In this update:
- Devon’s positive case numbers fall
- Care workers deserve to be recognised and better paid
- Current restrictions to remain in place for schools until 8 March
- Two Devon landmark venues become NHS vaccination centres
- Volunteers needed to help out at vaccination centres
- Celebrities unite to dispel vaccine myths
- We’re supporting the national NHS tracing programme
Positive case numbers have fallen, but we must continue to comply with rules
Devon has seen a fall in the number of positive coronavirus cases, across all age groups, Public Health Devon has confirmed.
“The current restrictions are helping to bring down the number of positive coronavirus cases in Devon,” says Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.
“Devon residents are doing really well in adhering to the current lockdown restrictions, and we’re seeing evidence that their efforts are working. However, we must keep it up.”
This week Mr Brown described his concerns about the numbers of people testing positive in care homes, and of continuing pressure on hospitals. And while the NHS vaccination programme is going well, with more venues opening up to vaccinate more people, he says it’s important that we do not think that once we’ve had the vaccine, we can go about like normal.
“It’s essential that everyone, even including those who have received their first jab, continues to adhere to the lockdown rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Continue to social distance, wear face coverings when in public spaces, and wash hands properly and regularly.
“And if you are instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you must do so.”
Mr Brown has recorded an interview in which he makes clear, ‘now is not the time to drop our guard’. You can listen to what he said via our News Centre.
Devon’s care workers deserve to be ‘recognised and better paid’
Devon’s care workers need to be recognised now for their vital contribution during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by being better valued and rewarded, said our Cabinet Member for Adult Health and Social Care, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter this week.
Unless the government pledges more money to increase wages and improve opportunities for training and development, they will continue to be under-valued and Devon’s capacity to sustain vital care services will be put at risk, he said.
Right now, more care workers are needed to provide care to older people and those with disabilities or mental health needs.
There are currently approximately 1,500 vacancies for permanent care roles in Devon, and many other additional vacancies for temporary care roles due to coronavirus.
Cllr Leadbetter has tasked the council to help build a case, working with providers and other partners, to ask central government for more resources to better reward social care workers.
“I believe care workers deserve better pay and conditions,” he said. “COVID-19 has laid bare, for all to see, the vital role care workers play in safeguarding vulnerable people. It’s opened the public’s eyes, and we all owe them a huge debt.
“Social care work should be regarded as being on a par with the NHS, but it’s not. And like our NHS colleagues, care workers have never been under so much pressure. They are doing more than ever before and until they are paid more and further investment in training and development is committed, care work will always be considered the poor relation. And to me, this is unacceptable.
“We need funding now to enable care providers to recruit extra skilled care workers during the pandemic.”
Two Devon landmark venues become NHS vaccination centres
Two landmark venues in Devon opened this week as NHS vaccination centres, ready to vaccinate tens of thousands of local people in coming weeks.
The Mayflower Grandstand at Plymouth Argyle Football Club’s Home Park Stadium, and exhibition and event venue Westpoint Exeter have offered their first booked appointments to people in priority groups.
The Home Park and Westpoint Exeter sites mean thousands more vaccinations will be given every week in Devon and provide local people with a wider choice of options when they receive their invitation for an appointment.
Anyone who cannot or does not want to travel to one of the sites can be vaccinated by their local GP service. Nobody needs to contact the NHS, as people will be invited when it is their turn and people cannot get vaccinated by just turning up.
NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group created a short video about the Westpoint Exeter venue. You can watch it on You Tube.
Volunteers needed to help out at vaccination centres
With coronavirus (COVID-19) mass vaccination centres now open in Exeter and Plymouth, volunteers are needed to help manage patient flow and direct people.
The volunteering itself is flexible – shifts are four hours long and there is no minimum commitment.
Volunteers can choose their shifts and work more than one shift in a row if they want to.
The times of the shifts are 8.00am to 12 noon, 12 noon to 4.00pm and 4.00pm to 8.00pm, seven days per week.
To register, fill in a simple application form online.
Current restrictions to remain in place for schools until Monday 8 March
The Prime Minister said this week that schools and colleges will not return to face-to-face education for all pupils until 8 March at the earliest, but that schools, pupils and parents will be given at least two weeks’ notice to prepare for a return.
Children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people will still be able to attend schools and colleges, including special schools and alternative provisions. Early years settings also remain open.
Cllr James McInnes, Cabinet Member for Schools, said:
“I think it was inevitable that a return to school immediately after half-term wasn’t going to happen with the spread of the more infectious strains of coronavirus.
