Areas Of Kent With No Coronavirus Cases At All Are Being Placed Into Tier 3 Restrictions
Some parts of Kent such as Sheppey have high levels of Covid-19 but several areas have few if any cases and will still end up in tier 3 next month (PA)
Several areas of Kent with so few cases of coronavirus the data is not even published are facing the harshest coronavirus restrictions, because the county is being treated as a single entity under the government’s tier system.
Local leaders say they are being “penalised unfairly” after the announcement the region would be placed into the highest level once the current lockdown ends next month.
Before the four-week national measures were introduced Kent was in Tier 1, the loosest set of restrictions, but it now has some of the highest case rates in the country, prompting the move into Tier 3 from December 3.
But in much of it levels of Covid-19 are lower than many of the regions which will be placed in Tier 2, and so there is criticism from local politicians for not splitting England’s 10th largest county, with a population of around 1.9 million, into different sub-sets.
In four of the areas on the government’s infection map there are so few cases no rate is provided.
For Lyminge, Densole & Elham, Knockholt, Shoreham & Dunton Green, Hamstreet & Isle of Oxney, and Hever, Leigh & Penshurst in the seven days to 20 November there were fewer than 3 cases, so the exact figure is not published to avoid possibly identifying people with the disease.
However in those places pubs and restaurants will remain closed, and there will be no household mixing wither indoors or outdoors
Councillor David Godfrey, whose North Downs East Ward on Folkestone and Hythe District Council covers one such area, said he was “not happy at all” about the decision.
The Conservative cabinet member for housing told PoliticsHome: “The leader of our council Council, David Monk, has been lobbying hard along with our MP for them to be more realistic about regions within Kent.
“So we're not happy at all that we've gone into that situation because we feel that we've been penalised because of unfortunate circumstances elsewhere.”
It comes after several of the county’s MPs asked for the decision on tiers to be done on a district-by-district basis, rather than county-wide.
Cllr Godfrey said he and colleagues will continue to make the the case, adding: “But we're all in agreement that we think it's it's penalising us unfairly and we will continue to fight to to get a better result.”
Councillor Sue Coleman, who represents Penshurst, Fordcombe and Chiddingstone on Sevenoaks District Council, said it would make sense to split the county in half, but admits it would be “an administrative nightmare”.
She told PolHome: "We have some great pubs in Penshurst, Fordcombe and Chiddingstone who will be badly affected by the Tier 3 restrictions - I feel truly sorry for them.
“Unfortunately, unless we also restrict movements within Kent, preventing my residents travelling to Swanley for example, then a district level approach won't work.
“It would make more sense to split the county north and south of the North Downs to reflect natural travel movement areas but this would be an administrative nightmare.”
Her Tory colleague Matthew Dickins, deputy leader of Sevenoaks council, told PolHome: “The villages I represent are some of the least densely populated in Kent, have experienced cases in single figures and could not be further from the centre of the county’s outbreaks, so the news all of Kent would be lumped together in Tier 3 has been felt particularly keenly.
“The advice is this is a decision informed by the pressure the virus is placing on our county’s hospitals and, in light of that, residents I’ve spoken with today have been keen to continue to play their part and do whatever is necessary to fight this pandemic."
One of the seven Conservatives who wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock to look at a district or borough allocation for the new tiers, the Ashford MP and former Cabinet minister Damien Green, tweeted: “I’m hugely disappointed that the whole of Kent has been put into Tier 3.
“Before lockdown we were in tier 1 so what has lockdown achieved? We need the full analysis made public.”
And Tom Tugendhat, who represents Tonbridge and West Malling, posted: “Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and Sevenoaks District Council go into lockdown at Tier 1 and come out at Tier 3.
“This isn't working. We need the full analysis made public.”
Kent County Council leader Roger Gough said: “We appreciate that residents and businesses across the county will be extremely concerned and some areas may feel the Government decision is unfair.
“It is our priority now to work with everyone to move out of tier 3 as quickly as possible.”
He added: “Community outbreaks have been a major cause for concern in some areas of Kent and the second national lockdown had started to show an impact in a slight reduction in the numbers of people testing positive.
“But it is the same message to all Kent residents now; thank you for all your efforts so far, and we appeal to everyone to continue to take the restrictions seriously and follow the guidance.
“The faster we get infections down, the sooner we can hope to see restrictions eased to the benefit of residents and businesses.”