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DCC Bulletin – Don’t cause a Halloween nightmare, half term travel advice and Exeter case numbers broadly back to national average

In this update:

  • Exeter case numbers back in line with national average
  • A plea to half-term holiday makers
  • Stay safe this Halloween
  • Helping unpaid carers take a break
  • Ask a minister a coronavirus question
  • Lockdown Legends

Exeter cases ‘broadly’ back to national average

Steve Brown, the Deputy Director for Public Health Devon has confirmed today that Exeter case numbers are now back to ‘broadly’ the national average.  

It’s the first time in weeks that case numbers in the city have fallen to the current level following a spike mostly associated with University of Exeter. 

Positive cases among the university student population have come down, thanks largely to measures introduced by the university, including restrictions to prevent student households mixing, as well as the majority of students doing their part and sticking to the tighter rules.

Case numbers across the county however are rising overall, in line with the national trend, but they remain below the English average. 

When we look at those people who are testing positive for COVID we are seeing an increase in the age profile. So we’re now seeing working age and older adults who are testing positive for COVID-19,” said Mr Brown.

“Again that’s similar to what we see across the country. While the numbers are low in Devon at the moment, it’s really important that we do all we can to maintain that,” he said.  

“We want to make sure that we stay in the medium tier, so it’s really important that everyone adheres to those key guidance and messages:  

“Keep your social distance – ideally to a minimum of two metres  

“Make sure that you wash your hands properly and regularly  

“And wear face coverings where required and appropriate.”  

South West Leaders call on everyone planning a half-term break to be extra careful and to follow the rules

Council Leaders from across the region have published a joint message this week; “Coronavirus doesn’t take a break – please respect and protect local communities.”

It’s a message for anyone thinking of coming to or travelling in and around the south west this half-term. 

And it echoes the tone of a new social media campaign across the region that is specifically targeting people coming to the region. 

“Now is the time to be extra careful,” says Leader of Devon County Council and Chair of the Devon Outbreak Engagement Board, Cllr John Hart. 

“People may be considering taking a break this half term but unfortunately coronavirus won’t be taking a holiday. 

“I urge everyone who is thinking of going away or even travelling within the area to think carefully about where they might be going and continue to follow the rules.” 

The social media campaign is targeting visitors to the region, reminding them to follow the basic rules – space, face and hands – and not to think they can relax from those just because they are away. 

‘If you’re visiting Devon this half term, please remember the rules still apply whilst you’re on holiday.  Coronavirus doesn’t take a break, so neither can we!’, the campaign message reads, in addition to reminders on the rules. 

A short video accompanies the campaign.   

Travelling around the country during COVID-19

So how do the new local COVID alert levels factor in your half-term travel plans?  

Devon is at the ‘medium’ tier alert level. So is the rest of the South West.   

Movement around the region is pretty straight forward, but remember, a holiday away from home, is not a holiday away from coronavirus.   

Everyone still needs to follow the guidance on social distancing, hand washing regularly and wearing of face coverings, wherever you are in the country. 

And please don’t travel at all if you have symptoms, however mild – a high temperature, new and continuous cough, or loss or change to your sense of taste and smell – or if you’ve been advised to self-isolate.   

The general principle is that you must follow the rules of the tier you normally live in, regardless of where you are in the country.  That’s the general principle, but there may be local restrictions on top of that which you need to know about. 

We’ve written about it on our website, including a link to a postcode checker that tells you what restrictions are in place, by postcode area.

Don’t turn Halloween into a nightmare on your street

The Halloween season is fast approaching, and families may be wondering whether trick or treating is worth the risk this year. 

It’s really not. Please just stay at home and don’t turn Halloween into a COVID-19 “nightmare on your street”.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy Halloween safely at home, from spooky window dressings to ghostly film nights.

This year public health teams in Devon are asking families to forget the usual trick or treat plans and instead celebrate safely indoors.

We’ve got some ‘low risk’ celebration ideas on our website, along with a list of things to avoid doing this Halloween. 

New funds available to help carers take a break

Carers are missing out on things that most people take for granted, even more so during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Recent research suggests that nearly two-thirds of unpaid carers have not been able to take any breaks at all in the last six months because they’re too busy caring for someone else. And that four in every five carers are currently providing more care than before lockdown, with three quarters saying that the needs of the person they’re caring for have increased recently.

