Coronavirus case numbers in Devon are continuing to fall, although the rate of decline has slowed over recent weeks. Positive cases are currently highest in those aged 80 years and older, with rates slightly higher in East Devon.
In this update:
- Care home outbreaks are a reminder of how infectious this virus is
- Parents asked to do all they can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus
- Asymptomatic community testing now available in Newton Abbot
- NHS in Devon working with local Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to increase vaccine take-up
- Free online event to support Devon’s hospitality and tourism sector
- Young people warned about ‘fake jobs’ on social media
- Plans to reintroduce in-person library services
Care home outbreaks are a reminder of how infectious this virus is
Cases of coronavirus in Devon may still be low in comparison to the rest of the country, but we’re still seeing outbreaks in some settings, including in a small number of care homes, warns Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.
He cited two care homes this week in East Devon:
“We are working very closely with those homes to make sure residents and staff are safe, to control the outbreaks, and to reduce the risk of further transmission.
“Coronavirus is still a very infectious virus, and cases like this are a reminder of how important it is for us still to remain vigilant and to take every precaution to prevent its further spread.”
Parents asked to do all they can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus
Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, is asking families with school-age children to do all they can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The call comes as schools and colleges invited all students back to the classroom this week and pupils begin to be regularly tested using rapid, lateral flow tests.
“With the significant increase in the number of students becoming routinely tested, we are likely to see an upturn in the number of positive cases,” said Steve Brown.
“This is a good thing. We’re picking up people who have no symptoms, who if they weren’t tested could go on to transmit the virus to other people.
“We’ve seen a high rate of pupils returning to the classroom for face-to-face teaching, and really good take-up by them taking the lateral flow test.
“Any parents who haven’t yet given their consent for their child to be tested at school or college, I urge them to do so.”
Households of school-aged children are also encouraged to take two lateral flow tests a week, and can arrange to collect the home test kits from their nearest national testing centre, or there is home delivery by the NHS for those who can’t collect.
Alternatively, parents can have their lateral flow test at any of our local community testing centres, with results emailed and texted back to them within the hour.
We’ve set up community testing centres in locations across the county, with fixed sites in Exeter, Barnstaple and Tiverton; and mobile facilities serving Axminster, Exmouth, Honiton, Ivybridge, Newton Abbot, Okehampton and Tavistock. Tests should be booked in advance via our website.
Asymptomatic community testing now available in Newton Abbot
Newton Abbot has been added to the list of stops for our new mobile community testing centres this week.
The service, which offers rapid tests for people without symptoms, with results available within the hour, will be at Teignbridge Depot Car Park on the Brunel Industrial Estate between 8.30am and 5.30pm every Friday. And from Sunday 21 March it will also visit the town’s Cattle Market every Sunday.
If you are a carer, a member of a household or support bubble with school-aged children or you leave the house to work or volunteer, we encourage you to take these quick and simple tests twice a week to identify whether you are carrying the virus and potentially unknowingly giving it to others. If you test positive you’ll need to isolate immediately to break the chain of transmission.
Mobile testing vans already stop in Axminster, Exmouth, Honiton, Ivybridge, Okehampton and Tavistock and there are also fixed community testing sites at County Hall in Exeter, the Civic Centre in Barnstaple, and the Exe Valley Leisure Centre in Tiverton. You can find out more and book a test via our website.
NHS in Devon working with local Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to increase vaccine up-take
The NHS in Devon is supporting people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
communities in the county to feel confident having their potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccination when they are contacted as part of the national programme.
Like other areas of the country, take-up of the vaccination in Devon is lower among ethnic minority communities, ranging from approximately 63 to 76 per cent compared to 85 per cent of White British people.
They are encouraging people from communities where take-up is low or concerns are high to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org so support can be offered.
Vaccine ambassadors representing different Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
communities will also be working with local groups to provide information and reassurance.
You can find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS website including videos of vaccine information in different languages.
