England, United Kingdom

Latest Stories

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."

Coronavirus 'could wipe out care homes'

The daughter of a woman who died after testing positive for Coronavirus at a Kent care home is calling for the government to roll out more testing for staff and residents.

Michelle Rowland's mother Doreen was 72 when she died on Monday in Harbledown Lodge care home in Canterbury.

She said the speed at which the virus killed her mother was shocking.

"I wasn't able to be with her and I wasn't able to hold her hand.

"We need more testing because it's just going to wipe out these care homes."

Doreen and Michelle

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.

View more on twitter

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.

View more on twitter

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."

Man arrested over ambulance tyre damage

A man has been arrested after tyres were damaged on six ambulances in March.

The 47-year-old from Ramsgate was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage on the vehicles on two occasions, Kent Police said.

Nine tyres were damaged on six ambulances between 22:00 GMT on 21 March and 07:00 the following morning.

Three tyres on two ambulances were also damaged overnight between 18:00 on 28 March and the following morning, a police spokesman said.

On both occasions the ambulances had been parked in Haine Road, Ramsgate.

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.

Call to stay at home

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield has restated advice for people to stay at home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It comes amid reports that people are still flocking to a popular skatepark in the area.

View more on twitter

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.

View more on twitter

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."

View more on twitter

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.

View more on twitter

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.

View more on twitter

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."

View more on twitter

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.

View more on twitter

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

The South East joins Clap for Carers tribute

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

At 2000 GMT last night, people came out of their houses and opened their windows to applaud NHS staff tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

View more on twitter

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

Fire service staff help deliver hot meals

There have been many stories of groups, organisations and communities pulling together during the coronavirus pandemic. Here's one such example...

View more on twitter

Canterbury theatre to stay closed until June

Marlowe Theatre
Marlowe Theatre
Marlowe Theatre

One of the largest theatres in the South East will remain closed until late June at the earliest.

The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury has announced that all performances and activities scheduled up to Monday 22 June will not be taking place.

The theatre had previously announced it would be shut until 22 April.

The venue said customers will be personally contacted in the next two weeks with information about their booking, with all customers entitled to a credit note or refund.

Coronavirus: Kent County Show cancelled

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

This year's Kent County Show has been cancelled.

The Kent County Agricultural Society says it investigated every way that the show could go ahead in July, but it become clear that could not happen.

Kent County Show
The County Show was due to take place in July

It says ticket-holders, companies which have booked stands and sponsors will now be contacted individually.

The dates for the 2021 show have already been fixed for 9, 10 and 11 July.

Have you taken part in the Stay at Home challenge?

Gillingham FC midfielder Mark Byrne showed his Twitter followers how he is keeping himself occupied during the coronavirus restrictions.

The Irishman showed off his skills by volleying a tea bag from a distance into a mug - on the third attempt.

One wag asked whether he could do something similar with coffee.

Twitter users worldwide have been posting their #Stayathomechallenge as communities find themselves housebound due to the coronavirus pandemic.

View more on twitter

Beach-goers dispersed by police

Police in Kent have had to disperse groups of people who had headed to the beach. Their message is simple: Follow government advice to help save lives.

View more on twitter

Find out the latest rail travel advice

Many rail operators are running pared back services to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, including Southeastern - which operates in London, East Sussex and Kent.

To find out more, click on the link below...

View more on twitter

Household waste sites closed in Kent

All household waste sites in Kent have been closed until further notice, the county council says.

View more on twitter

Maidstone Market stays open to 'help locals'

A woman showing some carrots
PA Media
The council wants to provide locals with fresh fruit and vegetables

A regular market in Maidstone will remain open to supply local residents with essential produce, it has been announced.

The borough council said the decision to keep the Tuesday and Saturday markets at Lockmeadow going would also help "market traders during these challenging times".

Traders selling "essential items" such as fresh fruit and vegetables, cleaning products and toilet rolls are being encouraged to take a pitch.

Local producers, farmers and wholesalers who normally supply restaurant chains and cafes have also been urged to get involved.

Safety measures will include gaps of two metres between pitches, with customers encouraged to follow safe distance guidance when shopping.

