By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent households have been urged to take a coronavirus test two times a week in new guidance issued by Maidstone County Hall.
From today, Kent County Council’s (KCC) public health director Andrew Scott-Clark, who is due to retire this year, has recommended an increase to the number of Covid tests carried out by residents living in the county.
All people who live or work in Kent have been advised to take a symptomless swab test twice a week, particularly those who have to leave home for their job or shop for essentials.
This represents a significant change from previous guidance from KCC which stressed that everyone without symptoms should get tested every two weeks.
KCC’s cabinet member for public health, Cllr Clair Bell (Con), described the change as “important” as the UK lockdown slowly lifts.
Speaking to her nine Tory cabinet colleagues during a virtual meeting earlier today, she said: “Twice weekly testing will give more accurate results and it is important given the national restrictions are gradually being eased.”
Lifting of restrictions began last Monday when schools in England reopened to all pupils, care home visits were allowed and outdoor coffee and picnics permitted with a member of another household.
It forms part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, which has been divided into four stages over the next three months.
From March 29, people will be allowed to meet another household in private gardens, weddings attended by up to six people while outdoor sport reopens.
Non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers can reopen their doors on April 12. Restaurants, pubs and hotels may open again from May 17.
In Kent, people can visit 24 asymptomatic test sites, two based in each district, however three will be stood down at the end of the month as demand drops.
They include Maidstone’s Kent Showground in Detling; Kemsley Community Centre in Ridham Avenue, Swale, and Dartford’s Farfield Leisure Centre.
It was also revealed that Covid testing centres in two of the districts will extend their opening hours to between 9am and 7pm from March 31.
This includes Sheerness East Working Mens’ Club and Institute in Swale and and Swanscombe Leisure Centre in Dartford.
In Maidstone, residents will still be able to travel to a town centre site at Sessions House, in Maidstone County Hall.
Meanwhile, the county’s remaining 21 testing hubs, with at least one based in each district, will remain in place until at least the end of June.
At today’s cabinet meeting, Cllr Bell said: “Testing remains an important tool in the fight against the virus.
“Around one in three people who have Covid-19 have no symptoms and will be spreading the virus without realising it.”
All sites across the county will be temporarily shut for the Easter break from April 2 to April 5, with the exception of Saturday 4.
People with symptoms, such as a high temperature, continuous cough or loss of smell or taste, should book via https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Asymptomatic tests are available via https://kcc.healthit.org.uk/covbook/home