Mass coronavirus testing 'expected next week' in Swale, council leader reveals

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A part of Kent looks set to be added to a government coronavirus mass testing programme, according to a local council leader. 

Cllr Roger Truelove, the leader of Swale Borough Council, has revealed that talks are ongoing about getting the rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests.

Swale isn’t currently among the 66 local authorities set to benefit from the additional testing capacity, despite soaring numbers of coronavirus cases. 

It’s after the area, which includes Sittingbourne, Faversham and the Isle of Sheppey, recorded one of the worst Covid-19 infection rates in England.


Weekly cases per 100,000 people in Swale


Average weekly cases per 100,000 people in England

The latest figures shows the rate of coronavirus infections is more than double the average infection rate across England.

Cllr Truelove has called an emergency meeting for next Monday with other public agencies to address the problem. 

He told ITV News Meridian: “I desperately want mass testing in Swale, particularly on the Isle of Sheppey.

"That’s a matter for the government but I’m expecting that to happen next week. 

“We need to test people who are asymptomatic because they’re spreading the disease so I hope by the early part next week we are actually having mass testing in Sheppey and in Sittingbourne.”

I desperately want mass testing in Swale, particularly on the Isle of Sheppey...I’m expecting that to happen next week.

Cllr Roger Truelove

Cllr Truelove revealed discussions were ongoing between Kent County Council and the government.

A Kent County Council spokesperson said: “We are planning and liaising with the Department of Health and Social Care regarding supplies of Lateral Flow Devices. 

“Targeted wider asymptomatic testing is a significant undertaking that requires planning and whilst it is an important part of managing the pandemic, it is not the solution and any testing needs to be alongside all the other public health measures such as social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.”

Asked about whether Swale should face continued restrictions when the national lockdown ends on the 2nd Dec, Cllr Truelove said: “It would be my view that it wouldn’t be sensible to say have Swale in one tier and Canterbury and Maidstone next door in another tier - it’ll only lead to people migrating from one borough to another.

"I don’t think that’s a very good idea.

"I do think the whole of Kent is actually seeing a rise and therefore there is a need for tighter restrictions right across.”