Original article from Kent Live
Coronavirus rates across Kent are continuing to rise as requirements for social distancing and face masks were eased on July 19th.
Although Sittingbourne South, Bapchild and Bredgar is currently the most infected neighbourhood in Kent at 762.2 cases per 100,000 people, Medway has also been quite rife with cases recently.
The most infected area there is Gillingham North East with 520 cases per 100,000 people, which had seen an increase of 150% in that last week.
It spans a fairly small area which encompasses the Strand park, Gads Hill and Yokosuka Way, with the Woodlands Road estate around it.
With an area of that sort of size it would be intriguing to see if people were enjoying the freedoms of not having to abide by some of the restrictions.
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We headed down to the neighbourhood to speak to residents and visitors to find out how they felt about COVID and the removal of restrictions, as well as ask if they were surprised by the area being the worst in Medway for infections.
'In the open areas, yes we don't wear them unless we're asked to'
Mary and Raymond Stone were enjoying an afternoon at the Strand, which is the far corner of the neighbourhood.
They were keen to specify that they were in favour of keeping cautious, and continuing to wear masks in shops and crowded areas.
"In the open areas yes we don't wear them unless we are asked to," said Mary.
When asked why they thought the area had the highest COVID rate in Medway, Raymond gave the opinion that the mixing of large numbers of people in public areas might be a cause.
The couple also mentioned that their grandchildren had both had COVID all the way back in December 2019.
Mary said: "Thank you God they're alive. We didn't know what it was then."
Colin Turner wasn't so surprised about the number of cases in the neighbourhood considering "the number of people we've got living in close community.
The thing that he was "totally confused" about was the government policy behind the restrictions easing.
"We have had a plethora of instructions from the government so I just stick to common sense and keep away from people as best I can, wear a mask where I think fit and [have] a regular COVID check," he said.
'Too much of our lives have been lost in these past 18 months'
Barry Battersby, from the area, was not so concerned by the rising COVID infection rates, saying that it still was not nearly as big an issue as it was in the last lockdown.
He said: "It's still very small isn't it? It's not like how it was back last year."
Barry also reiterated that the NHS was not being affected badly by the rise as far fewer people were ending up in hospital, and that it was important to try and move on.
"I think it's time we all got back to being normal and living our lives. Too much of our lives have been lost in these past 18 months and we need to carry on and get back to normal," he added.
'It's a personal thing'
Barry's opinion was shared a bit by other residents, with Jean Howie also in agreement.
She said wearing a mask and continuing to be cautious was " a personal thing" that was up to individuals to decide on how they acted.
Hearing about the number of cases in the area did draw a different reaction from some of the others.
"I don't think it's about being surprised I think it's just a case of just looking at the figures.," she said.
"Some areas are going to be in the higher figures and some areas are going to be in the low figures, and I don't think we should be thinking about the figures."
Others were similarly mixed in their views, with Denzel Smith pointing out the rates were quite "high anywhere you go" and that it just depended on the individuals on how to go about life.
"I still wear my mask when I need to wear one," he added.