Wednesday 18 May 2021
On Monday this week we saw another significant step in our route out of the coronavirus social restrictions. It’s great that restaurants, cafes and pubs can now re-open for indoor service, especially given the slightly mixed weather we have experienced in recent weeks. The rule of allowing six people to meet indoors returns, two households of any size can meet together, and face masks no longer need to be worn in secondary schools. Larger crowds can come back for major events, such as the 20,000 fans that were able to attend the FA Cup final at Wembley last Saturday. International travel is now possible to ‘green list’ countries which have similarly low rates in infection from COVID-19. This list covers things we took for granted for so long, yet it is now a relief to seem them return. We look forward as well to the lifting of all social contact restrictions from 21st June.
Although there has been a lot of reporting about new variant strains of COVID elsewhere in the world, this is not having an impact in east Kent. For the Folkestone and Hythe constituency the COVID infection rates, and the number of people who require hospital treatment because of infection from the virus remain the lowest they have been since the start of the pandemic. This trend has continued throughout the easing of the restrictions and gives us confidence that we should meet the target of 21st June. Whilst we must of course be vigilant for any change in the data, we should see the low levels of infection compared to other countries as evidence that the vaccines are working. 55% of people in the UK have received at least one dose and 30% have received both injections and are fully vaccinated. This means that more and more people every day are being protected.
On Thursday 27th May, at 3.30pm I will be taking part in an online meeting with Cllr David Monk, the leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, and Cllr Roger Gough, the leader of Kent County Council, to discuss the use of Napier Barracks in Folkestone as accommodation for asylum seekers. We will be joined by representatives from the Home Office and other agencies who have been involved in managing this facility. The meeting will be broadcast online, and questions from local residents for discussion during the meeting can be submitted in advance. There is more information about this on the District Council website.
The use of Napier Barracks is a temporary measure, the site itself has been sold for new housing as part of the Taylor Wimpey development. However, as I have stated since asylum seekers have been accommodated at Napier, I do not believe that this is a suitable facility or location to house so many people on a single site. I have asked for the Home Office to manage the closure of the operations there, as the claims of the asylum seekers are processed.