Original article from Kent Live
Enhanced testing got underway in Canterbury as authorities try to get on top of the feared Indian variant starting to spread in Kent.
Kent County Council requested Government support after the discovery of 30 new Indian variant cases in the district.
It's believed it represents the highest amount in the South East of England region, prompting health leaders to set up six mobile testing sites across the Canterbury area.
They will be open every day from 9am until 7pm for walk-in appointments until June 5.
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The locations are New Dover Road Park and Ride, Sturry Road Park and Ride, University of Kent Canterbury Campus, at the Keynes College car park, the University of Kent's Canterbury Campus, Darwin College car park, and the Wincheap Park and Ride car park.
Launching the new scheme in Wincheap this morning (June 1) Kent's new public health director Dr Allison Duggal said she was "really hopeful" lockdown measures will continue to ease according to schedule, despite the rise in cases.
Below we've detailed the answer to each questions posed to her by KentLive.
What led to the decision to do extra testing in Canterbury?
We know the rates are quite low across Kent, but we had what looked like an uptick of cases in Canterbury.
There were 30 cases of the so called Indian variant.
We decided we were going to increase testing and I arranged with the Department of Health to have mobile testing units and we will have six altogether over the next few weeks.
How long is the turnaround for test results?
It's actually improved – we have a lot more sequencing available across the county, a lot of work's been done to increase laboratory capacity.
So we are probably looking at one to two days to know whether it's a positive, then if sequencing needs to be done an additional two to three days.
What do you think is driving the increase?
We don't know. It could be multiple factors. We just know we have had a slight increase and that's why we are doing the testing, to try find out the full picture.
Are you looking at the link some are drawing between lower vaccinated areas and lower age groups?
We are not looking at the moment at different age groups for vaccinations. We are sticking to the guidance on the vaccination order but if things change we can look at that.
Where are the clusters in Canterbury, have they reached care homes yet for example?
I'm not aware of anything in a care home so I can put paid to that one.
There are clusters across different settings though – I can't say it's a particular university or postcode because they are sporadic across Canterbury.
That's one of the reasons that we need to do this additional testing.
If it's an outbreak in one setting we can tell straight away what we need to do but when we can see a number of clusters we just need to make sure we have got all the information and there's nothing further we can do.
Will we be getting extra jabs like other areas?
We don't have the frankly alarming levels that some of the places in the North West have.
We hope that by taking the decisions that we are doing now we can get things under control quickly.
In terms of vaccinations, there's no reason to think we need to change the age groups for the vaccines but it's something to keep under advisement, we are keeping an eye on it.
If we need to, we will be going to the Department of Health to request further vaccines.
Is it causing hospital admissions to rise locally yet?
At the moment it's a low prevalence and we are not seeing much in terms of additional hospital admissions, and certainly not anything like the levels of COVID deaths we had during the winter.
At the moment I am not concerns about hospital admissions but it is something we will be keeping an eye on.
Should people in Canterbury behave any differently?
They don't need to take any additional prevention measures unless they are advised to after they've tested positive.
They just need to be sensible and stick to the guidance as it is at the moment.
Why is the Government so concerned about the Indian variant?
When a virus mutates we can end up with a mutation that means that the vaccine isn't as efficient at protecting you against a particular infection.
The work that's been done has shown that actually they're working pretty well. We know that the first jab gives you quite a good level of immunity but the second dose really does give good immunity against this particular variant.
So what I would say to people is as soon as you are called get it sorted. The sooner you have the first one the sooner you have the second one and you will be in a really good position to be immune to this nasty virus.
What about reports of black fungus side effects and hitting young people worse?
One of the reasons people are so concerned is they can see the difficulties in a country that has a very different society and health system.
But we are in a very different situation – we have these mobile testing units and we have a vaccine programme that's doing wonders at the moment.
I'm not aware of any reports of black fungus although there is a slight increase in transmissibility of this variant but it's not a huge increase.
What are the chances of everything opening up as planned on June 21?
We have time to have a look at places like Canterbury where we have seen slight increases.
But really it's a political decision.
But as a Public Health Director my view is that the sooner we get back to normality, the improvement we will see in people's mental health and the economy and people's financial health it will be worth it.
So I'm being cautious but I'm really hopeful that we will come out of this according to the road map.