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Warning over coronavirus scams

Health officials in Kent and Medway have issued a warning over coronavirus scams involving criminals offering shopping or medication collection services.

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Hospital staff applaud Covid-19 patient going home

Staff at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, have clapped a patient who has gone home after surviving the coronavirus.

Uber driver Biniam Kidane waved and gave the thumbs up as he left the hospital.

He was able to leave the intensive care unit on Tuesday and walked out of the hospital earlier to a round of applause.

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Nine fined under the Coronavirus Act in Kent

Police officer
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Nine people have been issued with fines by Kent Police under the Coronavirus Act, the force said.

The figure emerged as Chief Constable Alan Pughsley reiterated a request for people to stay at home over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Mr Pughsley said: “It comes as no surprise to me that the people of Kent would continue to do what is right for the good of the nation, and we must all continue to do as we have been instructed by the Government this Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

“It is also encouraging to note that my officers have only had to issue nine fines to date, as this shows that my officers are engaging, explaining and encouraging people in the correct way and are being listened to when they ask people to go home.

“Those who have received fines for refusing to comply need to take a look at themselves in the mirror and consider the potential health implications their actions could have on others. It is unacceptable at a time when thousands of people in the UK have already lost their lives.”

Last month Kent Police launched a scheme appealing for their former officers, staff and volunteers to consider coming back to help amid pressure caused by the pandemic. Mr Pughsley said there had been a “promising” response.

Traffic wardens deliver food boxes

Traffic warden in Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks District Council/PA

Traffic wardens in Sevenoaks are helping vulnerable people to get the essential supplies they need.

Food boxes organised by Sevenoaks District Council are being delivered to residents who need them.

They can also get help with their shopping, picking up prescriptions, walking the dog or posting their mail by signing up to the council's Care for our Community scheme.

Councillor Lesley Dyball said parking in the district would still be monitored by wardens on patrol.

Canterbury Cathedral to toll bell in honour and remembrance

Canterbury Cathedral will toll a bell every evening to honour frontline healthcare staff and other essential workers, and to also remember those whose lives have been lost to coronavirus.

The old bell on the 1,400-year-old cathedral’s central tower – known as bell "Harry" – will toll each evening from 2000 BST tonight in recognition of "the unprecedented shared global tragedy".

The bell will be tolled remotely via a timer, so no staff will be present within the building.

The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, said: “Communities around the world have embraced the idea of clapping hands to thank publicly healthcare staff and other frontline workers at this time.

"We all know that their vital work is undertaken at great personal risk to themselves. The bell of Canterbury Cathedral will lend its voice to this display of gratitude and also mark a moment to pause and remember those who have died.”

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Kent Cricket to furlough playing staff

Kent Cricket have announced that the majority of their playing staff will be placed on furlough leave from tomorrow.

The club have already announced a number of measures to help ease financial pressures caused by the coronavirus outbreak, including furloughing the majority of non-playing staff and all executive directors voluntarily agreeing to take a temporary 20% pay cut.

Now the club have disclosed that they plan to extend the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to the majority of the playing staff.

Club captain Sam Billings will remain non-furloughed to support the club’s efforts in the community but has agreed a pay cut, in line with all other players in the Kent squad.

And Joe Denly, covered under an England Central Contract, will also continue to support the club.

Director of Cricket, Paul Downton, said: "Cricket is of course of secondary importance during these unprecedented times.

"The priority of everyone at the club is the safety and security of the entire Kent Cricket family including players.

"This outcome has not been reached lightly and I want to thank all of our players who are standing shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues during the pandemic.

"We will continue to monitor this situation closely. As and when we have clarification on what the season will look like, we will ensure that players are ready to return when it is safe to do so."

£11m temporary mortuaries will be built across Kent

Ciaran Duggan

Local Democracy Reporter

Site of temporary morgue in Beddow Way, Aylesford
Work on a new facility in Aylesford, Kent, began on Monday

Kent County Council has pledged to spend £11 million on the installation of temporary mortuaries as it unveiled its coronavirus emergency plans.

