As the threat from COVID-19 continues and the country enters a third lockdown, Kent Resilience Forum partners are working hard to stem the growth of the disease.
This week an additional 12 symptom-free testing sites launched for people who do not have symptoms but may be unknowingly spreading the virus.
In addition to the two symptom-free testing sites in Swale and Thanet - in operation since December 17 - sites have now opened in Gravesend, Swanley, Folkestone, Ashford, Birchington, Dover, Canterbury, Larkfield, Detling, Kemsley, Dartford and Tunbridge Wells.
Residents attending this testing will undergo a lateral flow swab test and will receive their result within a couple of hours of attending the test.
To book a test visit www.kent.gov.uk/symptomfreetest
A 24-hour helpline is available to support vulnerable people in Kent who need urgent help, supplies or medication.
The helpline – called Kent Together – provides a single, convenient point of contact for anyone in the county who is in urgent need of help.
It is a collaboration between KCC, central Government, District, Borough and local councils, the voluntary and community sector, the NHS, emergency services and other partners to ensure help is at hand for vulnerable people.
It is also the place to report your concerns about the welfare of someone else.
If you are vulnerable and have an urgent need that cannot be met through existing support networks, you can contact the Kent Together helpline at www.kent.gov.uk/KentTogether or by calling 03000 419292.
KCC Leader Roger Gough said: “There are four crucial actions that will help us identify and contain the virus across the county – following the guidelines; symptom free testing; contact tracing and enforcement.
“We have launched 14 symptom free testing sites already and there are more planned over the coming weeks, we have bolstered resources in contact tracing and our Trading Standards team play a key part in advising businesses on Covid regulations, taking enforcement action where necessary.
“We also need the county residents to play their part, adhering to the new restrictions to reduce infections, protect the NHS and save lives. As an authority we will do everything we can to support this.”
As pressures increase, The Kent Resilience Forum was required to set up a temporary place of rest in Aylesford to ensure sufficient capacity is available.
Mr Gough added: “To have had to set this facility up is a stark reminder of the terrible cost of COVID-19. We know this is a difficult time for all our communities and especially for those who have lost loved ones to the virus.
"Throughout all our planning our priority has been to ensure that there is dignity and respect for those who have lost their lives and consideration for the bereaved.”
Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix of Kent Police, Chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, warned that people not following the lockdown rules will have action taken against them.
She said: “The vast majority of Kent residents have done the right thing and followed the rules throughout this pandemic, helping to protect the NHS and ultimately save lives.
“Unfortunately, there are some people who still think it is acceptable to throw parties, go outside in large numbers or commit other serious breaches of Covid-19 regulation, which has contributed to us all having to once again stay at home and stay away from our friends, relatives and colleagues.
“Kent Police officers are continuing to police the national restrictions in a proportionate manner, using enforcement as a last resort.
"But anyone who flagrantly or repeatedly breaks the rules at a time when there is so much pressure on Kent’s health services should be left in no doubt that action will be taken against them.
“As Chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, it is my firm belief that the work we are all carrying out will lead to a brighter future for everyone in our county who has been so severely affected by this terrible disease.”