Kent County Council awarded £6.3m Covid ‘test and trace’ boost

KCC County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Around £6.3million has been given to Kent County Council (KCC) to help with its coronavirus response.

The Government funding will be used to support the NHS test and trace service in Kent and to help manage any future spikes.

Plans are underway for a KCC-led “monitoring” group to be set up to oversee where the cash will be spent.

A KCC spokesman said: “The monies will be used to prevent Covid-19 infections and manage the pandemic across Kent and in turn support local economic growth and improve the wellbeing and quality of life for Kent residents.”

However, opposition councillors have questioned the decision. Maidstone county councillor Dan Daley (Lib Dem) said: “It would be much better if the money was spent on helping people suffering from mental health distress due to Covid.”

Testing woes have been at the forefront of national public debate amid problems with booking slots. Last week Kent’s Covid-19 infection rate reached its highest level since June, according to Public Health England.

Around 10 of the county’s 13 areas have reported a rise, with 222 new cases last week compared to 165 the week before. However, Kent’s infection rate remains relatively low at around 12 weekly cases per 100,000 people.

Coronavirus walk-in centre plans have been mooted for areas in the county such as Gravesham, Thanet and Folkestone. One was set up in a car park at Canterbury’s University of Kent campus and the ideas were revealed by KCC public health director Andrew Scott-Clark.

Regional drive-in test sites have been set up at Manston Airport in Ramsgate and Ashford’s Victoria Road car park. Another opened in Rochester’s Curtis Way coach park last month after Ebbsfleet station’s Covid site shut and will be used as a Brexit customs checkpoint despite having capacity for 2,000 tests.

No official word has been given on whether the latest Government cash boost will be used to expand the number of Kent Covid test sites. A final decision has yet to be reached on spending pledges.

A spokesman for KCC added: “The grant monies have been received by the council.

“Members of the county council will be asked to endorse a funding framework which set out the proposed areas of spend and the process by which spending decisions will be taken.

“The corporate director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark along with the director of finance Zena Cooke and the head of strategic commissioning will participate in decisions on how this money is spent and there will be a test and trace grant monitoring group.”