The council said the decision was "in line with government guidance".

Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops postponed

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The once-a-decade gathering of Anglican Communion bishops, which was due to be held in Canterbury in July and August, has been postponed until next year due to coronavirus.

The decision was taken today by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, following consultation with stakeholders.

These included his fellow primates – the leaders of the 40 autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion.

In a video message, Archbishop Welby said: “The place of a Bishop at a time of difficulty is a place of a shepherd when the wolf is attacking the flock.

"It is to be with them. To be alongside them. To love them. To suffer with them. “Because of the coronavirus, travel around the world is deeply restricted and the amount of time that we will face these limitations is unknown.

"For these reasons, so that we may be good shepherds as bishops in the Anglican world, and encourage the church to be there for God’s suffering world, we have decided to reschedule and postpone the conference and to put it forward till 2021 at pretty well the same time.

“We’ll write to the bishops with the exact dates as soon as we have them fixed. In other words, a delay of one year. We are absolutely not cancelling."

Coronavirus linked to spike in railway trespass

There has been a spike in vandalism and trespassing on railways in Kent and Sussex since schools closed on Friday, Network Rail have reported.

Bike wheel on train track
Network Rail

A total of 16 trespassing incidents have been recorded across Network Rail's southern region, which includes Kent and Sussex. It urged parents to "hammer home" the dangers of live rail to young people.

On Sunday, a bicycle was thrown on a track and hit by a train in Swanley in Kent (pictured above).

Allan Spence from Network Rail said: “Easter holidays and the clocks going forward are the start of the peak for railway trespass and with schools now closed for an extended period, I’m really worried that the railway will become an irresistible but catastrophic playground for young people."

Network Rail has launched free railway safety lessons online which you can access here.

Country parks to remain open 'for the time being'

Haysden Country Park, Tonbridge

Country parks in Kent are to remain open for the time being, the county council has announced.

A Kent County Council spokesman said: “We recognise our parks are important community facilities, especially at the moment.

"We are therefore monitoring the demands on the parks today and checking on the conduct of visitors with regard to ‘social distancing’ as we wish to ensure we make the right decision for the benefit of all our residents.”

The National Trust shut its parks and gardens over the weekend and the Whitstable Oyster Company was forced to apologise after it opened its beachside takeaway premises on Saturday and was inundated with visitors.

Coronavirus scammers gain entry to houses

Scammers who are claiming to be NHS workers and offering "coronavirus testing kits" are operating in the Herne Bay area, Kent County Council has warned.

The authority has advised residents to be vigilant after receiving reports of two people wearing suits gaining access to properties.

One of them distracts the home owner, while the other person breaks through the rear door.

View more on twitter

Hospital ward staff in TikTok plea

Staff on a hospital ward in Kent have taken to TikTok to plead with people to stay at home.

Medway NHS Foundation Trust said it was proud to see the team at Sapphire Ward in Medway Maritime Hospital delivering such a "powerful message".

View more on twitter

Six ambulances 'deliberately damaged'

An ambulance

Six ambulances were “deliberately damaged” in Kent, South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) has said.

The damage happened at the service’s Make Ready Centre in Thanet on Saturday night.

In a statement, Secamb said staff had worked hard to ensure the impact on patients was minimal but said it was “additional work at a time we are already under significant pressure”.

It added: “It is extremely disappointing that an individual would target the ambulance service in this way, at a time when the vast majority of the public have been fantastically supportive of our staff during these difficult times.”

It urged anyone with information to contact Kent Police.

View more on twitter

More time to relay your views on new Lower Thames Crossing

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

The public consultation into a new Lower Thames Crossing has been extended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Highways England says it will now end at 23:59 BST on 2 April, a week later than planned

Four public events which were part of the consultation have already been cancelled.

They will be replaced by a telephone consultation on 23 and 25 March, between 14:00 and 20:00 GMT.

Council warns of coronavirus scammers

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

Fraudsters are using the coronavirus as a cover for scams, according to Kent Police.

The force says people claiming to be from health authorities have been going door to door, offering tests.

People are being told not to hand over any money or details, or to let them into their homes, but to call the police on 101.