A quarter of adults in Tunbridge Wells not boosted as ‘Freedom Day’ finally arrives

Olympian Louis Smith
QUESTIONS: Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark quizzed the Prime Minister on Monday about testing capabilities

With all Covid restrictions lifted on Thursday (February 24) on so-called ‘Freedom Day’, NHS data shows 23.3 per cent of over-18s in Tunbridge Wells did not bother getting the jab.

Last year the government had planned for all UK adults over 18 to be triple jabbed by the end of December.

It came amid fears over the Omicron variant that also saw Plan B restrictions introduced over the Christmas period to curb the spread of infection.

Figures released by NHS England show by February 13, 70,387 third doses had been given out in the borough to 76.7 per cent of the adult population.

It means there are around 21,300 people over 18 in the area that have not been boosted.

And the NHS Data also shows that only around 1,000 boosters have been given out over the last four weeks, suggesting take-up is faltering.

But Paula Wilkins, Chief Nurse, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, has said it is not too late for people to get boosted.

“People across Kent and Medway have been fantastic in coming forward for their Covid-19 vaccinations, but we still have more than 260,000 eligible people who still haven’t yet had their vaccination,” she said.

“Although restrictions have been removed, having the Covid-19 vaccine is still required by many countries. The vaccine also reduces the chances of you getting seriously ill and passing it on to your friends and family.

“I’d urge those who haven’t yet had the vaccine or who haven’t had their second or booster doses, to get them as soon as possible, so that you don’t miss out during a summer that we’ve all been looking forward to.”

The infection rate in Tunbridge Wells has fallen sharply since the peak of the Omicron wave.

Around 1,500 cases a week were being reported in Tunbridge Wells during the middle of January. For the seven days to February 11, there were 833 infections reported over the seven days, down 400 from the previous week.

The falling figures come as the Prime Minister set out the government’s strategy for ‘living with Covid’ on Monday afternoon (February 21), and outlined the plan to remove both self-isolation and free Covid testing.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark queried the decision in the Commons and asked the PM how the government would spot new variants.

He asked the question following a reported row among the PM and backbench MPs over the scrapping of free testing.

Mr Clark, who is Chair of the Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, asked: “One of the things that we do know in the past is at times we didn’t have the testing capacity that we needed at times when we needed it most acutely. So given the ongoing surveillance, if that were to throw up a variant that was more dangerous than Omicron, how quickly could we stand up and deploy again mass testing?”

Boris Johnson replied: “That is why we are putting so much emphasis on the ONS with its amazing granular ability to detect what is going on in local areas, and as well as other forms of surveillance we want to spot the new variants of concern as soon as we can, then we want to surge our testing capacity in the way that we did before and of course much faster now.

“We will have stockpiles, we will keep our labs in readiness and we will be able to surge when necessary but now is not the right time to continue with mass testing.”

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