East Kent experienced a spike in covid cases at the end of May, with hospital trust bosses saying the area suffered a ‘second, late peak.’
The East Kent Hospitals Trust – responsible for QEQM in Margate, William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the Kent & Canterbury as well as smaller sites in Dover and Folkestone – also recorded 21 deaths attributed to covid in the seven days June 23- June 29.
That figure meant one in nine deaths recorded in hospitals across the country were at East Kent Trust sites – double that of any other trust other than Warwickshire.
A spokesman for East Kent Hospitals said: “East Kent saw a second, late peak of Covid cases in comparison with many other areas of the country, with high numbers of Covid positive patients in late May, particularly at William Harvey Hospital, Ashford.
“The population of east Kent is significantly older and with more co-morbidities than the England average, which means it is vulnerable to becoming acutely unwell with COVID-19.
“The number of Covid positive patients is coming down, with the highest numbers remaining at William Harvey Hospital.”
In total the Trust has recorded 392 losses due to covid since the pandemic began – this figure is for hospitals only.
According to government data there have been 43,720 covid-related deaths in the UK, although this number is estimated to be nearer 65,000.
In Kent there have been 5,623 recorded cases and in Thanet there have been 690 covid cases recorded.
Localised data from the Office for National Statistics shows Thanet recorded zero deaths in week 25 (up until June 19) and five deaths – four in hospital, one in a care home – the week before that. In total Thanet has suffered 140 covid-related deaths up to June 19 (registered up until June 27). The losses in Thanet are the greatest number for East Kent.
A local lockdown lasting at least two weeks has been announced in Leicester due to the city having recorded 10 percent of all positive cases in the country during the past week.
Non-essential shops have shut and schools will close for most pupils on Thursday. Pubs and restaurants will not reopen on Saturday.
In Kent and Medway a Local Outbreak Control Plan has been published today (July 1) and a Kent and Medway COVID-19 Health Protection Board (HPB) was launched last month.
A focus will be on test and contact tracing. Regional test sites are in Ebbsfleet and Ashford with a site in the east of the county soon to be established
Mobile testing sites are available for deployment in Maidstone, Swale, Canterbury, Ashford, Dover, Folkestone and Medway. Work is ongoing to establish a site in Margate.
Local outbreak steps
STEP 1 – Initial Risk Assessment & Contact Kent and Medway councils.
After being alerted of new cases, community clusters or outbreaks infection control advice either by email or verbally will be given. If it is decided that the setting is complex, a joint discussion regarding next steps will be taken.
STEP 2 – Infection Control & Response
A decision will be made whether to convene an Outbreak Control Team (OCT) who will undertake a risk assessment and support occupational health departments or other points of contact with sourcing PPE, staff capacity, removal of bodies and care provision.
STEP 3 – Perform Enhanced Testing & Contact Tracing
Testing of people within complex settings including with existing Mobile Testing Units where necessary.
STEP 4 – Monitor Intelligence
The setting will be monitored closely using regular intelligence updates
STEP 5 – Escalate Concerns & Facilitate Closures/Other Action
In the event of closures, appropriate enforcement where necessary.
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has issued a general notice under the Health Service Control of Patient Information Regulations 2002 to support the response to COVID-19.
This allows NHS Trusts, Local Authorities, and others to process confidential patient information without consent for COVID-19 public health, surveillance, and research purposes.
The notice is currently in force until September 30 and provides a temporary legal basis to allow a breach of confidentiality for COVID-19 purposes.
Councillor Karen Constantine who is the local representative on the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, says she has been thwarted in attempts to get a covid update for Thanet from health chiefs.
She said: “I’ve written to the most senior NHS manager Accountable Officer Wilf Williams seeking an urgent update on Covid in Thanet. It’s frankly bizarre that there is no almost no information being shared between health officials and local politicians. It’s no wonder that people are concerned. Without regular and clear information, the public will struggle to cope with the demands Covid places on us all.
“This is especially important as Emergency Departments have been told to prepare for a heavy workload on July 4 as lockdown eases and pubs etc reopen.
“I’m disappointed that I’m not being given any useful information to share with residents. We appear to be dumbing down local democracy. People need more information, more clarity and more guidance not less. Meanwhile I would urge everyone to follow safety guidelines diligently.“
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale says he fears a covid resurgence due to the large crowds packing out the beaches.
He said: “We are, I fear, in some danger of risking a resurgence of the Covid 19 pandemic and throwing away the gains that have been won at a colossal physical, emotional and economic cost.
“We clearly have to return to some sense of normality in our personal and business lives. Shops, restaurants and cafes, public houses and bars and all of the other services that we all use and depend upon have to be allowed, carefully, to re-open if they are not to be lost together.
“We all understand that both in parliament and in society. While some enterprises and most particularly arts venues are still of necessity closed and facing very extreme financial pressures, and while those who earn their livings from those venues are equally paying a disproportionate price, we are now, cautiously, at the point where at the coming weekend much of England will be once again open for business.
“That business will, though, have to be conducted under highly restrictive conditions and even with the reduction of the `social distance` from two metres to `one metre plus` many food and drink outlets are going to find it very difficult to configure their premises in a way that conforms to regulations and still allows them to serve a sufficient number of customers to make the task worthwhile and commercially viable.
“And yet while most businesses are being required to jump through hoops in order to re-open and while some are still barred from trading completely it is, it seems, in order for the Great British Public to tip out of the cities, head for the coast and then congregate on beaches in a manner that is almost guaranteed to spread infection if there is any going.“