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New national lockdown announced, vaccination programme gathers pace, Getting outside safely during COVID-19

In this update:

  • New national lockdown announced
  • The vaccination programme gathers pace
  • Top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses 
  • Looking after ourselves physically and mentally 
  • Guidance for people identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable 
  • Getting outside safely during COVID-19
Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

New national lockdown announced 

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a national lockdown in response to rising case numbers of coronavirus across the UK. 

In short, that means that you should stay at home as much as possible and only leave your house for essential reasons, such as shopping for food and drink and other essential items; working, if it’s not possible for you to work from home; exercise; to seek medical assistance; and to escape domestic abuse. 

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said

“Devon residents have done well over the Christmas and New Year period to help prevent the sharp rise in positive cases that many other parts of the country are currently experiencing. While case numbers here in Devon are relatively low compared to many parts of the country, we are still seeing cases rise. 

“The new strain of coronavirus is exceptionally good at spreading between people, which is why the government is imposing new national restrictions requiring everyone to stay at home as much as possible and to minimise their time with others, except those in their immediate household or bubble. 

“I ask everyone to pull together and to follow the new national lockdown restrictions, the details of which we will learn more about over the next day or so. 

“Please, stay at home and only go out when you need to, and minimise your contact with other people. If you must be outside, please continue to follow social distancing rules, wear a face covering in public places, and wash your hands properly and regularly.”

Working from home

Devon County Council Leader’s pledge on lockdown 

Devon County Council stands ready to help those who are most badly affected by the latest lockdown, council Leader John Hart has declared

And he appealed to everyone in the county to abide by the rules and defeat the latest virulent strain of the virus. 

Mr Hart said the arrangements that had been made during the first two lockdowns were already in place to support the vulnerable and elderly. 

Team Devon was set up as a partnership between the county, district councils and other organisations to determine which group could best help people quickly and effectively. 

He said: 

“I know so many people have already been badly affected by this terrible virus and the measures we’ve had to take to try to control it. 

“Grandparents haven’t seen their grandchildren, families have had to balance working at home with helping to care for their children and those children have missed out on learning and seeing their friends at school. 

“And now we are asking them to make those sacrifices all over again. So I want to be clear that we stand ready to do all we can to help those most badly affected by this lockdown, as we did in the two lockdowns last year. 

“At least this time we can see some light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccination programme, which I hope the government will ensure is rolled out at speed.” 

Older woman on the phone

Guidance for people identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable 

We have updated our webpages with guidance for people identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable

The lockdown advice is for people to stay at home as much as possible. If you are identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable, that means that you should not attend work, school, college or university, and that you should limit the time you spend outside of your home. 

That includes not going to the shops. Our webpages have information to help you while you are shielding, including support for shopping, accessing health services, and advice for people who are currently employed.

Hecter Delbridge of North Molton at North Devon District Hospital, has the Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccination programme gathers pace

Thousands of people in Devon are being vaccinated against COVID-19 every day as the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS gathers pace.

All four of the county’s main hospitals, in Plymouth, Exeter, Torquay and Barnstaple, are now offering the vaccination to inpatients in priority groups, as well as frontline staff.

In addition, GP practices are working in groups to set up local vaccination centres. Across the county, 16 centres are now in operation, serving 104 surgeries, with more starting soon to cover the remaining parts of the county and ensure all eligible people are offered the vaccine.

Large-scale vaccination centres serving wide areas are also planned and more details will follow shortly.

The rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Devon will take place as soon as possible, with some practices due to give it to local people towards the end of this week.

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be licenced, the Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures and is much less complicated to move, making it easier to use in care homes and vaccine people who are housebound.

Care home residents and staff were set as the highest priority group by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. In addition to the Oxford vaccine, local vaccination services are being issued with small packs of Pfizer jabs which can be used in care homes.

In the meantime, there are four main things that people in Devon can do to help the NHS give the vaccine to as many local people as possible:

  1. Please choose the right service for your needs as GPs are now managing extra pressures from the vaccine programme. Consider self-care for minor illnesses and injuries; pharmacists for illnesses like diarrhoea, earache, painful cough, sticky eye, teething and rashes; and local minor injury services. You will still get a face-to-face appointment at your local practice if your GP thinks you need one, and you should only go to hospital A&E departments in an emergency.
  2. Attend all appointments, whether it is for a vaccine, to see your GP or at hospital, unless you are personally contacted by your provider and told otherwise.
  3. Follow government rules – the vaccines are a wonderful development, but we are not out of the woods yet. Remember ‘Hands Face Space’ and act as if you have COVID, even after you’ve been vaccinated
  4. Don’t make things harder for the NHS by calling your local hospital or GP practice about getting the vaccine – the NHS will contact you when it’s your turn.