A maximum of 3,000 bodies could be stored in three new morgue locations in Kent over the next 10 months as urgent work on identifying sites begins.

The current mortuary capacity has been deemed “insufficient” to deal with the forecast number of coronavirus deaths across the county, including Medway.

Councillor Roger Gough (Con), the leader of Kent County Council, said: “Our priority is to ensure that, at all times, that there is dignity and respect for those who have lost their lives and consideration for the bereaved.”

County council officials have said they are preparing for a “worst-case scenario” and also following the advice of the Government. The mortuaries are expected to operate over varying time periods, lasting from 20 to 40 weeks.

Councillor Gough told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Kent is not alone in the need to make appropriate preparations for increased mortuary demand and we have a statutory responsibility to take the lead in responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Kent.

“We also have to plan, like every other authority across the country, for the worst-case scenario and to ensure that sufficient mortuary capacity is available should it be required.”

He added: “It is crucial that KCC takes these steps now so that we are prepared for all eventualities.”

A total of £11m will be invested in the installation of three temporary morgues in Kent, which will be paid from Maidstone County Hall’s reserves. This was approved by Kent County Council's leader as part of an urgent decision on Monday.

The cash will be spent on security, body storage management, transportation services and site clearance, including decontamination and staffing.

Work started on Monday on the creation of a temporary morgue in Beddow Way, Aylesford, which is due to be completed by April 20.

A marquee with a floor space of 1,000 square metres is due to be installed in one part of the site.

What have our MPs been up to?

Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham is supporting one of his consituents as he climbs the equivelant of Mount Everest in his home, all for charity.

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Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, is hoping to spend her time in lockdown learning how to take photographs of the moon.

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Tonbridge and Malling's Tom Tugendhat says after being locked in his bedroom for four days, and only allowed out in the garden on his own after developing a "slight cough", he's been using his time to plant vegetables.

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Council 'disappointed' by play area visits

Medway Council has said it is "disappointed" that some parents are still taking children to play areas despite government advice not to.

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'What do you not get about this virus?'

An angry health worker has taken to social media after seeing people flouting the social distancing rules.

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MPs call for tough action on spitting

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke
Natalie Elphicke
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke is one of the MPs urging tough action

Anyone who spits at emergency workers during the coronavirus outbreak should be "immediately imprisoned", a group of Kent MPs has said.

In a letter signed by 16 of the county's 17 MPs, the politicians urge judges to take tough action.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, said: “We cannot tolerate anyone putting the safety of emergency workers at risk.

"They put their lives on the line helping to beat this crisis - and we must in turn give them our full backing.

"Assaulting an emergency worker by coughing or spitting at them is a disgusting act at any time. Carrying out such an act at this time is particularly serious and should be treated as such by the courts.

"That's why anyone found spitting at an emergency worker should go straight to jail." In the letter, the MPs recognise that theirs is an "unprecedented approach" to the judiciary during "unprecedented times".

They add: "There is a separation of powers that rightly exists in this country, yet it is also right we express our constituents' views.

"We believe that any person convicted in Kent's courts of coughing or spitting at or in any other way threatening an emergency worker by using coronavirus should expect an immediate term of imprisonment."

MPs send messages of support to Boris Johnson

MPs across the South East have been sending their messages of support to Boris Johnson who is "in good spirits" after spending the night in intensive care being treated for coronavirus, according to a No 10 spokesman.

The prime minister was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London on Sunday after being diagnosed with the virus 10 days ago.

The former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, sent a video of support.

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Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, posted on Twitter on Monday evening: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Boris tonight. But he is a toughie and I have no doubt that Covid-19 might just have bitten off more than it can chew."

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Council warns of Covid-19 tax scam

A text message offering a council tax rebate due to the Covid-19 outbreak is a scam, Canterbury City Council has warned.

The local authority said it would never send a text like this.

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Warning issued over coronavirus scammers

Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke has warned the community to be wary of people trying to exploit the coronavirus outbreak after a flurry of scam emails and texts claiming to be from Government departments and Kent Police.

