In this update:
- Think twice before leaving home
- Vaccine scam warning
- COVID-19 Fund launched to help communities
- Support for children and young people not in school
- Have yourself a #BrewMonday
Advice to “think twice” before leaving home
Devon’s Director of Public Health, Steve Brown, has called on us all to be extra vigilant in following the Government’s COVID-19 lockdown rules, and to “think twice” before we leave our homes.
This follows a stark warning from the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, that the next few weeks will be “the worst” of the pandemic for the NHS, and that the UK will go through the “most dangerous time” in the weeks before the vaccination rollout has an impact.
Steve Brown said:
“I completely understand how difficult this dreadful situation is for so many people in Devon, but please, I am urging you to help stop the spread of coronavirus by staying at home and to think twice before leaving your homes.
“Every time you leave your home you risk coming into contact with an infected person or touching a surface, door handle or petrol pump which may be contaminated. Any one of these interactions could be a crucial link in the chain of transmission which could lead to someone becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
“Traffic flow figures indicate that more people are moving around the county during this lockdown and while there are times when we all need to make essential journeys for childcare, work, medical appointments and food, we also need to consider if other journeys are essential.
“And while it’s really important to take daily exercise in the fresh air for physical and mental wellbeing, please stay as close to home as possible – ideally start and finish your exercise at your front door – and if you meet another person from another household to join you on your exercise, make sure you stay two metres apart at all times.”
New Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine being given to first patients in Devon
The new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was given to the first people in Devon last week, with thousands more doses expected to be administered in the coming days and weeks.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved, the Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures and is much easier to move, making it more straight forward for the NHS in Devon to vaccinate people in care homes.
The vaccine has been trialled at selected hospitals nationwide for surveillance purposes before being sent out to hundreds of community-based local vaccination services across the country.
In Devon, the first batches of the Oxford vaccination were received by some of the county’s GP-led local vaccination centres on 7 January and were given to priority groups, including care home residents, from 8 January. Other local centres will receive the vaccine in coming days.
Deliveries of the Pfizer vaccination continue, with thousands of doses also being given each day across the county.
For information on public and community transport options to access the vaccination sites across Devon please visit Travel Devon’s website.
Public warned about vaccine scam
Trading Standards is warning the public to be on their guard following reports that fraudsters are sending out fake texts offering a COVID-19 vaccine in an attempt to steal bank details.
The text offers a link to what police call an “extremely convincing” fake NHS website.
Once on the website people are asked to input their bank details to register for a vaccine.
The scam message reads; ‘we have identified that you are eligible to apply for your vaccine’ and then prompts you to click on a link for further information or to ‘apply’ for the vaccine.
If you receive a text or email that asks you to click on a link or for you to provide information, such as your name, credit card or bank details, delete it immediately.
Remember, the NHS will never ask for your payment details.
Devon to launch community testing programme
It follows the Government announcement on January 10 that it is expanding asymptomatic community testing across the UK.
Approximately one in three people who have coronavirus do not display symptoms.
Community testing will help to find individuals who have COVID-19 but do not have symptoms and may inadvertently be spreading the virus so need to isolate.
A positive or negative result will not remove the need to follow existing COVID measures socially and in the workplace.
Organisations and employers who have staff and workers who would be eligible for testing are encouraged to register their details. Further information and updates are available on the Devon County Council website.
Support for children and young people not in school
Laptops and data
The Department for Education (DfE) is providing additional laptops and tablets to support children who do not already have access to a device for remote learning.
Parents, carers and pupils cannot apply directly for laptops and tablets but they can contact their school who can request one on their behalf. The offer is to children considered to be vulnerable or disadvantaged, so please speak to your school about eligibility for a device. Secondary schools have already been invited by the Government to order laptops and tablets, and primary schools will be invited to order them over coming weeks, starting in the most disadvantaged areas in England.
The DfE is also providing support for pupils who have no internet access or who cannot afford increased data charges. Again, you can talk to your school, early help or social worker about how to access this support. Further information on this scheme is available.
The Government has said it is going to provide extra funding to support schools to provide food parcels or meals to children who are eligible for free school meals.
Where schools cannot offer food parcels or use local solutions, a national voucher scheme will be in place so that eligible children, who meet the qualification criteria due to low income, can access free school meals while they are remotely learning from home.
In Devon, schools are working with their catering providers so that meals continue to be available to any eligible pupils still attending school – including all infants and those receiving benefits-related free school meals – as well as to eligible pupils who are now learning from home.
GCSEs and A and AS Level exams will not go ahead this summer, the Education Secretary has confirmed. Instead, there will be some form of teacher-assessed grading. The details of how that will happen are not yet finalised.
Students studying for vocational and technical qualifications should hear from their schools or colleges about their January exams and assessments.
