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Community testing programme launched, drive to combat holiday hunger continues and funding available to support communities

Stay home, save lives

In this update:

  • Community testing launched
  • Drive to combat holiday hunger in Devon continues for February half-term
  • New appeal to car sharers and people in the workplace
  • Celebrate what’s on your doorstep and #ExploreFromYourDoor
  • Funding available to help communities
  • It’s Children’s Mental Health Week
  • Over 10 million people receive first COVID-19 vaccine dose in UK
The picture in Devon this week

Latest situation on coronavirus in Devon

Coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers are continuing to fall in Devon, but they are still around the same levels now as they were at the beginning of December.

Cases are highest among the 20 to 39 year old age group.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said that while the fall in cases is good, we are still seeing the virus spreading in some workplaces, often attributed to car sharing.

If you must car share, our story below provides information about how to reduce risk to yourself and fellow passengers.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Brown also urged critical workers and people who care for others who are vulnerable to use the new community testing centres opening in Devon.

The first of 13 community testing centres opened at County Hall on Topsham Road in Exeter, last week.

Mr Brown said:

“We know that one in three people who have coronavirus don’t have symptoms at all, and while some people are involved in regular testing programmes in their workplaces, these testing centres are for people who aren’t otherwise involved in any testing programmes at all.”

There’s more about our new community testing centres in the story below.

Visit our YouTube channel for Steve Brown’s update this week on coronavirus in Devon.

COVID-19 rapid testing kit

Community testing launched to identify COVID-19 carriers who show no symptoms 

We’re launching a community testing programme to identify people with coronavirus (COVID-19) who are not showing any symptoms, and who are not already accessing regular testing. 

It’s using the rapid tests that give results in around 30 minutes. 

Tests are aimed particularly at critical workers and those in high-risk occupations who have to leave home to attend work, such as taxi and bus drivers or retail workers. 

They are also for people who are in contact with others who are vulnerable, such as carers. 

The testing is to identify any such people with the virus, so that they can be asked to self-isolate immediately, to prevent others from catching it. 

“We’re now calling on people to take the test to help protect others and to stop the spread of coronavirus,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

“We’re planning at least 13 community testing centres across Devon, and the first one opened this week at County Hall in Exeter. 

“Our booking system is open and we are encouraging critical workers whose jobs require them to work face to face with others, and people who care for others, to come forward.” 

The national advice is that front line workers and people who have regular contact with the public should be tested regularly twice a week. 

To book a test, or to find out more about community testing, please visit our website. 

Visit our YouTube channel to watch a video about our new community testing centre at County Hall, Exeter

groceries on a supermarket conveyor belt

Drive to combat holiday hunger in Devon continues for February half-term

More than 15,000 children across Devon will be receiving food vouchers over half-term as part of our £2 million programme to combat holiday hunger

Families of children currently receiving free school meals will automatically be sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the week-long holiday to replace the meals their child would have received during term-time. 

The vouchers – worth £15 a week for each child – can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon. Arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket. 

It’s part of our programme to combat holiday hunger over the Christmas, half-term and Easter breaks. 

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply online through our website to check if you are eligible as soon as possible.   

The quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through our website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact our education helpline on 0345 155 1019

More information about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme is available on our website

Car sharing advice

New appeal to car sharers and people in the workplace

Case numbers are coming down, but we’re still seeing positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in workplaces. 

It’s prompted a fresh appeal from Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, asking people at work, and car sharers in particular, to take extra precautions

“We’re still seeing cases spreading between work colleagues,” he said.

“It’s often not because of the workplace practices themselves, it’s more a consequence of social interaction between colleagues while at work. And in particular, the virus spreading between colleagues who are car sharing.”

One in three people don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus, and it can easily spread in the small enclosed space of a vehicle. So avoid car sharing with those outside your household or support bubble. Think twice before getting a lift to work with colleagues or taking a friend or relative grocery shopping or to a medical appointment, unless they are part of your household or support bubble. 

If you have to car share, please follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus:

😷 Everyone should wear face coverings

↔️ Sit as far apart as possible

🧍‍♀️ 🧍 Share with the same small group of people each time

💨 Open windows for ventilation

🖐Wash or sanitise your hands before and after your journey

🧼 Clean the car between journeys, paying attention to touch points such as door handles.

Explore from your door

Celebrate what’s on your doorstep and #ExploreFromYourDoor

We live in a beautiful part of the world and now is a good time to view your local area from a different perspective and enjoy what is right on your front doorstep.

Alongside our public sector partners, we’re encouraging everyone in Devon to stay local for their daily exercise and #ExploreFromYourDoor. Whether you live in a city, town or village, take time to appreciate the things you wouldn’t notice in the car and maybe discover something new about where you live.

We offer some useful resources to help you get outside in your local area:

  • Where will you discover? Use our public rights of way website and interactive map to plan a route. 
  • Our Explore Devon website is filled with some amazing walks, trails and sites to visit during lockdown on foot, bike or horseback; just remember to stay local for exercise.
  • If you live within walking or cycling distance of the seaside, why not discover the South West Coastal Path.
  • Get outside safely and search by activity and location using GetOutside from Ordnance Survey. Their website brings together current advice from the government, local authorities and other outdoor organisations to help you decide where to go and what to do.
  • Discover a great new way to get outside with your family with a treasure trail.
  • You can also find more cycle routes and trails, as well as other useful travel information at Travel Devon.