One email, purporting to be from the Department for Education, asked parents of children entitled to free school meals to send their bank details “to make sure you’re supported”. The Department for Education highlighted the scame on social media, saying: “This is a scam email - do not respond, and delete immediately.”

Another scam email was sent claiming to be from the Department for Work & Pensions, while scams from banks, PayPal and some utility companies, have been reported.

Mrs Elphicke said: “It’s become clear that times like these bring out the best and the worst in people.

“We have Corona Community Champions – our brave NHS and care staff as well as Super Neighbours’ schemes and community hubs. There are so many examples of kindness, care, compassion and resilience across our community. Yet there will always be some people who try to exploit the situation.”

Warning issued to fly-tippers

Council officials in Sevenoaks, Kent, have issued a stern warning to people who fly-tip their rubbish during the coronavirus outbreak.

Those who dump their waste illegally have been told they will face prosecution and could end up with a criminal record.

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Hospice appeals for funds for extra nurses and equipment

Stuart Maisner

BBC Live reporter

Nurse and patient

A Kent hospice has launched an urgent appeal for funding for extra nurses and equipment needed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellenor, which is based in Gravesend, Kent, says it is having to make major changes to its care services to cope with a significant rise in patient numbers.

The charity provides care and support to more than 3,000 patients and their families every year, and that number is rising.

The hospice needs to raise £7m to continue to provide its services each year.

Over the next three months, it estimates, without emergency financial and local support, its income will decline by £1.1m.

Garden marathon run to support NHS

Karen Aristocleous
East Kent Hospitals Charity

A runner is hoping to complete a marathon on Saturday, mostly in her back garden, to raise money for the East Kent Hospitals Charity.

Karen Aristocleous, 49, had been due to take part in a fitness challenge in Scotland this weekend.

Instead, she will put on her fancy dress costume and is aiming to run 10 miles at home in Herne Bay before taking to the streets for an hour and finishing the distance back in her garden.

She said: "I have done many hare-brained things during the past few years but it will be a real privilege to support the NHS in their time of need."

Proceeds from her challenge will go to the charity’s appeal to support frontline staff caring for patients with suspected and confirmed COVID-19.

Sunny weather no excuse to flout coronavirus guidelines, officials say

Parts of the South East are set to be bathed in sunshine this weekend.

And the forecast of good weather has prompted police and local authorities to remind people to stay at home.

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Memorial grounds closed to prevent coronavirus spread

The grounds of cemeteries and crematoriums have been closed until further notice because of the coronavirus outbreak, a Kent council has said.

It follows guidance stating memorial grounds should be closed to the public during the outbreak except for funerals attended by immediate family members.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council said the new restrictions take effect from today at the following sites in its area:

• Cheriton Road, Folkestone

• Aerodrome Road, Hawkinge

• Spring Lane, Hythe

• Church Road, New Romney

• Church Lane, Brenzett

• Mill Road, Lydd

Councillor John Collier, of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, said: “These unprecedented times have highlighted just how important our loved ones are, so we know this will cause some upset among residents.

“We have a duty of care to everyone – especially during this ongoing situation – and it would be wrong of us to risk public health by ignoring this advice.

“We will reopen the grounds of our cemeteries and crematoriums as soon as national guidelines allow.”

Postal staff strike over lack of coronavirus measures

Guy Bell

Royal Mail has introduced steps to ensure the safety of its workers after staff took strike action against the lack of measures in place against the spread of coronavirus.

Workers in Chatham, Kent, took industrial action on Thursday morning and have since returned to work after the company introduced social distancing measures and other aids such as latex gloves and extra hand soap.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) had raised serious safety concerns after Royal Mail had told workers it is safe to work without full Personal Protective Equipment.

The CWU said their appeals for safer conditions were not met.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "Royal Mail was disappointed that un-balloted industrial action took place this morning at the Chatham Delivery office.

"We sincerely apologise to customers in the area for any disruption to their mail services. All staff have returned to work and operating as normal.

