This week we mark the anniversary of the first national COVID lockdown. It’s been a year like no other, which has affected all of our lives. Our first thoughts are with the people we have lost to the coronavirus. Nationally it has claimed the lives of 148,125 people, and in the Folkestone and Hythe district 408 people have been registered as having died as a result of contracting COVID-19. These are the highest death rates for a pandemic since the outbreak of Spanish flu towards the end of the First World War.
The crisis has seen a fantastic response from our NHS and care workers. They have met the challenge and made sure that all those who needed treatment and support for COVID have received it. They have also been at the forefront of a tremendous vaccination programme that is one of the leading in the world. Nationally more than 28million people have been vaccinated, including 614,000 in a single day on 19th March. In Kent, 737,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. Everyone aged 50 and over can now book their first vaccine through the national booking service. Text invitations and letters will be sent from the national team. You may also receive invitations from local GP-run services.
Between now and mid-April, the NHS will be focusing on giving first doses (and second doses if due) to people aged 50 and over and those who are clinically vulnerable. There are vaccination appointments available now and you can book these online at the nhs.uk website. We are also seeing the effects of the vaccine programme with low and falling infection rates across the country. Locally, the seven-day rolling daily average for positive covid tests in Folkestone and Hythe is 2.4, which is its lowest level since 9th October. At its peak at the end of December, the rolling seven-day average number of new positive tests was 135.
I would like to thank all of the front-line workers during the crisis, including teachers and school staff, bus and railway workers, and the police and border force. Our local councils have worked hard to support residents and to co-ordinate the delivery of services and have been helped by the many people who have volunteered to work at the community hubs across the district.
Some people have followed the wonderful example of Captain Tom Moore and made their own personal contribution to raise money to support others during the pandemic. There is one current example I would like to highlight; which readers can support now. Andrew Morris is raising money to support a programme being offered by the Folkestone Sports Centre for keyworkers, particularly those who have suffered extreme stress, anxiety and fatigue as a result of the pandemic. Andrew is aiming to run and walk 200 miles in March. For every £100 he raises, Folkestone Sports Centre will add a further £50, which will fund a 3-month membership for a local keyworker. You can find out more about the initiative at Andrew’s ‘Fitness 4 Keyworkers’ fundraising page on gofundme.