Lambing event is cancelled as fears grow about coronavirus

Lambing event is cancelled as fears grow about coronavirus
Lambing Weekend at Hadlow College

The move comes as public anxiety grows about the spread of Covid-19, with shoppers panic-buying and stocking up on supplies in case of self-quarantine periods of up to 14 days.

Supermarkets have run out of items such as hand sanitisers, kitchen and toilet rolls – and Lidl has introduced a restriction of one four-pack of toilet paper per customer.

So far there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Tonbridge & Malling – although at the time of going to press there were five confirmed cases in Kent and a further two in Medway.

A Borough Council spokesperson told the Times: “In the event of a lockdown we have resilience plans for situations such as this and will endeavour to keep as many services running as possible.

“But there is potential for services to be disrupted, and our contingency plans aim to keep this to a minimum.

“We aren’t aware of any problems with schools, doctors’ surgeries, public outlets, restaurants or leisure centres at this point.”

West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group said the Public Health team at Kent County Council is handling the situation on a county level.

It encouraged residents to follow the guidelines published on the NHS website regarding hygiene, and stressed that people should not to go to doctors’ surgeries or hospitals if they think they have symptoms.

If that happens, the practice has to consult Public Health England, and may have to close rooms to clean. The public is asked instead to use the 111 online service available at

The two-day lambing event, which was due to be held this weekend [March 14-15], attracted more than 15,000 visitors last year.

The move to cancel it will be another blow to the agricultural college, which is beset by financial difficulties and is currently in educational administration.

It was revealed to have debts of £40million in November, and is due to be taken over by North Kent College by the end of this month.

A statement said: “Having considered guidance relating to the hosting of large public gatherings, Hadlow College has reluctantly taken the decision to cancel its Lambing Weekend.

“Although the college has not currently experienced any cases of the virus, this action is being taken as a precautionary measure in light of the current situation, to protect everyone involved.”

The college said it would issue full refunds to those who have already bought tickets. Advance purchases were £7 for adults and £4 for children, or £18 for families.

The event has been held for over 20 years and has never been cancelled before – even during the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001, when the organisers ‘took the necessary precautions’.

It has been consistently successful, with a record attendance of 15,500 in 2016 – and at least 10,000 visiting every year since it began.

The college’s interim Principal, Graham Morley, said: “Lambing Weekend is one of the college’s largest events and a firm fixture in our calendar.

“This has not been a decision we have taken lightly. However, it is the most sensible course of action to ensure we avoid all potential risks to the public, our students and staff.”

More cases are expected…

Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said that Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury is ‘running as normal’, though it has set up isolation pods there and at Maidstone.

 It said: “Testing of suspected coronavirus cases is carried out in line with strict guidelines. This means that suspected cases are kept in isolation, away from public areas of GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals and returned home also in isolation.

“Patients can be reassured that their safety is a top priority, and are encouraged to attend all appointments as usual.”

James Rowe of Tonbridge Angels Football Club, which regularly attracts crowds of 500-plus for its matches, said the National League has instructed that players and match officials should not do their traditional handshakes before and after matches.

Regarding potential postponements he added: “A fixture has to be postponed to prevent public gatherings, or a club cannot raise a team because coronavirus has spread through the squad.”

Kat Portman Smith, manager of the EM Forster theatre in Tonbridge School, said: “We haven’t seen any noticeable effect so far on bookings or no-shows, though we have had a few queries for people about whether events are going ahead.”

Andrew Scott-Clark, KCC’s director of public health, said: “The risk continues to be low for the general public but I would ask people to be very aware of what’s going on.

“This is a virus that effects people with general low immunity, and what we want to do is to stop the spread. We do expect more cases.”


Symptoms and what to do

Symptoms of the coronavirus include high temperatures, coughing and shortness of breath. To reduce the risk of it spreading, you should wash your hands regularly with soap or sanitiser gel, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, put used tissues in the bin straight away, and self-isolate if you suspect you could have it, calling 111 or contact online.

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