In this update:
- More cash for Devon’s most vulnerable
- Devon’s COVID-19 cases highest among 20 to 39 year olds
- New testing and vaccination centre map
- Mobile testing units to be on the road soon
- NHS vaccination programme enters a new phase
- Community testing in Barnstaple
- Thousands added to Devon’s list of clinically vulnerable
- Beware of COVID-19 vaccination scams
- Coronavirus home testing kits now easier to order
More cash for vulnerable adults and children, health
This week we set our budget for the next financial year, with more money for those who have been most badly effected by the coronavirus pandemic.
We want to support the most disadvantaged and some 73 per cent of the budget spend is on the most vulnerable.
More than £37 million extra will be pumped into vital services with an additional £21.7 million for adult care and health and £11.4 million more for children’s services.
We’ve not only been thinking about the short-term pandemic but the longer term issues as well, in addition to how we are going to lead the economic recovery in Devon.
There will be £600,000 extra to tackle the county’s potholes and road drainage and a £600,000 hardship fund for residents who have been hard hit economically by the pandemic.
In total our spending will be almost £580 million in 2021/22.
Devon’s cases highest among 20 to 39 year olds
Devon’s Director of Public Health, Steve Brown, focuses his message this week on the county’s younger working age population – the 20 to 39 year olds.
Cases of COVID-19 are generally continuing to fall across Devon, but that decline has slowed and we are seeing a levelling off of numbers.
Rates are currently highest among the 20 to 39 year old age group.
“We’re seeing the larger proportion of people testing positive in that younger working age group,” says Steve Brown.
“So I want to remind people not to be complacent. Not just when you’re in work, but also travelling to and from work.”
Community testing available in Barnstaple
We’ve opened another community testing centre. This one’s in Barnstaple, in the car park at Taw View, Civic Centre,
Community testing centres offer the rapid ‘lateral flow’ tests for coronavirus that give results within the hour. They’re for people who have to leave the house to work or volunteer, and whose role brings them face-to-face with others.
People who are out and about and seeing others regularly because of their work are encouraged to take these rapid tests twice a week. It’s to help identify whether a person is likely to be carrying coronavirus, which sounds obvious, but only one in three people with the virus has symptoms and therefore might not know they have it and be spreading it without realising.
If they test positive, they’ll need to self-isolate for ten days and let NHS Test and Trace know who they have been in contact with. If they test negative, they can continue their day while adhering to social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands regularly.
More of these testing centres are planned over coming weeks at locations across the county.
We’ve got it all mapped out!
There’s a lot going on in Devon right now by way of coronavirus vaccination and testing centres, so we and NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have created a map to show you what’s happening where.
The information is pulled together from various places, and includes hospital vaccination hubs, local vaccination centres, temporary GP vaccination clinics, large scale vaccination centres, and pharmacy vaccination sites.
You can also find your nearest community testing sites, NHS mobile testing units, NHS local testing sites and NHS regional testing sites.
Visit our website to see the map and click on the individual icons to find out where something is. We’ll keep this map up to date as more locations are added.
NHS vaccination programme enters a new phase
The latest data published by the NHS shows 342,397 people in Devon received a first vaccine dose between 8 December and 14 February.
And from this week, tens of thousands more people across the county are being contacted inviting them to make an appointment for their first coronavirus vaccination, as the programme enters a new phase.
People aged 65 years old and over and those who are clinically vulnerable are now in line to receive the life-saving jab. Unpaid carers will also be offered the chance to get vaccinated if they meet the national criteria set out by the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations.
This next phase includes a large group of people so GP practices are urging their patients in this group not to contact them about an appointment. GP practices hold data about each of their patients who fall into these groups and will contact them directly to arrange an appointment.
People aged 65 and over can book a vaccination at one of the vaccination centres
using the national booking service and can choose from large scale vaccination centres or selected local pharmacy services. Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free, anytime between 7.00am and 11.00pm, seven days a week. For people who are unable to travel to a large site, or who would prefer to be vaccinated by their local GP, they don’t need to do anything – their practice will contact them directly to arrange an appointment.
Mobile testing units to be on the road soon
To enable us to get community testing to more areas in Devon, we’re using mobile testing units, which will be on the roads very soon.
It’s gone really well. Along with the fixed community testing centres, our mobile units will enable us to test the public in areas of Devon with the highest rates of coronavirus.
We plan to use the mobile units in Honiton, Exmouth, Axminster, Okehampton, Tavistock and Ivybridge, over coming weeks.
“These new mobile test centres will help us to offer more rapid COVID-19 tests in more locations to those who need it,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.