It means carers are missing or overlooking their own health complaints because they’re too busy to go the doctors or to see the issue. Or they’re not working, when they’d like to be, because they haven’t got time beyond their hours of caring. Or they’re missing out on educational opportunities, to develop or enhance their own personal lives.

So we’ve joined forces with NHS Devon to make grants of between £1,000 and £15,000 available to care providers, personal assistants, and carers themselves who can develop and provide innovative opportunities that will give other carers a break, during COVID-19 and beyond.

Details about the Replacement Care Innovation Fund are available on our website. To register your interest in applying for funding, email carefund@devon.gov.uk.

Working together to keep essential services running

NHS organisations across Devon are sharing their resources and expertise to manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, prepare for winter and keep essential services running.

As coronavirus infections rise, health and social care partners are preparing for an increase in patients with the virus at hospitals in coming months.

Devon’s four main hospitals (Derriford, North Devon District, RD&E and Torbay) will work closely as a network to manage resources in the most effective way to deliver a range of services as safely as possible.

While all four hospitals will continue to see and treat patients with COVID-19 who present in their Emergency Departments, they are working together to share their inpatient capacity if it is deemed medically appropriate.

This may mean in some cases, to receive the most appropriate care, patients may be cared for in, or transferred to, a different hospital. This will allow the NHS in Devon to do all it can to treat COVID patients at the same time as continuing to provide planned and urgent care. The NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter is also on standby, ready to receive COVID-19 patients, if needed.

Doctors are also calling on local people to do play their part by keeping their appointments and choosing the right service for their needs.

In light of the rising number of cases, local hospitals are also having to introduce tighter visiting restrictions to keep patients and staff safe.

And the NHS is reminding local people that they need to play their part by continuing to follow Government’s ‘hands, face, space’ guidance on good hygiene, wearing a mask where needed, social distancing and limiting the number of people they meet with.

Ask a minister a question about coronavirus

The government is inviting people to submit questions about coronavirus to be put to a minister. 

If your question is chosen, the minister will answer it during an event broadcast to the public.

An independent polling organisation chooses the questions. The minister will not see the question in advance. The government is not involved in choosing questions.

You must be 18 years old or over to submit a question and you will need to provide your name and email address. 

If your question is chosen the Cabinet Office will contact you within 3 days of submitting your question. You can either record a video of yourself asking your question to be shown during the public event or have your question read out by the minister.

Footage of the event will be available afterwards online. It may also be used by news services or websites.

If the Cabinet Office does not contact you within 3 days, your question will not be used. However, the Cabinet Office might contact you to ask for your permission to use your question elsewhere.

UK could be first for human challenge vaccine studies

It’s been reported this week that the UK is pushing ahead to be the first nation to carry out ‘human challenge’ studies. 

It’s a trial in which up to 90 healthy people will be deliberately exposed to coronavirus, in order that scientists can then work out if a vaccine prevents infection. 

The government is putting money towards it, believing that it will speed up the race to get a coronavirus vaccine. 

Of course the plans need ethical approval and sign-off from regulators first. If it gets the green light, the trials could begin in January. 

Lockdown Legends

A special exhibition to celebrate local people who showed particular kindness, courage, humanity or ingenuity during the coronavirus pandemic has opened.

In July 2020, The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Liveable Exeter and Exeter City Council asked people across Devon to nominate their Lockdown Legends.

They received a wide range of nominations, from refuse collectors to face mask creators, fundraising heroes to taxi drivers-turned-delivery men, and many more. All of them were truly inspiring and highlighted the selfless actions of individuals who went above and beyond to help others, showing how our communities pulled together during the crisis.

The resulting exhibition is a celebration of the resilience of the people of Devon who have helped the most vulnerable in our society during a time of great uncertainty, and serves to remind us of our shared humanity and the importance of community.

Visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery website to view the online exhibition.

The exhibition can also be visited at the following locations at Exeter’s Historical Guildhall until Friday 30 October and at Exeter Library, Barnstaple Library and Exeter Princesshay (window display) until Sunday 1 November. 

Further dates and venues for November will be announced in the near future. 

The exhibition will also be held for posterity in the Devon Heritage Centre.

Lockdown Legends is kindly supported by Radio Exe and Archant, publishers of the Exmouth Journal, Midweek Herald, North Devon Gazette, Sidmouth Herald and the Torbay Weekly.

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
Government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.