Kentish Express Ashford & District

Long queues at Covid-19 vaccine hub

Concerns over social distancing and long wait in cold weather

- By Sam Williams swilliams@thekmgroup.co.uk

Pensioners waiting for their Covid jab have been facing twohour long queues at Kent’s first mass vaccine site.

The centre opened at Folkestone’s former Debenhams store last Tuesday and is expected to vaccinate thousands of people each week – including Ashford residents.

But pictures have emerged showing long queues outside the town centre shop, which has been empty since last January when the chain moved out.

People waiting to get their jab last week said they ended up leaving the line and booking elsewhere after standing outside for long periods of time.

The queues also prompted concerns over social distancing, with one woman saying it was “a Covid breakout waiting to happen”.

Anne Smyth said her 73-year

old parents had waited two hours – including 90 minutes outside.

She said: “Luckily it was a dry and mild day, but this will be really dangerous when it’s sleeting and raining.”

Yvonne Stewart described the scenes outside the former department store as a “chaotic disgrace”.

She said: “My husband turned up 15 minutes early for his appointmen­t at 7.20pm to have his jab. We were met by a queue of at least 100 people!

“A woman in a yellow jacket told my husband that he would have to queue for about an hourand-a-half before he got inside and didn’t know how long the queue was inside.

“Fortunatel­y my husband had an email from his surgery in Deal that afternoon to tell him to click and book an appointmen­t, but I made him go for the booked appointmen­t he already had, otherwise it would be a waste for someone else.

“He clicked on what he had been sent while queueing and got an appointmen­t for 9.30 in Dover on Sunday, he phoned 119 to cancel the appointmen­t he was queueing in and left.

“It was a Covid breakout waiting to happen; poor people not been out for months and then to go to that, it was an absolute disgrace.”

Debenhams was the first largescale coronaviru­s vaccinatio­n centre in the county.

People being invited to have a jab need to live within a 45-minute car journey.

The whole process should take about 15 minutes from start to finish, says the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT), which is running the site.

It also says appointmen­ts are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are urged not to turn up early to avoid queues.

Trust deputy chief executive Gordon Flack said: “We are making changes to improve waiting times through our vaccinatio­n centre. This includes increasing the number of stewards and volunteers helping to manage the queue outside and reminding people to stay a safe distance from each other.

“We ask that people arrive on time for their appointmen­t to avoid congestion and to keep waiting times to a minimum.”

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 ?? Picture: Anne Smyth ?? People queuing outside the ex-Debenhams in Folkestone waiting for their Covid-19 jab
Picture: Anne Smyth People queuing outside the ex-Debenhams in Folkestone waiting for their Covid-19 jab
 ??  ?? Ashford residents are among those receiving Covid-19 vaccinatio­ns at the former Debenhams in Folkestone
Ashford residents are among those receiving Covid-19 vaccinatio­ns at the former Debenhams in Folkestone
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