Happy Devon Day everyone! We’re flying the Devon flag today to celebrate St Petrock’s Day, the patron saint of Devon, (and who the Devon flag is dedicated to). However you have been celebrating today, please be safe.
Case numbers for Devon remain stable and well below the average in England. As restrictions ease, we do expect to see increases in case numbers as more people are mixing. Currently across Devon, the South Hams has the highest rate, although that’s falling. Case rates are highest among our 0-19 and 20-39 year age groups. We are seeing occasional outbreaks across educational settings, but generally most are single cases in a variety of settings across Devon.
In this update:
- Case numbers expected to rise due to easing of restrictions
- Half-term holidays – a testing time
- Devon charity to receive the highest award for voluntary work during the pandemic
- Can I have the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?
- Vaccine take up marks new milestone
- Vaccination centre volunteers needed
Case numbers expected to rise due to easing of restrictions
We were asked this week how Devon has been able to keep case numbers down, while elsewhere in the country they’re rising.
We’ve written about it. Case numbers in Devon are currently stable, but we expect them to rise due to easing of restrictions.
Positive cases overall in England have risen on average by nearly a third in the last week. The North West and South East have risen most, followed by London and the West Midlands; then East Midlands and East of England; Yorkshire and Humber; North East; and no rise in the South West recorded in the last week.
An important factor is the new variant, the Delta variant (which was called the Indian variant), and areas where cases are highest include those where the latest strain of the virus is currently most present.
But here in Devon positive cases overall throughout the pandemic have consistently fallen below the national average.
That’s partly due to people following the public health guidance. And it’s a reflection of the speed in which authorities have responded to outbreaks, and how they’ve worked within those settings to prevent further spread.
Testing and tracing in Devon has also been effective. Devon’s rollout with the vaccine is also going very well, and that’s having a positive impact on the numbers of people becoming seriously ill or needing hospitalisation due to coronavirus.
But there’s no magic bullet to beat coronavirus. While case numbers are heading in the right direction, it’s easy for us to think that it’s beaten. But we mustn’t.
We can enjoy the easing of restrictions, but we need to keep a watchful eye on cases and trends elsewhere in the country, and know that only by remaining vigilant will we prevent the virus spreading.
Half-term holidays – a testing time
A reminder to us all – the half-term holiday may have been a time to kick-back a little, but please keep up with the twice-weekly rapid lateral flow tests to help prevent the virus spreading.
Schools and colleges will be returning next week, so a plea to secondary school-age pupils and students, to please take their rapid lateral flow tests in good time for the start of the new term.
That goes for all adults too. Taking these quick and simple tests twice a week is helping to identify positive cases of coronavirus among people who don’t know they have it. Only by identifying it, can the person with the virus self-isolate, and prevent its spread to others.
And for those yet to have a holiday, or yet to meet up with friends and family, please take these tests prior to seeing them.
If you plan to meet up with others, just take the quick test and you’ll know within half an hour whether you’re likely to be carrying the virus.
If you’re clear, it’s peace of mind to you and to the people you’re visiting, which is especially important if you’re visiting anyone older or vulnerable. If the test is positive, then please self-isolate and arrange a confirmatory PCR test. Postpone your visit for the moment and know that you’re not causing the virus to spread.
Devon charity to receive the highest award for voluntary work during the pandemic
A Devon charity is to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services, for outstanding work throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Westbank Neighbourhood Friends help to keep vulnerable or frail adults out of hospital, or to have shorter hospital stays. They match volunteers with people who need assistance, so that they’re able to get out of hospital and back home as soon as possible.
During the pandemic, their volunteers provided support to over 2,030 patients across the Exeter, East and Mid Devon area.
Among other support, they were moving beds to make way for hospital beds and equipment at home. They installed key safes so that carers could gain access. And they provided company and warm drinks to patients following a stay in hospital.
It meant in some cases that people didn’t need to go into hospital, and for others, they were able to get home sooner because they’d had help from the volunteers to get things ready for their return.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award for voluntary groups in the UK. Westbank Neighbourhood Friends will receive the award and certificate from the Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon, later this summer.
“We are incredibly proud that our Neighbourhood Friends project has been recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and pay tribute to the dedication, hard work and commitment of our truly deserving team of volunteers,” said Nina Parnell, Westbank Head of Volunteering and Community Support.
Can I have the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?