Student attendance in schools is currently about 26 per cent in primary schools and 10 per cent in secondary schools, which includes both local authority schools and academies. There are about 93,000 children in school in Devon, approximately 56,000 in primaries and 37,000 in secondaries.
Devon County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Schools, James McInnes, said:
”Heads and school staff are working really hard to ensure that children are able to learn, whether that’s in the classroom or virtually.
“The coronavirus crisis has worsened considerably since Christmas and guidelines are having to change to take account of that so our schools are coping with regularly changing advice.
“But many heads and teachers are innovating with real flair. Some schools in Devon are streaming live classroom lessons to children at home and others are recording lessons so that families can make use of them at a time which is convenient to them. That’s particularly helpful if parents are working at home and only have limited devices.
“I know combining classroom learning with virtual learning is adding to teachers’ workload, but I’m glad to see more children actually coming to school than in the last lockdown. It means parents are confident that we’ve done all we can to make schools safe and it’s good for children’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their learning, to be with their friends.”
COVID-19 Fund launched to help communities
Devon County Council has launched its third round of COVID-19 funding to help provide valuable financial support to organisations working in communities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The scheme sees grants of up to £700 available.
The funding aims to help voluntary and community groups to tackle the social and economic impacts of the virus outbreak and help those who are most vulnerable in their communities. The funding can be used to address issues such as:
- Safe deliveries of essential goods and services to people who are isolating or vulnerable, for example food and medicine.
- Supporting people to access online information and services.
- Starting virtual support groups to help people who are isolated to stay connected and to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Devon Start Up Programme for Social Entrepreneurs
A new, free support programme has been launched in Devon to help those who are unemployed or at risk of losing their jobs and considering starting their own social enterprise.
Devon County Council and The School for Social Entrepreneurs – Dartington are working together on the Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme which aims to provide local people with the skills, confidence and support they need to establish a social enterprise and make a difference to their local communities.
Participants in the online learning initiative, which is made up of 10 weekday sessions spread over eight weeks, will have the chance to learn from experts and existing entrepreneurs. These experts teach resilience, and create a supportive network of people who understand the challenges they are facing.
Listening Ear – wellbeing support for Devon businesses
Running a business is stressful at the best of times. Running a business during a pandemic is even harder. Listening Ear is a new service for Devon businesses that offers people a safe space to chat about those challenges on the telephone.
The new Listening Ear service is run by Devon Communities Together and is a place for you to share your feelings and experiences about running a business in these uncertain times.
Listening Ear is not there to offer business advice; they provide a friendly, impartial listening ear so you can talk about whatever you feel you need to. Experienced volunteers will provide a supportive ear and will also be able to signpost you to other services if you need them.
Your wellbeing is important to both your health and your work life. Talking to a Listening Ear volunteer is a way for you to prioritise your wellbeing.
Book your Listening Ear appointment. Or if you would like to learn more about the service, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01392 248919.
BBC shares five ways to stay positive during lockdown
The BBC is helping to lift people’s spirits by sharing hints and tips for staying positive during the third national lockdown.
The new lockdown in England and similar restrictions across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are adding to the gloom of winter – a season that can be tough for many people even in normal times.
However, the country’s leading mental health experts say there are things that many of us can do to give ourselves a lift.
They advise us to keep moving, stop over-thinking, set ourselves a new target, talk things over with a friend, family member or colleague (virtually or at a social distance) and to do things badly, as opposed to never at all.
Olivia Remes of Cambridge University says:
“Our inner voice of criticism continually stops us from doing worthwhile things. Jump straight into action. Do things and accept that they might initially be done badly. When you do that, most of the time the results are actually not that bad – and they’re almost always better than doing nothing.”
Have yourself a #BrewMonday
Blue Monday is the name given to supposedly the ‘most depressing day of the year’. In previous years, this might have been because of finances being stretched after the Christmas period, or maybe motivation was dwindling because of the shorter days and darker evenings.
This year’s Blue Monday (18 January) is even more significant because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. To help turn the day on its head and into something positive, Samaritans is hosting Brew Monday, which will kick off on 18 January and encourage us all to get together over a warming virtual cuppa.
Reach out to a friend, family member or colleague for a virtual cuppa and a chat. It doesn’t have to be a Monday or a cup of tea, just taking time to really listen to another person could help them work through what’s on their mind.
Because now more than ever, sharing a cuppa is more than a drink – it’s about reaching out, checking in and staying connected.
And finally, some non-COVID related news… have your say on the Carbon Plan
The Devon Climate Emergency project aims to create a resilient net-zero carbon Devon – where people and nature thrive.
In response to the climate emergency, a range of local public, private and voluntary organisations have put together a plan for our county to reach net-zero emissions.
The suggested plan includes improving air quality through electrification of vehicles, home insulation, encouraging healthier lifestyles, availability of green space and much more.
Implementing this plan will require collaboration between all corners of our community, and so we are keen to hear what you think. The draft plan is available now for you to have your say on our net-zero future.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.