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downsmail.co.uk


Lockdown the only answer to help NHS


WHILE many of us will be glad to see the back of 2020, this is not the start to the New Year any of us would have wanted. I know going back into lockdown will be incredibly tough for people – especially parents and children. The Government has done everything possible to avoid these restrictions, but it’s clear this is the only option to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed this winter. We’ve seen in Kent just how quickly this new strain of the virus can spread and the pressure it is putting on our local NHS. This picture is now sadly being seen across the country, with more people in our hospitals with COVID-19 than at any time during this pandemic. I urge everyone to take all possible care and remember that any of us could unknowingly have the virus – one in three people who have it have no symptoms but can pass it on. If you need urgent treatment you should absolutely seek it, but we must all do what we can to avoid contributing to the number of patients in our hospitals. With that said, there are reasons to be hopeful about this new year. We now have three vaccines approved for use in the UK, which we are rolling out as quickly as possible.


Crucially, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine means we can vaccinate more people, faster


By Helen Whately MP for


Faversham and Mid-Kent


– especially those people who are in care homes. We’re stepping up support for businesses and rolling out mass testing to pinpoint where this virus is in our communities and reduce the spread of infections. There are now 14 symptom-free testing sites in Kent, including one at the Kent Showground at Detling. I encourage people, if you can, to book a test. More information can be found on Kent County Council’s website. I’ll continue to work hard both locally and


in Parliament to do everything I can to support people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and at risk. We can all help get through this difficult time by following the guidance and looking out for each other. That sense of community spirit we rediscovered at the start of this pandemic will be needed more than ever. We face a tough winter ahead, but we will get through it together.


Opinion


A I


COLLEAGUE is at the palais de justice to cover the first two appearances of David Fuller, the man accused of two killings of young women in Tunbridge Wells 33 years ago, first before magistrates and then a judge at crown court. I am intrigued to learn of the reported presence of a local multi- millionaire businessman in the public gallery at both.


T'S a fond farewell, then, to Cllr Jonathan Purle, the “renegade” Conservative councillor unknown for his subtle approach to local politics, who is not contesting his Bridge ward seat in May. Why the decision to stand down? “It’s costing me about forty grand a year to be a borough councillor. Time to get back to work,” he wails.


A Get rural businesses online A


OFCOM'S recently published Connected Na- tions report, which measures progress in the availability and capability of broadband and mobile services across all urban and rural areas, is a frustrating read. While minor improvements have been made


to improve connectivity, little progress on in- creasing 4G and broadband coverage in rural areas has been delivered. Across the Maidstone borough, broadband


speeds and the reliability of phone coverage vary wildly according to where you live or op- erate your business – a postcode lottery with a clear urban-rural divide. Places like the Lenham Road, near Kingswood, are badly affected by this prob- lem. And those residents are not alone. The CLA, which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses across Maid- stone and the wider region, believes that 4G growth in rural areas has completely slowed down with minimal increases on last year when there should be significant increases year-on-year. This lack of growth does little for the rural economy in Kent, and for those who live and


By Mike Sims


Communications manager for CLA South east


work in the countryside. The roll-out of 4G cov- erage has come to a standstill and the way for progress to be made is if Government invests in infrastructure, rather than planning. Reassurances are also desperately needed


on whether rural communities will receive gi- gabit capable broadband by 2025, following the Government’s U-turn to only invest £1.2bn of the £5bn pledged in the 2019 election cam- paign. With only 27% of homes receiving this level


of coverage and a lack of investment and in- frastructure in place, Government must come forward with robust measures on how its long- term targets will be met. Otherwise, the rural economy will be left behind once again. For more information about the CLA and its


work, visit www.cla.org.uk and follow @CLA- SouthEast on Twitter.


F


HE recent broadcast on Channel 5 of a feature about Maidstone’s mummy, featuring historian Bettany Hughes, was the TV highlight of the year so far. Perhaps little known is that La Hughes is sister to the former Middlesex fast bowler, Simon, who has forged a successful career as a cricket analyst and author.


T


FORMER colleague recalls humorous exchanges with “Naughty Tory” MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, jailed last year for sexual assaults. When answering the phone at his Westminster office, for hilarity, an excitable Mr Naughty would announce “Battersea Dogs’ Home”. My friend reflects: “Where he is now, he probably has more in common with the incarcerated hounds. Unwanted and desperate to get out.”


IRST through the doors at the “Innovation Centre” on the Kent Medical Campus is Creation Interactive Limited, previously near neighbours of MBC at Maidstone House. On his company website, CEO Daniel Ghinn (49) says he has a wife, three children, a cat, a dog, 28 fish and 160,000 bees. Mr Ghinn is also director of the Christian-based Worship.Works which “supports church congregations and groups by teaching and speaking in any setting”. I say.


I


AM grateful to the excellent Headcorn parish magazine, in its Churches Together section, for dusting off this old gag: Q-What football position does Jesus play? A-Goal - because Jesus saves!"


Chin chin! 47


NDREW Collins, the Conservative “community campaigner”, who was aiming to take Lib Dem Georgia Harvey’s spot in Bridge ward, has also decided to step aside as the candidate there. Not the same Mr Collins, who shares an office with Cllr Purle, is it? It surely is!


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