As the vaccine becomes available to younger age groups, the NHS in Devon is offering reassurance to women that they can have the coronavirus vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, and that it will not impact on their fertility.
The Government advice states that:
- there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant
- COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against the virus, which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has recommended that the vaccines can be received whilst breastfeeding.
Deputy Chief Nurse, Susan Masters, said:
“It is important that all sectors of the community receive the vaccine when eligible in order to reduce incidence of serious disease. This is no different in pregnancy and the COVID-19 virus can make women very unwell in the later stages of pregnancy. It is really important to discuss having the vaccination with your GP, midwife or at your appointment so that you can make an informed decision.”
The government advises that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferrable for pregnant women and people aged under 40.
When booking online, the National Booking Service automatically offers appointments with the appropriate vaccines for people aged under 40. Women aged under 40 are asked whether they are pregnant so that they can also be offered appropriate appointments.
Vaccine take up marks new milestone
Three quarters of adults in Devon have now had their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine – that’s more than 750,000 first doses given and nearly half a million second doses.
Public Health England has looked into the effectiveness of the vaccines against the latest strain of the virus – the Delta strain, which is really good at spreading between people.
With the first dose, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines offered 33 per cent protection against the latest Delta variant. But after the second dose, the protection offered by both vaccines to the new variant increased significantly.
Following the second dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective against the Delta variant, while the AstraZeneca vaccine was 60 per cent effective.
Positive case numbers in Devon are relatively stable right now, but we expect case numbers will rise with the easing of restrictions.
“The vaccines are an important frontline defence to help prevent you becoming seriously ill or requiring hospital treatment should you catch coronavirus,” said Tina Henry, Deputy Director of Public Health Devon.
“One dose gives your partial protection, the second dose will give you the maximum protection. Please take up the second dose when invited to do so.”
Devon County Council is ‘Making Caring Visible and Valued’ this Carers Week (7–13 June 2021)
New figures suggest that there are now more than 130,000 people in Devon who are carers, the figure having risen by half again because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Worryingly though, just 21,000 of that number – roughly only one in every six – are accessing vital information and support that is available to them.
Next week is Carers Week, and Devon County Council, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Devon Carers are shining a light on it to encourage people who are carers for friends and family to recognise themselves as unpaid carers, and to come forward for help.
Healthy meal boxes delivered to families with young children across Devon
We first ran ‘The Goodie Box’ initiative during the Easter holidays, with incredible success. The boxes included ingredients and simple recipe ideas, and they were delivered to families’ front doors. Families loved them.
We’ve done it again this holiday, and the boxes have included fresh and store cupboard ingredients for dhal curry and flatbreads; hearty veg-packed pie; veggie bolognese; creamy summer pasta; tomato and courgette risotto; Mexican bean burrito; pitta pizzas; and fruity pancakes.
Each recipe has tips on how to swap or add ingredients and advice on healthy eating and how to prevent food waste.
Like last time, there’s been no specific eligibility to receive the meal boxes, but professionals who work with young families have helped us identify those who may be having a difficult time right now and who would enjoy and benefit from The Goodie Box.
Vaccination centre volunteers needed
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allowing many people to return to work, vaccination centres in Exeter and Plymouth need to recruit more volunteers to help things run smoothly.
The stewarding role involves work inside and outside, doing things like directing people as they arrive and leave and checking their appointment details.
Shifts are currently 8.00am to 12 noon; 12 noon to 4.00pm and 4.00pm to 8.00pm. Days and shift allocation can be arranged to suit you once applications are processed.
Applications for both sites can be made via the Our Plymouth website, and because so many people have now had at least their first jab, there is less risk faced by older age groups, which means offers of volunteering can be accepted from those aged over 69 years old.
Vaccine safe and effective for 12 to 15 year olds
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has authorised that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for use by 12 to 15 year olds. Their Chief Executive says that benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.
It is now up to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether this age group will be vaccinated as part of the vaccination programme.
|While we have you We’ve teamed up with Crowdfunder to help fund projects in Devon that are passionate about tackling the climate emergency.Right now we are looking for three carbon-cutting projects that you believe can play a part in tackling climate change in Devon.To enter, please just tell us about your project in 100 words by Tuesday 8 June at 12 noon.The chosen projects will take part in a 24-hour crowdfunding challenge next month to raise as much money as possible for their cause, as well as win funding from us.Find out more on the Crowdfunder website.|