Whether it’s the first signs of spring, a new walking route or a spectacular sunset, we’d love to see what you have discovered, use #ExploreFromYourDoor on social media to get involved.

farmer standing in a field of crops looking at the sky

Mental health first aid training provides better support to rural businesses 

The farmers’ charity, Farming Community Network, reported last year that mental health accounted for nearly half of all calls to their support helpline. They said that coronavirus was one of the main causes of stress and anxiety among the farming community.  

In Devon, our Trading Standards officers have been running free online webinar events – the next one is Tuesday 23 February – bringing together support organisations and rural groups to promote mental health and wellbeing specifically for the farming community.  

It’s part of a wider project aiming to help rural businesses by highlighting the stigma surrounding mental health, and to help make people aware of support that is available to them. 

Now, our Trading Standards officers are being taught mental health first aid, to help them recognise signs of mental illness when they are out meeting business owners, so that they can then signpost them to help. 

“The importance of mental health and wellbeing and its impact on businesses and staff is as critical now as ever before,” said Mark Peacock, of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards.

“One of our priorities this year is to raise awareness, train our staff to identify the signs and help signpost our rural businesses to find help.” 

Please visit the Eventbrite website to book a place on a free online webinar. If you can’t make it, register anyway and you will receive a recording after the event.

Elderly couple having shopping delivered

Funding available to help communities 

We have money available to help provide valuable financial support to organisations working in communities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Our COVID-19 fund has grants of up to £700 available. The scheme aims to help voluntary and community groups tackle the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus 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; supporting people to access online information and services; or starting virtual support groups to help people who are isolated to stay connected and to improve mental health and wellbeing.

For more information, including how to apply, please visit our website.

We're proud to support Children's Mental Health Week

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been tough on everyone, especially children and young people.

So, it’s more important than ever that we raise awareness of looking after children’s mental health, which is why we’re proud to support Children’s Mental Health Week.

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge recorded a video message marking the start of the week, and this year’s theme is Express Yourself, with many activities for children to get involved in.

Children’s mental health charity Place2Be is encouraging children to express themselves by doing something fun. From painting, writing or music, it’s all about doing something to help your kids feel good. Their free resources will help children and young people to explore what it means to Express Yourself. All of the ideas can be adapted for use in school, for home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning. 

If you’re concerned about the mental health of a young person aged 11 to 25 years old, why not check out Kooth? It’s an online mental wellbeing community that offers free and confidential mental health support to young people in Devon. Kooth has unveiled its “Don’t Do It Alone” campaign, designed to encourage open conversations around mental health so children and young people know they are not alone with their struggles. 

Door sign saying sorry we're closed, but still awesome

Updated guidance for employed people who can’t work right now

This week the government updated its guidance on what to do if you’re employed but cannot work

There are things that your employer can do – such as get a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant – to help them carry on paying you; and there are things that you might also be able to get, including New Style Jobseeker’s AllowanceUniversal Credit; and Pension Credit

There’s guidance if you’re off work because you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and shouldn’t attend work.

Or if you’re off work temporarily because you’ve got coronavirus symptoms or have been instructed to self-isolate.  

And there is guidance for people who currently can’t work because they’re caring for someone due to coronavirus

take care, refresh your air

Why is fresh air so important?

Making sure there is good ventilation in a room is something we sometimes overlook, but it’s one of the basic measures we should all be taking to reduce the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). 

When a person infected with coronavirus coughs, talks or breaths, they release droplets and aerosols which can be breathed in by another person. While larger droplets fall to the ground quickly, smaller droplets and aerosols containing the virus can remain suspended in the air for some time indoors, especially if there is no ventilation. 

Opening windows to bring in fresh air from outside is important. The more fresh air there is to breathe, the less likely a person is to inhale infectious particles. 

With roughly one in every three people with coronavirus not showing any symptoms of having it, it’s important to take every precaution, and remember that good ventilation is one of those measures. 

The government has updated the guidance on its website this week about how to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to be vaccinated

Over 10 million people receive first COVID-19 vaccine dose in UK

Thousands of people in Devon are being vaccinated every day as the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS gathers pace. And this week the government announced a significant milestone with more than 10 million people in the UK having received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s an important step towards hitting the Prime Minister’s target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups by the middle of February.

These top four groups account for 88 per cent of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths, which is why the vaccines will play such a crucial role in saving lives and reducing the demand on the NHS.

All vaccines being used in the UK have undergone robust clinical trials and have met the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.

The public has a vital part to play in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the government has called on people to:

  • help out: help those eligible for the vaccine by supporting friends, family and loved ones with their appointments, as well as volunteering to help those in the community
  • join up: sign up to clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, as well as treatments
  • stay informed: keep up to date with accurate and trusted NHS advice and make sure to share the facts with friends and family.

Remember, please don’t call your local hospital or GP practice about getting the vaccine – the NHS will contact you when it’s your turn.

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.