Folkestone and Hythe: The Kent district where COVID rates remain among the lowest in England

Folkestone and Hythe: The Kent district where COVID rates remain among the lowest in England





Kent’s coronavirus infection rates continue to rise – but one area has remained stubbornly low in the face of the pandemic.

The latest available numbers show how Folkestone and Hythe’s rate of 17.7 is the lowest in Kent.

It is also the lowest in England, with only the Isle of Wight (16.9) coming below.

But as the infection rate across the rest of Kent creeps up and neighbouring Essex and London go into Tier 2 of the government’s lockdown restrictions, are Folkestone’s numbers just an anomaly?

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The very nature of infection rates is that they fluctuate, which can make it hard to accurately ascertain why an area is recording low rates one week and high rates the next.

This has recently been seen in Dover, which used to have the lowest rates in Kent but has since shot up the rankings.

However, for Folkestone and Hythe to be the least infected spot in the country is perhaps worthy of consideration.

On the day we visit, the market is in full flow and the high street is as busy as it has ever been.

You could be forgiven for forgetting we were in the midst of a pandemic if it wasn’t for the large signs advising people to socially distance.

On the surface, Folkestone isn’t doing anything different to anywhere else in the country, so why are the rates so low?

It’s business as usual in Folkestone

One man we spoke to, who refused to specify his name, put it down to a ‘fluke’.

He said: “I’m visiting from Ashford but I think the majority of these rates are flukes.

“They’re making something out of nothing half the time and it doesn’t help anybody.”

‘I don’t think the rates mean anything’

It’s hard to socially distance in a busy high street market

A passing look through the town makes you see why the man’s scepticism is understandable if not justified.

The common consensus is that the virus is readily transmitted through social contact, how then can an areas with a busy town centre like Folkestone record the lowest rate in the country?

According to Joe Cartwright, 34, the area’s rates can be explained by their collection methodology.

“It does seem a bit odd that we’re the lowest in the country.

The 34-year-old said: “To be honest I don’t think the infection rates can be that accurate or reliable in places like Kent.

“On any given day we could have more or less cases than anywhere in Kent.

“I think they make sense for big cities but they seem fairly irrelevant here.”

‘It’s going to increase’

Denise believes rates in Folkestone will go up

Whether or not the area’s rates remain the lowest in the country remains to be seen.

With both London and Essex now in Tier 2 of the government’s restrictions and several Kent areas recording higher rates, there could yet be a possibility that restrictions in the town are tightened regardless.

However, this doesn’t concern long time resident Denise Stokes, 66, who has lived in the town for over 50 years.

Are people in Folkestone following the rules better than everyone else in the country?

Despite the town’s status at the foot of the COVID table, she believes more cases and increased restrictions are an inevitability.

She said: “I think it’s going to increase because there’s no limit on where people can go.

“People in Folkestone have been fairly good, but you see it on TV when people break the rules.

“It’s pathetic really as they’ve been warned.”

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