“We’ve now got a few weeks’ extra grace for this current lockdown to take effect and for the vaccination programme to ramp up.
“In the meantime, I would repeat my sincere thanks to heads, teachers and school staff for the sterling efforts they are making to provide some continuity of learning and, hopefully for parents, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“I would also repeat my call for school staff to be near the top of the queue for vaccinations once those in the highest priority groups have received their jabs.”
Celebrities unite to dispel vaccine myths
The rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and deaths among minority ethnic communities has been disproportionately higher compared with the white British population.
But the results of a recent poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health suggested people in these communities are less likely to have the COVID-19 vaccine, raising concerns they are being targeted with misleading information.
So a group of celebrities, including actors Adil Ray and Meera Syal, cricketeer Moeen Ali, comedian Romesh Ranganathan, politician Sadiq Khan and presenter Konnie Huq have released a video appealing to black, Asian and ethnic minority communities in the UK to help address hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccine.
It’s aimed at dispelling vaccination myths for those from ethnic minority communities and urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can watch it on You Tube.
Please exercise caution, even after your vaccination
The roll out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination is excellent news, says Devon’s Director of Public Health, but caution is still needed, he warns.
Steve Brown said:
“I’ve heard various heart-warming stories of gratitude from people in the first priority groups who have recently had their initial coronavirus vaccination – descriptions of the relief they feel, and the promise of getting back to a normal life.
“It is indeed excellent news, but we need to remember that the vaccination is just part of the solution, rather than the cure itself.
“The vaccination protects those who have had it from becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. However, there is no evidence yet to suggest that the vaccination stops a person from actually catching the virus, nor therefore prevents them from transmitting the virus to others.
“Even when you have had the vaccination, you still need to follow the public health measures and continue to take steps to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
“That means, keep up with social distancing, wearing of face coverings when in public spaces, and washing your hands properly and regularly.
“Please continue to stay at home and avoid unnecessary journeys out of the house.
“Remember if you are identified as a close contact of a person who has tested positive you will still need to self-isolate for 10 days, even if you have had the vaccine.
“If you’ve been vaccinated because you work in health or social care, you still need to be tested regularly to ensure that you’re not infectious, even if you show no symptoms.”
Supporting the national NHS tracing programme
We’re supporting the national NHS Test and Trace programme, contacting people identified as having tested positive for coronavirus.
Usually, NHS Test and Trace contact people who test positive to ask for information about who they’ve seen recently. It’s so they can instruct them to self-isolate for 10 days and take a test if they develop symptoms in order to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
But sometimes NHS Test and Trace can’t always make contact – maybe the person they’re ringing doesn’t answer, for example.
Now, local councils are helping. When attempts to reach a person have been unsuccessful for 24 hours, those cases are handed to local tracing teams run by councils to follow up.
So, we’re following up on calls to people in Devon who NHS Test and Trace haven’t been able to reach.
Our team will only call from one local telephone number, 01392 383500. And they’re only making calls between certain hours of the day.
Beware scam vaccine emails or texts
The NHS is warning people to be vigilant about fake invitations to have the coronavirus vaccination.
Scammers are emailing invites to people asking them to ‘register’ for the vaccine, and to provide their bank details.
The fake emails look as if they have been sent from NHS Test and Trace.
But no registration for the real vaccine is required, and the NHS would never ask for your bank details. The real vaccine is free.
The National Cyber Security Centre, and Action Fraud, are asking anyone who receives a scam email or text to report it.
COVID-19 test result wait time improves
NHS Test and Trace has reduced the length of time it’s taking to get results back to people.
Turnaround now is similar to what it was early December, before the increase in tests over Christmas.
They say nearly 94 per cent of test results are returned the next day after the test, compared to nearly 85 per cent the week before.
There are 800 test sites now in operation, including 448 local test sites, and as of this month a fleet of 500 mobile testing units.
Latest findings in COVID-19 infections study
The final findings of one of the country’s largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England have been published by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.
It provides a snapshot of the levels of infection in the general population between 6 and 22 January 2021.
Infections have flattened, but they are at the highest level recorded by the study, with an indication of a decline at the end of the reporting period.
Infection levels vary across the country, with the highest levels in London.
Between 6 and 22 January, the national prevalence was 157 per 10,000 people infected. In the South West, it was 87 per 10,000 people infected.
Prevalence was highest nationally in 18 to 24 year olds.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.