In this update:
- Devon has lowest case rates, but don’t celebrate just yet
- Calling all businesses in the Exeter area – help stop the spread!
- Not too late for over-70s to get a vaccination in Devon
- Stay local and #ExploreFromYourDoor this half term
- More hardship cash for struggling Devon residents
- Have you received your free school meals holiday vouchers?
- Free online events to help business owners with their wellbeing
- Free PPE and support if you care for a loved one
Devon has lowest case rates, but don’t celebrate just yet
Devon has the lowest case rates of all upper tier council authorities in the country, with six of the county’s eight District areas among those with fewest cases of coronavirus.
While that is good news, Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, says it is too soon for celebration.
“Case numbers are continuing to fall in most parts of Devon, and that’s because people in the main are adhering to the national restrictions.
“We have however seen a slight increase in cases in Mid Devon, although case numbers there are still low – and far lower than the national average.
“But those Mid Devon numbers should be a reminder to show how easily cases can go up quickly as well as go down.”
Many Devon cases are in the working age population, with outbreaks occurring in some workplaces.
“Please don’t be complacent or drop your guard, either in the workplace or indeed travelling to or from work,” said Steve Brown.
The reminder this week comes as the council is inviting local businesses in the Exeter area to encourage their workplace-based employees to use community testing centres to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Calling all businesses in the Exeter area – help stop the spread!
Community testing is a quick and convenient way for people who have to leave their home to work or volunteer to check whether they’ve got coronavirus (COVID-19).
One in three people with the virus don’t know they have it because they show no symptoms. Taking these quick tests regularly identifies whether a person is likely to be carrying the virus.
If it’s a negative result, people can continue their day remembering the vitally important public health measures – social distancing, wear a face covering when indoors in a public space, and washing hands regularly.
If it’s a positive result, people must self-isolate for ten days and let NHS Test and Trace know who they’ve been in contact with. It’s to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which is an essential part of us beating this virus.
The quick tests are ideal for workers and people who are having to leave their home and be in contact with others. People in regular contact with others are encouraged to take the quick tests twice a week.
Results are back with the person within the hour, so it’s really quick and it’s another way for us all to be doing everything we can to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Not too late for over-70s to get a vaccination in Devon
The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme is progressing well in Devon and is on track to meet the government’s target of offering everyone in the top four priority groups a jab by mid-February.
Anyone over 70 years old or who is clinically extremely vulnerable and has not yet been vaccinated, is urged to get in touch with the NHS and book an appointment as soon as possible. You don’t need to have received a letter to book an appointment as long as you are in an eligible group
From today (Friday 12 February) until Sunday 14 February, Devon residents in priority groups one to four who haven’t had their vaccine, can call a special temporary phone number hosted by NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group on behalf of local vaccination services to arrange an appointment at a vaccination centre convenient for you within the next few days wherever possible.
The number is 01626 204920. It will be open 9.00am to 5.00pm on Friday 12,
Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 February ONLY. Calls are charged at your
normal rates and if all lines are busy, please leave a voice message and you will be called back.
Alternatively you can use the national booking service anytime, or call 119 for free between 7.00am and 11.00pm seven days a week, to book an appointment at one of the large vaccination centres or the selected community pharmacies that are offering the jab.
And don’t forget, even after you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccination, you still need to:
- Follow national restrictions
- Wash your hands regularly
- Cover your face
- Keep your distance
Stay local and #ExploreFromYourDoor this half term
Daily exercise has become an essential tool for helping everyone cope with life during lockdown, offering us important physical, mental and emotional benefits.
It’s February half term next week, and many of us will be taking a well deserved break from work, school and home learning and getting outside for some fresh air. But please remember to continue to stay local, avoid busy hot spots and follow the national restrictions to keep you, your household and Devon safe.
We live in a beautiful part of the world, but if the beaches or moors are out of reach, don’t be tempted to travel to visit, they will still be there to enjoy after lockdown.
For now, make the most of your village, town or part of the city where you live and share with us what you have discovered using the hashtag #ExploreFromYourDoor on social media.
More hardship cash for struggling Devon residents
A new hardship fund is being set up for local people struggling with their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
We are allocating £600,000 in our 2021/22 budget to support people who need short-term emergency assistance.
