Positive COVID-19 cases numbers in Devon have been fairly stable over the past week. Given the relatively low numbers we do expect to see small changes in case rates, both up and down. Again, we are continuing to see cases predominately in young people and younger working age adults.
In this update:
- Enjoy the bank holiday outside and stay safe
- Go for the flow! Get your free COVID-19 tests now
- Feel naturally healthier and happier this May
- Getting the help you need this bank holiday weekend
- Vote safely in the local elections next week
Enjoy the bank holiday outside and stay safe
With a long bank holiday weekend ahead of us, we are urging everyone to stay safe and continue to follow the COVID-19 restrictions while enjoying more of the freedoms we have missed during lockdown.
Please remember you can only meet up with friends and family you do not live with outdoors for now, either in groups of up to six from any number of households or a group of any size from just two households. And remember you still need to keep your distance from each other.
It’s tempting, when the sun goes in, to move indoors, but the risk of spreading coronavirus is significantly higher inside because you’re closer to each other and there’s less fresh air to disperse infected particles.
We have done well to maintain low case numbers here in Devon, despite the gradual easing of restrictions over the past few weeks, and we still have one of the lowest rates in the country.
But we are seeing a small increase in minor outbreaks across a number of settings, including workplaces, schools and care homes, so it’s really important we stay cautious, follow the rules and all take part in regular testing to help identify positive cases as soon as possible to stop the virus spreading.
Please don’t get complacent this weekend, and remember the rules still apply even if you have had your vaccination. The pandemic isn’t over just yet. It feels like the end is in sight, but there’s still a risk of coronavirus in our communities and we must all do our bit to help keep everyone safe.
Go for the flow! Get your free COVID-19 tests now
Everyone in Devon over the age of 16 years old can now get free rapid lateral flow device (LFD) COVID-19 tests, and should be using them twice a week.
These tests are important to do regularly because they detect people who are carrying coronavirus but don’t have any symptoms, so could be spreading it unknowingly. They are quick and easy, and the results are usually back within an hour.
Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:
“One in three people with coronavirus show no symptoms. So even if you feel fine, make it a habit to get tested twice a week so you can help prevent the spread of coronavirus in our communities.
“Together with getting vaccinated when invited to, and remembering hands, face, space and fresh air, regular symptom-free testing is a vital part of being able to ease restrictions and life returning to normal as safely as possible.”
We are working hard to make sure it is convenient to access symptom-free testing at a range of locations across Devon. You can:
- be tested at one of our many community testing sites
- collect home test kits from any of our community testing sites
- collect home test kits from NHS testing locations and pharmacies that are part of the Pharmacy Collect Scheme
- have home test kits from the NHS delivered to your home.
Holsworthy and Moretonhampsted are the latest communities to be added to the list of mobile rapid testing stops, that now include Ashburton, Axminster, Barnstaple, Bideford, Buckfastleigh, Crediton, Cullompton, Dartmouth, Dawlish, Exeter, Exmouth, Great Torrington, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Ivybridge, Kingsbridge, Lynton-Lynmouth, Newton Abbot, Okehampton, Seaton, South Molton, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton and Totnes.
To find out the days, times and locations of a testing centre near you, visit our website. It is regularly updated with any changes to the community testing service schedule so please check before you set off. There is also a revised timetable for communities with scheduled visits on Bank Holiday Monday 3 May.
COVID-19 vaccination programme in Devon enters next phase with 42 year olds able to book now
People aged 42 years old and over are now able to book their COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are due to turn 42 years old by Thursday 1 July are also eligible to make an appointment under the latest extension of the vaccine roll out.
As Devon enters phase two of the vaccination programme more age groups are due to be invited to book via the National Booking Service in the coming weeks. Some GP practices will also contact their patients to offer appointments.
Thirteen of the existing 20 GP-led sites across the county will offer vaccinations to people aged 18-49 years old as they become eligible, while all 20 sites will continue to offer second doses to their patients in the top nine vaccination priority groups (people aged 50 and over, and high risk groups).
To ensure there is continued local access to the COVID-19 vaccine for residents aged 18 to 49 years old, more sites in Devon are set to offer appointments via the National Booking Service’s website and 119 phoneline from early May.
A more detailed view of plans by area is available via the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s website.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. It gives you the best protection against becoming seriously ill if you catch coronavirus, so please take the jab when it’s offered.
You do not need to wait to be contacted by the NHS, you can book your vaccination appointments via the National Booking Service online or by calling 119 free of charge.
You can speak to a translator if you need to, or if you have difficulties communicating or hearing, or are a British Sign Language (BSL) user, you can use textphone 18001 119 or the NHS 119 BSL interpreter service.
Every vaccination gives us hope. When it’s your turn, join the millions already vaccinated, to protect yourself and others.
Feel naturally healthier and happier this May
Living through the coronavirus pandemic over the last year has had a huge impact on all our lives, so looking after our physical and mental health is more important than ever.
It’s been clinically proven that being in a natural environment and connecting actively with nature is good for us.
Devon’s Naturally Healthy May campaign is all about harnessing the power of nature and physical activity to improve our health and wellbeing.
With all the joys of spring, May is a wonderful month to head outside and enjoy some fresh air, so why not take some time over the next few weeks, even if it’s just ten minutes, to invest in yourself and connect actively with nature.
It’s all part of Devon’s Naturally Healthy initiative, which we lead with Active Devon on behalf of the Devon Local Nature Partnership. It brings together a wide range of partners from health, wellbeing, community and environment sectors to encourage Devonians to be happier and healthier through increased connection to nature.