In January, Citizen Khan creator Adil Ray OBE also shared a video featuring well-known British Asian people to dispel myths and encourage people from ethnic minorities to have the vaccine.
Free online event to support hospitality and tourism sector
A Devon charity is hosting a free online event next week to support those in the county’s hospitality and tourism sector through the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from it.
Devon Communities Together has organised the “Surviving and Thriving in Devon’s Tourism and Hospitality Sector” event on Friday 19 March from 11.30am – 1.00pm as part of its Listening Ear service, which we launched in partnership earlier this year.
It’s specifically designed for those in the sector but businesses in the supply chain, aligned with the industry, or considering diversification, are very welcome to attend. Four speakers from hospitality and tourism businesses in Devon will reflect on the pandemic as well as looking at growth, diversification, taking time for wellbeing, and finding hope for the future.
To book a free space at the online event please visit the Eventbrite website.
The Listening Ear service gives business owners anywhere in Devon the opportunity to talk informally to an experienced volunteer about the pressures of trying to keep a business afloat during the pandemic. To find out more or book your session please visit the Devon Communities Together website or email email@example.com or call 01392 248919.
NHS starts text alerts for life-saving COVID-19 jab
The NHS has started texting people to invite them to book their COVID-19 vaccination, making it quicker and more convenient to get an appointment.
The message will include a web link for those eligible to click and reserve an appointment at one of their local large-scale vaccination centres or pharmacies.
Texts will arrive in advance of the standard letter, meaning the NHS can react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly to help increase uptake of the life-saving jab.
However, in some cases text messages have been used by scammers to try to collect personal details from people, get them to ring premium rate numbers or enter their bank details. So our trading standards team is reminding people of a simple checklist to help give reassurance that a text invitation for a vaccination appointment is genuine:
- Texts will be from ‘NHSvaccine‘ and are separate to any invites people may get from local NHS services such as GP surgeries or hospitals.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge – a genuine text will not ask for money or state a cost.
- The NHS will never ask for bank account or card details, PIN or banking passwords or copies of personal documents to prove identity.
People will continue to receive letters inviting them to book an appointment as well as a text alert, to ensure that those who don’t have a number registered or need information in different languages or formats don’t miss out.
If people cannot or would prefer not to travel to a mass vaccination centre or pharmacy, they can choose to wait to be invited by their local GP service.
Funding helps football team tackle lockdown isolation
A North Devon football team for people with disabilities has been helping its players stay active and improve their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic with the help of our COVID-19 Fund.
Braunton FC Ability Team was created to support members of the local community with physical, sensory, or learning disabilities with their confidence and self-esteem. The support they offer has become increasingly important over the last year, as Melanie Benson, one of the ability team coaches, explained:
“People with disabilities and their families are much more at risk of feeling alone, isolated or anxious, especially during times like this. During lockdown we also realised that lots of our players were struggling to stay fit and active whilst at home.”
The team used its £1,495 grant, that we jointly funded with North Devon Council, to help the team stay connected when they couldn’t meet and train in person. Activity packs have been delivered regularly to all their members so they can take part in educational, physical and fun activities, most recently a team ‘bake off’ competition. The packs also included stamped and addressed envelopes, so players could write and receive letters from teammates.
Since the start of the pandemic we’ve awarded over £600,000 through our COVID-19 Fund to help provide valuable funding to organisations working in communities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Free rapid tests for all businesses for regular workplace testing
All businesses in England, no matter how small, can now sign up to the government’s COVID-19 workplace testing programme to order free lateral flow tests for their employees.
Around one in three people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately, breaking chains of transmission.
Regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. It will form a crucial part of the government’s plan to gradually and safely ease restrictions as we get back to a more normal life.
Businesses have until Wednesday 31 March to register for the government’s workplace testing scheme, which will remain free until the end of June. They will be provided with all the information they need to plan and deliver their testing programme.
Anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others can also get a free lateral flow test at one of our community testing sites. Find out more and book a test on our website.
Young people warned about ‘fake jobs’ on social media
Our trading standards team is warning young people to be wary of fake job adverts on social media that at first glance might appear to be the answer to their financial worries.
The pandemic has hit the pockets of many financially, among them students who rely on jobs in the tourist and hospitality sectors. As a consequence of the lockdowns and jobs not being available, many are struggling to make ends meet.
Some fake job adverts on social media have the sole aim of harvesting personal details, which are later used to commit identity theft. Fake jobs advertised have included roles such as COVID-19 testers or admin support.
Other jobs are posted with the intention of duping young people into laundering money. Often, criminals who want to move money through accounts but want to avoid the scrutiny of banks, employ ‘mules’ who allow their account to be used.
If you see an advert for a job on social media that would appear to be the answer to your financial woes and it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. By responding to some of these adverts, you could be giving away your personal details, or worse, you could be duped into committing a criminal offence.
Anyone who has been offered a job through social media and thinks it might be a scam should contact the organisation directly using officially listed contact details to confirm if the offer is genuine. For more advice or to report an incident visit the Safer Jobs website.
Plans to reintroduce in-person library services
Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs libraries in Devon on our behalf, has announced plans for reintroducing in-person library services over the coming months, based on the four-step plan set out by the government.
At the moment all library buildings remain closed. However, lifeline services to support the health and wellbeing of our communities, such as being able to choose and collect books are available at some libraries. Vital access to essential online government services through bookable computer sessions for those who don’t have IT or internet access at home are also available.
The first step is from Monday 29 March when choose and collect services will restart and some libraries will offer essential computer access.
Step two, which is not before Monday 12 April in line with the government’s roadmap, will see a phased reopening of library buildings for book borrowing and computer sessions and mobile libraries will be back on the road.
The timetable is subject to government guidance and potential change, and Libraries Unlimited will continue to keep customers updated.
In the meantime, they continue to offer a wide range of eBooks, eAudiobooks, digital magazines and newspapers on their website, as well as a vibrant programme of digital events via their Facebook and Twitter channels.
Government targets false vaccine information on social media
The government has launched a new social media campaign to tackle misleading and false COVID-19 vaccine information being shared through private message channels.
Spreading false information about the coronavirus vaccine is dangerous, so it’s important to follow the SHARE checklist:
- Check – is it coming from an expert?
- Look closely – does the information seem trustworthy?
- Still unsure? Don’t share it
The campaign is fronted by trusted local community figures such as imams, pastors and clinicians in short, shareable videos which include simple tips on how to spot misinformation and what to do to stop its spread, signposting to the NHS for the best source of information.
It’s being supported by the world’s biggest social media companies and has been created following concerns from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) of low vaccine uptake amongst ethnic minority communities.
A recent Ofcom study also showed that people from a minority ethnic background were twice as likely as white respondents to rely more on people they know, people in their local area or people on social media for information about coronavirus.
The full toolkit, with content designed to be shared via WhatsApp and Facebook community groups, as well as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, is available on the government’s website.
Lateral flow tests shows specificity of at least 99.9%
New analysis by NHS Test and Trace shows lateral flow tests have a specificity of at least 99.9 per cent when used in the community.
It’s a measure of how good the test is at detecting true negative cases, so for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result.
Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus without knowing. Rapid testing using lateral flow tests detect cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately and prevent the virus from entering schools, colleges or workplaces, and stop outbreaks before they occur.
All businesses in England are now able to sign up to the government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing programme.
Our community testing sites also offer free rapid lateral flow tests to anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others. Find out more and book a test on our website.
Households with primary school, secondary school and college age children, (including childcare and support bubbles), are also encouraged to test themselves twice every week. Home test kits can be collected from national testing centres, or there is home delivery by the NHS for those who can’t collect. Alternatively you can book and have the test at one of our community testing sites and receive the results within the hour via text and email.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.