This is on top of the £1 million that we made available in the current financial year.
The new cash will be split across Devon’s eight district councils, with each one responsible for considering applications and administering grants in their locality.
Our proposed budget for 2021/22 will be finally approved at the full council meeting on Thursday 18 February, and today our leader, Councillor John Hart confirmed he was proposing the extra cash is added to the budget.
Measures introduced to support walking and cycling
We were awarded £1.3 million from the Department for Transport to provide safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Among them new crossings and improvements to shared-use routes in Newton Abbot; proposals for a new cycle path in Barnstaple linking to the Tarka Trail; plans to make the temporary pedestrian zone measures in Sidmouth permanent, and a new pedestrian and cycle crossing at Countess Wear in Exeter as well as other measures across the city.
“It’s great to see excellent progress being made with the Active Travel schemes right across the county,” says Cllr Stuart Hughes, responsible for highway management.
“Travel habits have changed over the past year with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and by improving our highway network with these schemes it’s making it easier for people to make short journeys on foot or by bike.”
Free online events to help business owners with their wellbeing
“Running a business is stressful at the best of times. Running a business during a pandemic is even harder,” says Dr Louise MacAllister of Devon Communities Together.
We and Devon Communities Together launched a project this year that gives business owners in Devon the chance to talk informally to an experienced volunteer about the pressures of trying to keep a business afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s called ‘Listening Ear’. It doesn’t provide business advice as such, but it does give people the time to talk to volunteers – many of whom have run their own businesses – and to focus on themselves and their mental wellbeing.
There are some free online events starting this month, with expert guest speakers talking about support opportunities and other ways to help people shape their business.
“Your wellbeing is important to both your health and the future of your business,” says Dr MacAllister. “Talking to one of our Listening Ear volunteers is a way for you to prioritise your own mental wellbeing, especially when you may not feel comfortable talking to your friends and family.”
Free school meals holiday vouchers
Families of more than 15,000 children across Devon currently receiving free school meals have been sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the February half term holiday.
It’s part of a £2 million programme we’ve organised to combat holiday hunger in Devon. More information about the scheme is available on our website.
If your child gets free school meals during term time because you are in receipt of certain benefits and you haven’t received a letter or email with details of how to claim your holiday vouchers yet, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.
Books, reading, community and connection
New parents and carers who may be feeling isolated or struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic are being invited to join their local library’s new ‘Reading Friends’ scheme.
Libraries Unlimited, the charity which runs Devon and Torbay’s library services, is promoting the use of books and reading to help mental health.
The scheme, which will run across all 54 libraries in Devon and Torbay, will see library staff chat one to one over the phone to parents and carers about books, magazine articles or news items. While reading is the focus, there’s no pressure to have read a particular book before the session, it’s about having time for social interaction and conversation.
Once libraries reopen and social distancing is relaxed, Reading Friends groups will meet in person with toys and books for the children. Books will be delivered by Choose and Collect at local libraries, or downloaded as eBooks.
It’s also hoped to link up authors with the groups and individual customers, and to eventually develop a podcast from author events.
Anyone wanting to join the Reading Friends Group or find out more should email firstname.lastname@example.org
Free PPE and support if you care for a loved one
Throughout this pandemic the people looking after loved ones who couldn’t manage on their own have been on the front line in responding to the challenges posed by coronavirus.
It’s estimated that there are around 130,000 unpaid carers in Devon due to the pandemic, although the true number is likely to be higher. And their role, often already exceptionally difficult before the coronavirus pandemic, has been made a lot more difficult given the restrictions, and the risk to themselves and their families.
Since last summer, we’ve been supplying carers with Personal Protective Equipment, (PPE), to help them carry out their caring safely. Lots of people are carers to their husbands, wives or partners within their home, and many are carers to people outside their home for their parents and other relatives, friends, and neighbours. So carers have needed to stay vigilant and extra careful when visiting people in other houses – careful not to catch coronavirus themselves, and careful not to spread it.
Gloves, aprons and face masks are the most common items of PPE requested by carers. There are other items, including visors, goggles and other things. We have stock available in our four main stores in Newton Abbot, Barnstaple, Exeter and Tavistock.
