New Covid walk-in centre in Thanet among three expected to open in Kent in addition to existing sites

The Covid test centre at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Three new coronavirus testing sites are set to open in Kent.

Covid walk-in centres have been planned for Thanet, Gravesham and Folkestone. A site also opened in Canterbury 10  days ago.

It comes a week after Ebbsfleet International station’s testing site, which had capacity for around 2,000 tests, was shut down “out of the blue” so it can be used for Brexit border checks. A new Covid centre has been set up in its place in Medway.

A Government spokesman said: “Regional testing sites were set up at great speed and selected for their immediate availability, security and access.

“The regional testing site at Ebbsfleet has ceased operations and a new regional testing site is operating at Curtis Way, Rochester. The relocation will allow the network to continue operating as long as needed.”

In East Kent, the first Covid walk-in centre opened two weeks ago as the University of Kent welcomed its first clients at Canterbury’s Rutherford car park in the college campus on Saturday, September 5.

It forms part of the Government’s drive to improve “accessibility” of coronavirus testing in local communities as Whitehall bosses continue to come under fire for major problems with the testing system.

Technical glitches and laboratory backlogs have meant some Kent residents have been told to travel as far as 470 miles to Edinburgh in Scotland or nearly 300 miles to Wales to get a test.

This comes despite reports of largely empty drive-in sites at Manston Airport in Ramsgate and Ashford’s Victoria Road car park. The Manston airport site is also subject to a special development order designating it for use as a lorry park to cope with possible post-Brexit jams at the Port of Dover. This order runs until December 31,2020, but is reportedly under negotiation for an extension.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration says that discussions are ongoing about adding three more walk-through testing sites in the county.

KCC’s public health director Andrew Scott-Clark said: “We have been working fairly hard across July and August to get more testing sites made available.”

Speaking during a virtual KCC public health committee meeting six days ago, he added: “We have got plans for Gravesham. We are working with Folkestone and with Thanet for a new local walk-in testing site.

“But these are taking some time to get on stream because there is diligence that the Department of Health and Deloitte, that are supporting us to do this work, need to do before we get these up and running.

“We are trying to make sure we have as much testing as possible across our system.”