"Royal Mail takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which we operate very seriously. We have introduced a range of social distancing measures designed to protect both our colleagues and our customers.

"We continue to follow public health authority preventative guidance."

Station ticket offices close

Rail operator Southeastern says it is closing ticket offices at about 60 stations temporarily as fewer of us are using train services.

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Call for Clap for Carers to recognise other key workers

Clap for key workers

Those taking part in the second Clap for Carers later are being asked to extend their support to other key workers, including supermarket workers, warehouse staff and delivery drivers.

Last Thursday, households across the UK stood on their doorsteps and balconies and applauded the efforts of the NHS and care workers in treating those affected by Covid-19.

The second display of support will take place at 20:00 BST.

Cathedral to broadcast sermon online

With places of worship affected by the coronavirus lockdown, some are coming up with alternative ways for people to watch their services.

Rochester Cathedral in Kent is preparing to broadcast its Palm Sunday sermon on its website and Facebook.

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University donates PPE to ambulance service

The University of Kent's forensic science team has donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to the South East Coast Ambulance Service.

Oversuits, googles, masks and shoe covers which the team uses during crime scene assessments have been given to the ambulance service.

Dr Chris Shepherd, director of undergraduate studies for forensic science, said: ‘I am extremely proud that the School can play a role in fighting COVID-19.

"Hopefully this donation will keep people safe and well during this difficult time."

Round-the-clock helpline set up for vulnerable people

A 24-hour helpline has been set up to support vulnerable people in Kent who need urgent help, supplies or medication.

The helpline – called Kent Together - provides a single point of contact for anyone in the county who is in urgent need of help during the coronavirus outbreak.

It is a collaboration between Kent County Council, central Government, district, borough and local councils and other organisations and groups, including the NHS, to ensure help is at hand.

It is also a place for people to report concerns about the welfare of someone.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough said: “In every district and borough throughout Kent and Medway there has been an incredible and heartening response to this pandemic, and we have a huge army of remarkable, public-spirited volunteers who are ready and willing to help each other through these challenging times."

People who are vulnerable and have an urgent need that cannot be met through existing support networks can contact the Kent Together helpline at or on 03000 41 92 92.

Frontline ambulance staff sought amid coronavirus pandemic

An appeal has gone out for ex-frontline ambulance staff to come forward to help with the response to coronavirus.

South East Coast Ambulance Service, which covers Kent, Sussex, Surrey and parts of Hampshire, has made a Twitter appeal calling on ex-staff to come forward.

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Brewery and distillery make hand sanitisers

Shepherd Neame brewery
Shepherd Neame

Shepherd Neame in Faversham and Chatham-based Copper Rivet Distillery are teaming up to make alcohol hand sanitiser for the emergency services.

The brewery has been producing a "clean beer" - made without hops - since 24 March. It is aroma and flavour free.

The brew is then tankered to the Copper Rivet Distillery where it is used as the base for distilling alcohol to create the sanitiser.

Stephen Russell, Copper Rivet's co-founder, said: "In these difficult times, we wanted to use our equipment and resources to support our emergency services, while also protecting distillery jobs."

England cricketer shaves head for NHS

Sam Billings
Sam Billings/Instagram
Sam Billings after his head shave

England cricketer Sam Billings has shaved his head in support of a campaign to raise funds for the NHS.

The 28-year-old wicket-keeper, who also plays for Kent, posted a photo on his Instagram account this morning.

He took part in a national challenge #ShaveHeadsSaveLive which has already raised more than £13,000 to assist the NHS and its staff.

The funds raised could contribute towards protective clothing for nurses and doctors, more hospital beds or equipment to support those who are suffering.

Police deliver sandwiches to NHS staff

Police officers in Kent have been delivering sandwiches and fresh bread to NHS staff after an agreement with a local Tesco.

Surplus food from the store in Tonbridge Road was taken to key workers, including A&E staff and ambulance crews, at Maidstone Hospital on Sunday.

Ch Insp Ray Quiller said: "They were all incredibly grateful and really appreciative of this small gesture."

