and should be ready by July.
These are expected to outline key recommendations for managing outbreaks in schools and ensuring accessibility for coronavirus tests for residents.
Cllr Gough said: “The test and trace system; keeping cases as low as possible across the population and the R value below one are vitally important if we are to rebuild the Kent economy and protect communities from the effects of Covid-19.”
He later added: “We currently don’t have clarity from central Government on lockdown powers for local authorities nor on how local arrangements might be triggered in the event of general rising cases and higher infection rates.
“I understand there are ongoing Government discussions in advance of guidance being issued.”
The former KCC education cabinet member said the only way to avoid further widespread cases in Kent was for residents to abide the social distancing measures in place as lockdown measures for retailers were eased on Monday.
He also stressed the need for close communication between local authorities and key partners such as Kent Police, South East Ambulance Coast Service, the NHS, care homes and local business forums, to ensure containment.
KCC’s Green Party leader Martin Whybrow told full council’s 81 members that plans for more localised responses needed to be prioritised by KCC while Cllr Gough said careful planning was needed ahead of autumn and winter.
Concluding, Cllr Gough added: “We do not know whether we will see a second wave, but we certainly see continuing and increasing pressures in a variety of sectors and we are already seeking to address that.”