Thousands added to Devon’s list of clinically vulnerable
The government is advising an extra 1.7 million people in the UK that they need to shield from coronavirus because they’re considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable. They’ll be contacted by letter over the next few days, and their GPs are asked to prioritise them urgently for vaccination if they haven’t already had one.
The NHS looked at data about people who have been really ill or died because of coronavirus and identified new groups at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch it. Extra factors, in addition to just health, included ethnicity, deprivation (by postcode), and people’s weight.
Previously, around 32,500 people in Devon (excluding Plymouth and Torbay), were categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable – and these residents were being advised to shield until 31 March 2021. Now an extra 5,700 people, under the age of 70, have been added to that list, and a further tranche of over-70s, who were not on the previous list, is expected to be announced soon.
They’ll be invited to register on the National Shielding Support System as those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are entitled to ask for extra support if they need it. The new information will be given to local councils who’ll work with those people to determine what, if any, additional support they need.
Temporary layout in Queen Street, Exeter
Temporary changes have been introduced to the road layout in Queen Street in Exeter. We’ve done it to encourage safe walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic as part of the government’s Active Travel Fund initiative.
The revised layout provides more space for pedestrians on the narrowest section, enabling social distancing to take place in one of the highest areas of footfall in the city.
The temporary scheme was initially planned to coincide with the start of the academic year in January, but was deferred following the announcement of the current national lockdown. Although schools are not expected to return until next month, the new layout has been introduced while traffic levels are lower to give people chance to get used to the changes before students return to Exeter College and travel demand increases.
Businesses can arrange their own testing programme
Testing is key to breaking the chain of coronavirus transmission, especially as around one in three people who have the virus don’t display any symptoms and may be unknowingly spreading it.
People who leave their homes to go to work or volunteer, and who are therefore in direct contact with other members of the public, are encouraged to have the quick ‘lateral flow’ coronavirus test (which provides a result within the hour) twice a week.
Lots of workers are using our community testing centres, but some larger employers are making their own testing arrangements for their employees. The government is encouraging businesses that employ 50 or more people who cannot work from home, to take up the offer of rapid work place testing to help detect coronavirus in people who are not showing symptoms so they can self-isolate and help stop the spread.
An online portal has been launched to make it even easier for business to get involved and find out more about offering rapid testing in the workplace. All those who can work from home should continue to do so.
Extra support for farmers and other businesses
If you work in the farming industry there is still time to sign up to the latest free online mental health seminar being hosted by our trading standards service.
The next online webinar will be held on Tuesday 23 February at 6.00pm and will include speakers from the Gay Farmer Helpline, an accredited CBT therapist, Market Chaplin, Farming Community Network and Kingsbridge Young Farmers. Previous seminars aimed at the farming community are available on our website.
It follows the Farming Community Network (FCN) reporting that nearly half of all calls made to their helpline between July and October last year were related to mental health and 56 per cent of all calls last April related to COVID-19.
Looking wider than the farming industry, extra support for businesses generally is available through the ‘Listening Ear’ service. We’ve developed it with the charity Devon Communities Together to provide small businesses with an experienced, impartial person to talk to about their general stresses and concerns caused by the struggle of running a business during the pandemic.
If you would like to find out more about talking to our experienced Listening Ear volunteers, and book your session please visit the Devon Communities Together website, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01392 248919.
Voting safely at the elections
On Thursday 6 May 2021, residents in Devon will go to the polls to have their say on who represents them in the Devon County Council elections and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. There are also casual elections in some parishes and towns.
While the elections are not until May, plans are already being made to help you stay safe while casting your vote.
There are a number of ways to have your say in the elections in May – you can vote in a polling station, by post, or by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf, which is known as a proxy vote.
If you would like to vote by post, now is the time to register using the Electoral Commission website.
Beware of COVID-19 vaccination scams
Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on Devon residents, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.
There have been reports of scammers calling to offer vaccination appointments at a cost or sending a text or email that directs the recipient to a convincing fake NHS website with a booking link.
Please remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is only available through the NHS and will be delivered free of charge for everyone either through your GP or a large vaccination centre. You can find out more about how you will be contacted about your vaccination when it’s your turn, on the NHS website.
- The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
- The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
- The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
- The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to email@example.com. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.
If you believe you have been the victim of fraud you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Coronavirus home testing kits now easier to order
For those with sight loss, it can be challenging to understand and follow the procedure for COVID-19 self-testing without some help. So the government has introduced a number of new accessibility improvements to the home testing programme to make it easier to get tested.
NHS Test and Trace has been working in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to improve the home testing service for people with visual impairments, including an information line you can call to hear a recorded version of the instructions and a live video assistance service.
People who do not have access to the internet can now order home testing kits over the phone by calling 119, without needing an email address or any other digital requirement.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.