*Information used in this update is correct as of end of day, Friday 1st January*
Happy New Year. There is much to be hopeful about as we begin 2021, especially given the news regarding the mass roll out of the Oxford vaccine. However, unfortunately the current situation dictates I must start the year in a similar vein to how I ended the last - with an update on COVID-19 locally.
Infection rates (for the seven days up to 26th December)
- The latest COVID-19 data indicates that Sevenoaks currently has a COVID-19 rate of 673.3 cases per 100,000 population.
- This is higher than the rates we are seeing in both Tonbridge and Malling (626.5 per 100,000) and Tunbridge Wells (450.6 per 100,000).
- Our neighbours in north Kent and Greater London are also seeing extremely concerning rates, with Gravesham and Dartford both reporting over 900 cases per 100,000.
It is incredibly worrying to see the continued upward trend in case rates. This trend was one of the central reasons for Kent being placed in Tier 4 and continue to cause significant pressure on our local hospitals.
- Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (which manages Pembury Hospital) are now caring for 313 COVID-19 patients, which is over three times the number of patients they were caring for at the peak of the first wave.
- Darent Valley is also under similar pressure and is urging those seeking non-emergency treatment to consider other NHS services before attending the hospital.
- Across the South East, hospitalisation figures are rising significantly, and the seven day average of admissions has now exceeded the peak we saw in the first wave.
- We also know that the nature of the challenge hospitals are facing has changed. The improved treatment options for patients including dexamethasone and remdesivir means that many more patients are being treated on wards rather than in ICU. This puts even greater pressure on our NHS with an increased demand for both space and staffing.
I have been supporting our local authorities and health providers on both mass testing and vaccinations. I am delighted that vaccinations have started for hospital staff and that the planning for roll-out for members of the public is now at a very late stage of planning.
- The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust received their first batch of the vaccine just before Christmas, and have already administered the first dose to 3,000 members of staff including partners from South East Coast Ambulance Service. In fact, 1,269 critical workers were vaccinated in one day on Tuesday – a remarkable achievement. The Trust are expecting a further 3,000 doses for staff to arrive on Monday.
- Darent Valley Hospital has also now received their first batch of vaccine for staff, which will play a vital role in bringing the number of COVID related staff absences down.
- Public vaccinations will be delivered from early January, with the possibility of the first vaccinations happening next week. They will be available at a number of sites, including the Sevenoaks Medical Centre and on a roving basis to care homes. If you qualify you will be contacted. I know many of you will be anxious, however please do not contact your GP surgery until you receive a letter, text or phone call about the vaccine to ensure that phone lines are available for those booking appointments.
- Finally, I am pleased to confirm that mass testing will be launching in early January at the Bat and Ball Community Centre. Testing is another key tool in getting COVID-19 cases back under control, and I will be providing further updates on how to access this when this information is publicly available.
I want to thank everyone involved in the vaccination and mass testing programmes, along with all those who have volunteered to support the roll-out. These are huge, but essential undertakings, if we are to protect the most vulnerable and get our local case rates back under control.