Throughout May the Devon Local Nature Partnership will be sharing information about being naturally healthy and encouraging people to get outside safely for a walk, a cycle, some gardening, wild swimming, bird watching or other activity.
Keep an eye on social media @activedevon @Devon_LNP, and use the hashtags #NaturallyHealthy #DevonCAN to inspire others to join in. You can also check out the Devon-wide activity finder to see what’s happening in your local area, and the Natural Devon website for more naturally healthy information and opportunities.
What can I do after I’ve had my COVID-19 vaccine?
Congratulations on having your COVID-19 jab! Vaccination is a vital part of moving out of the coronavirus pandemic, so getting your vaccine when offered really is something to celebrate.
Although the COVID-19 vaccine gives you the best protection against becoming seriously ill if you catch coronavirus, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t make you invincible.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, but it doesn’t take full effect immediately. The first dose should give you good protection from three or four weeks after you’ve had it. But you need to have the two doses to give you longer lasting protection.
Also, no vaccine is 100% successful and a small minority of people will not get full levels of protection. And while being vaccinated offers you protection, it is still not clear the extent to which it will stop you passing it on to others, who may not have had their vaccination yet.
Remember, there’s a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 even if you have the vaccine. So, even when you’ve been vaccinated, don’t ditch the soap and fling your mask in the bin – you still need to stick with the important things you’ve been doing for the past year, like keeping your distance from others, wearing a face covering when required and washing your hands regularly and well.
Don’t take risks just because you’ve been vaccinated. For now, continue following the restrictions and public health advice like everyone else, please.
Reminder to ‘Share this Space’ on roads and paths
We’re reminding everyone to ‘Share this Space’ on Devon’s roads and paths ahead of the summer.
As lockdown restrictions continue to ease and more and more people get out and about to enjoy the better weather, we are encouraging everyone to be alert and be patient.
Most people, whether they are driving, cycling or walking, are considerate road users, but it is the occasional negative incident that people remember, and can really spoil your day. So lets all make an effort to be kind and tolerant so we can all get around as easily and safely as possible.
- Cyclists are asked to please pass walkers slowly and carefully, letting people know you’re there and giving them space;
- Dog walkers on shared paths are asked to keep dogs under close control on a short lead;
- Pedestrians are advised to check for traffic if they are stepping into the road to maintain a social distance from other pedestrians;
- Drivers and motorcyclists are urged to be considerate and to give vulnerable road users such as cyclists and horse-riders extra space (two metres if possible) when passing them. Also be aware of the possibility of pedestrians stepping into the road for social distancing.
Our website has free films, animations and images that you can use and share. You can also show your support for the campaign with one of our new ‘Give Cyclists Space’ car window stickers which are available for free by emailing email@example.com. Please include ‘Give Cyclists Space’ in the subject line and provide your name and postal address.
Getting the help you need this bank holiday weekend
The NHS in Devon is reminding people how to access health services and get the care they need this bank holiday.
The long weekend traditionally puts extra pressure on health services when most GP practices are closed and more people are outdoors enjoying everything Devon has to offer.
Most GP practices will be closed over the three-day-weekend with normal opening hours resuming on Tuesday 4 May.
For urgent advice over the long weekend people are encouraged to ‘Think 111 First’ and contact NHS 111 from anywhere, either by phone or online, any time of day or night.
If you need further care or medication, NHS 111 advisors will direct you to the most appropriate service. They can book you in for an appointment at your nearest Minor Injury Unit or Urgent Care Centre. If you need emergency care, they will arrange for you to be seen at a local Emergency Department and will ensure that staff in the department are expecting you and will see you as quickly as possible.
Vote safely in the local elections next week
The coronavirus pandemic has stopped us doing a lot of things over the last year, but it won’t stop you from being able to vote in the local elections on Thursday 6 May.
Devon County Council is responsible for many services that you see and use every day, and the elections are your chance to have a say about the issues that matter to you, and be part of choosing who represents your local community.
Voting in person at a polling station will be a bit different this year in order to help keep everyone safe:
- A face covering – you will need to wear a face covering when you go in to the polling station, unless you are exempt.
- Hand sanitiser – this will be available at the entrance/exit of polling stations. Make sure that you use it before and after you cast your vote.
- Your own pen or pencil – it is advisable to bring your own pen or pencil this year. Don’t worry, if you forget there will be clean pencils available.
- Keep your distance – social distancing measures will be in place and will be well signposted. It might mean that you have to queue so please factor this in to your plans and leave extra time.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus, or have been asked to self-isolate, please don’t put others at risk by going to a polling station to vote in person. You can nominate an emergency proxy (someone you trust to cast your vote for you) until 5.00pm on polling day.
One dose of COVID-19 vaccine can cut household transmission by up to half
A new study by Public Health England has shown that one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine reduces household transmission by up to half.
Studies have already demonstrated that being vaccinated against coronavirus significantly reduces your risk of being infected. And now this new research shows that those who do become infected three weeks after receiving one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine were between 38 per cent and 49 per cent less likely to pass the virus on to their household contacts than those who were unvaccinated.
This protection is on top of the reduced risk of a vaccinated person developing symptomatic infection in the first place, which is around 60 to 65 per cent four weeks after one dose of either vaccine.
Households are high-risk settings for transmission and provide early evidence on the impact of vaccines in preventing onward transmission. Public Health England is also undertaking separate studies on the effect of vaccination on transmission in the wider population.
It’s really important to take up your COVID-19 vaccine when offered. Not only will being vaccinated reduce the chance of you getting seriously ill if you catch coronavirus, it may prevent you from unknowingly infecting someone else. Make sure you book your appointment as soon as you are eligible.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.