If you provide unpaid care to a family member or friend, we want to make sure that you’re doing so safely. Free PPE is available to help you do that. You just need to fill in an online request form, and we’ll be in touch with you to arrange your collection from your nearest store.
Information, support and advice for people who care for others is also available from Devon Carers, a charity commissioned by Devon County Council and NHS Devon. Whether you are looking after an elderly, sick or disabled relative all or some of the time, or just providing a few hours a week emotional support for a friend with a learning difficulty or mental health problem – they are there to help you do it safely, confidently and effectively. Visit their website or call 01392 307720.
Keeping children safe online
The lockdown measures to tackle coronavirus mean we are all spending lots more time at home and are likely to be spending lots more time online.
There are huge benefits to being online in order to stay connected to family and friends during this period, but many parents and carers may feel concerned about the activities and content their children are accessing.
It is important to have regular conversations about staying safe online and to encourage children to speak to you if they come across something worrying online.
The government has published guidance and resources for parents and carers to help keep children safe from different risks online, including how to talk to your child about a range of online safety issues, setting up home filtering in a child-friendly way and setting up age-appropriate parental controls on digital devices, as well as where to go to get support and advice.
Bounce Back Loan borrowers given greater flexibility
Businesses that took out government-backed Bounce Back Loans to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic will now have greater flexibility to repay their loans.
‘Pay as You Grow’ gives borrowers the option to tailor payments according to their individual circumstances, including:
- extending the length of the loan from six years to ten (reducing monthly repayments by almost half)
- making interest-only payments for six months, with the option to use this up to three times throughout the loan
- pausing repayments entirely for up to six months, meaning businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out. The option to pause repayments will now be available to all from their first repayment, rather than after six repayments have been made
The government says lenders will proactively and directly inform their customers of Pay as You Grow, and borrowers should only expect correspondence three months before their first repayments are due.
Record number tested by NHS Test and Trace
More than 3 million people were tested by NHS Test and Trace this reporting week, the highest number ever in a single week.
In total, almost 21.8 million people have now been tested at least once since NHS Test and Trace was launched; that equates to a third of all people in England.
Of those people who took their tests in-person, at either a local or regional test centre, nearly all (97.6 per cent) received their results the following day, while the average turnaround time for home test kits was just 35 hours.
Not only are people able to receive a test result more quickly and conveniently, but the service continues to reach a high proportion of cases and contacts.
NHS Test and Trace has successfully reached 87 per cent of the people who received a positive test result, and 93.5 per cent of their contacts, making a real impact in breaking chains of transmission.
We’ve joined forces with NHS Test and Trace in a local tracing partnership, combining our specialist local expertise with the data and resources of NHS Test and Trace to go further in supporting people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and tracing their recent contacts.
If you start to display any of the symptoms of COVID-19 such as a:
- new and continuous cough
- high temperature
- loss of, or change to, your sense of taste or smell
it’s vital that you arrange a test as soon as possible.
You can book a visit to a test site to have the test or order a home test kit if you cannot get to a test site. You’ll be told when booking your test where your nearest centre is. Book a free NHS test now or call 119.
How to quarantine when you arrive in England
The government has published guidance on what to do before and after you arrive in England, including staying at home or in a quarantine hotel and ordering coronavirus tests.
All passengers, no matter which country they have travelled from, are already required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure and must self-isolate on arrival.
And from Monday 15 February, if you arrive in England from a country on the travel ban list (sometimes called the ‘red list’) you’ll need to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel for at least 10 days. Before you travel, you’ll need to book and pay for your hotel room and two mandatory COVID-19 tests to take on day two and day eight of your quarantine stay.
If you’re coming from a country not on the banned travel list, you’ll need to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days and book two mandatory COVID-19 tests to take on day two and day eight of quarantining.
Tough new enforcement measures, including heavy financial penalties and potential jail time have been introduced for non-compliance.
And finally… spread love, not coronavirus this Valentine’s Day
Love might be in the air this weekend, but remember, so is coronavirus! So if roses are red and violets are blue, remember don’t get too close, and keep that mask on too! Don’t be stupid because of cupid!
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.