For more information visit the Together for Devon website.

A school gate

Schools to stay open for vulnerable children and children of key workers 

Schools, colleges, special schools, and alternative provision in Devon will remain open during lockdown for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.  

While there continues to be a low risk that children will be severely affected by COVID-19, the government recognises that schools must be included in the restrictions in order to have the best chance of getting the virus under control. 

Early Years provision will remain open during lockdown for all children so families should not see a change in their pattern of attendance. This includes Childminders, Nurseries, Pre-Schools, Maintained Nursery Schools and School Nurseries.    

For all other school-aged children, from Wednesday 6 January all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning. 

All children who are entitled to free school meals will still be able to receive them, even if they are not attending school and are at home. 

However, the way this service is provided may vary and parents and guardians are advised to contact their school for more details.

BBC presenter

BBC to put lessons on TV during lockdown

The BBC is helping children keep up with their studies during the latest lockdown, by broadcasting lessons on BBC Two and CBBC, as well as online.

Schools are open only to children of key workers and vulnerable children, with most children now continuing their learning remotely from home.

The BBC will show curriculum-based programmes on TV from Monday.

They will include three hours of primary school programming every weekday on CBBC, and at least two hours for secondary pupils on BBC Two.

During the first lockdown, lessons were available in iPlayer, red button and online, but not on regular TV channels.

The move comes amid concerns that low-income families may struggle to afford data packages for their children to take part in online learning.

Library interior

Temporary closure of libraries 

Devon’s libraries will be temporarily closed from today, following the implementation of the latest lockdown. 

As well as temporarily closing the buildings, Libraries Unlimited is also suspending its Devon Mobile Library service and Home Library Service in Devon and Books on Wheels in Torbay. 

If you are currently borrowing a book, CD or DVD from your local library, you can keep hold of them until the libraries re-open and loans have been extended to Monday 29 March. 

To find out more about the temporary closure of libraries in Devon and Torbay, please visit the Libraries Unlimited webpages

table and chairs on the pavement outside a cafe

Top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses 

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced this week one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to Spring. 

A £594 million discretionary fund has also been made available to support impacted businesses. 

The grants are expected to benefit more than 600,000 business properties, worth £4 billion in total across the UK. 

Further funding is being made available to support businesses not eligible for the grants, that might be affected by the restrictions. 

The Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr Hart said he welcomed the Chancellor’s new package of aid for the hospitality industry. 

“I have been calling for the government to provide specific help for hospitality businesses which are so vital to Devon and the South West but we need to see all the details. Many of these small businesses are already on their knees and they may need more support,” he said. 

Every Mind Matters

Looking after ourselves physically and mentally 

As we adjust again to staying at home more, and minimising our contacts outside of the home, it’s important that we remember to take care of our minds as well as our bodies. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious or worried right now, whether that’s about our own health or that of family members or friends.  If you live alone, you may be feeling an even greater sense of isolation or loneliness.   

Staying at home is difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing so. 

Every Mind Matters has some helpful information online to support us through this time, whether that’s regarding concerns you may have about your finances, or ensuring that you or others have the supplies or support you need, or staying connected with others. 

Take a moment to look at the advice it provides. We are all in this together, and it’s important that we take time to look after ourselves mentally, as well as physically. 

Bowerman's nose

Getting outside safely during COVID-19 

We’ve covered this before, but as we’re back in similar circumstances, we’re running it again. 

We must stay at home as much as possible. That’s the new norm. But being outside is also so important for our physical and mental wellbeing. So how do we ensure that we do that safely?

Ordnance Survey launched a brilliant thing last year, and they’ve updated it this week.  It’s a guide to getting outside safely during coronavirus, and right now, during lockdown. 

The outdoors is still open, and we’re all being encouraged to get outside and stay local for our physical and mental health. 

Just type in the location you’re interested in, (eg Devon) and then choose what outdoor activity you’re interested in, (eg walking), and it gives you the latest advice for walking in Devon – what’s permitted, what’s not, and helpful suggestions along the way. 

The key is in knowing how to minimise risk to yourself and others when outside.  Remember, you are allowed outdoor exercise, but choose less busy places to go, and follow the guidance – social distancing, wear your face covering in enclosed spaces, and wash your hands well as soon as you’re back indoors. 

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.