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NHS staff say thank you to the public

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

Staff at this Kent hospital made a short video to thank people observing the social distancing advice.

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The milkman returns

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

This Kent dairy says it had 600 emails in a single day, as customers try to return to traditional doorstep deliveries.

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Police warn of virus text 'scam'

Kent Police is warning people of a coronavirus scam circulating via text message which tells people they have been fined for leaving their homes too often.

The force said: "This is a scam, do not click the link. The fraudsters are spoofing the Govt address. They are after your data and financial information."

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Government to "look again" at PPE guidelines

Care Minister and Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately tells the BBC the government plans to "look again" at guidelines surrounding personal protective equipment.

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New contract for rail operator Southeastern

The Government has signed a new contract with Southeastern to ensure train services continue during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department for Transport said the new agreement will ensure jobs are protected in the "unprecedented circumstances" brought about by the pandemic.

And officials said it will help provide those who cannot work from home with the connections they need to get to.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “We are taking decisive action across the board to ensure vital rail services continue, allowing those people who cannot work at home to get to work - particularly our NHS, emergency services and other vital industries."

Good morning from Coronavirus: South East live

Good morning and welcome again to another day focusing on coronavirus developments across the South East.

We’ll be here to bring you all the latest news.

And in the meantime, if you think there’s a story we should be covering, you can email us or contact us via Facebook and Twitter.

Family praises NHS after grandfather survives coronavirus

Sue Nicholson

BBC News

Roy Ives with his wife
Family handout/PA

The family of a 76-year-old man from Kent told to prepare for the worst after he contracted coronavirus have praised the "incredible" NHS staff who saved his life.

Retired postman Roy Ives, who has underlying health conditions, was admitted to the Medway Maritime Hospital a week ago and was not expected to survive the night.

His granddaughter Scarlett Walsh said: "No-one could get up and see him and say goodbye because it's the Covid-19 ward. That night was just awful."

However, the next morning, Mr Ives' family were told he had improved overnight, and a few days later doctors said he could go back to his home in High Halstow.

Roy Ives
Family handout/PA

Praising the NHS staff, Ms Walsh said his story demonstrates that elderly people can survive the virus.

"I think they are completely unsung heroes.

"These people are in there 12 hours a day and have their own families and children to go home to."

She added: "They were incredible and all of our family are forever grateful."

Free DAB radios for over 70s

DAB digital radio

Vulnerable people aged over 70 are to be offered free DAB digital radios as millions are forced to stay in their homes and isolate because of the coronavirus outbreak.

BBC local radio is teaming up with manufacturers, retailers and a loneliness charity in order to ensure as many people as possible have access to news, information and companionship.

It will be giving away DAB digital radios to people nominated by local radio listeners as part of the BBC’s Make A Difference campaign, which was launched in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

It is running across all 39 BBC local radio stations in England and is aimed at connecting communities.

From Monday, anyone can nominate someone for a free radio by completing an online application form at

NHS nurse stranded in Cambodia returns to UK

NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter
PA Media
NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter

An NHS nurse who had been stranded in Cambodia and called on Boris Johnson to help get her home has landed back in the UK.

Cheryl Baxter said she “had a few tears” when she arrived back at her front door in St Mary’s Bay in Kent on Thursday morning after her ordeal in South East Asia.

Mrs Baxter works in Hastings where she is head of the Conquest Hospital’s Covid-19 ward, and is looking forward to rejoining her colleagues soon.

Speaking after she and her husband Ivon arrived home, she said the whole experience was a “mental roller coaster”.

Mrs Baxter, 52, and her husband had been travelling before the UK pandemic commenced and were due to fly home on March 22 via Bangkok.

But as the coronavirus crisis intensified, they had huge trouble securing the right medical certificates to fly home, with different agencies demanding different papers.

She said: “My worst fear was that Bangkok would shut down, then we would be stuck for how long.

“My other fear was either of us would become unwell out there.”

NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter
PA Media
Mrs Baxter with her boarding passes