Devon and the neighbouring authorities Torbay, Plymouth, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated as an ‘enhanced response area’ today by the government because COVID-19 case rates are so high.
The number of cases are rising again nationally, and in Devon, they are far higher (622 per 100,000 of the population) than the latest national average (332).
Positive cases remain mostly in the late teen and young adult age group, and socialising appears to be the main driver. Case rates in all eight district areas of Devon are among the highest in the country.
In this update:
- Devon designated an ‘enhanced response area’
- Mobile test and vaccination pilot a proven success
- Young COVID-19 patients share stories to urge others to get jabbed
- Devon’s health and care system under extreme pressure
- Smoking and drinking increased during first lockdown
Devon designated an ‘enhanced response area’
Devon, Torbay, Plymouth, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have all been designated an ‘enhanced response area’ by the government today.
It’s because coronavirus case rates in the far South West are so high, so the government is prioritising the area for additional support to drive down case numbers.
It doesn’t mean another local lockdown, but it does mean that local authorities will have more flexibility to introduce additional public health measures if considered necessary, so we welcome this decision.
Here in Devon, most coronavirus cases are among late teens and younger adults. Socialising is seen as the main driver for the rise in case numbers. It’s not unexpected, given the removal of restrictions and the opening up of opportunities to mix. Our popularity as a major visitor destination also makes us busy with crowds, where coronavirus quickly spreads.
We already work with our neighbouring authorities, Public Health England and NHS Devon, but the enhanced response area designation means that we’re now also working with the government to see what else can be done to reduce Devon’s coronavirus case rate.
We need you to work with us too. Please do your bit by:
- limiting your social contacts to stop the virus spreading
- meeting others outside, because that’s safer than meeting inside
- continuing to wear face coverings when indoors in public places
- washing your hands properly and regularly
- testing yourself regularly with rapid lateral flow device tests
- having the COVID-19 vaccine when offered
- self-isolating and arranging a PCR test if you show any symptoms of coronavirus or you are told to by NHS Test and Trace
Mobile test and vaccination pilot a proven success
In last week’s edition of this newsletter we told you about a trial to use our mobile COVID-19 testing units to deliver vaccinations as well.
It’s to help the local NHS to target specific groups in the community or areas of Devon where there is low vaccine uptake.
We piloted this in Kingsbridge last week, and it was a success.
Vaccinations will be available in our mobile unit:
- in Kingsbridge’s town square on Thursday 2 September.
- outside Exeter Library on Tuesday 7 September
- in the Lidl car park on Burnthouse Lane in Exeter on Friday 17 September
Young COVID-19 patients share stories to urge others to get vaccinated
Young COVID-19 patients have told their stories of battling the virus and suffering long-term debilitating effects as part of a new film encouraging people to get vaccinated. The video features several patients who experienced serious symptoms of coronavirus or developed long-COVID, as well as the doctors and frontline staff who treated them, to warn of the dangers of the virus to those who haven’t had their vaccine.
It comes as young people aged 16 to 17 years old in England are being offered the vaccine, along with all at-risk people aged 12 to 15 years old, and are encouraged to take up the offer as soon as possible to build vital protection before returning to school in September.
The latest figures show that hospitals are seeing a rise in unvaccinated young adults admitted with COVID-19, with people aged 18 to 34 year olds now making up more than one in five of those admitted to hospital with the virus, which is four times higher than the pandemic peak during the winter of 2020.
Vaccines are available free of charge, and if you’re over 18 years old or your 18th birthday is within the next three months, you can book an appointment through the national booking service or by ringing 119. Alternatively you can wait to be invited for your vaccination by your GP or visit a walk-in centre without the need to book in advance.
Devon’s health and care system under extreme pressure
Devon’s health and social care system is under extreme pressure due to high demand for services and the number of staff and patients affected by COVID-19. As a result, people are facing longer waits in emergency departments and planned procedures are being postponed.
The NHS is asking people to help by using services wisely and doing their bit to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- keep hospital emergency departments for emergencies. If your condition isn’t an emergency, choose a different service
- use your local pharmacist for minor conditions such as insect bites, ear ache and skin rashes – they can provide expert advice and a fast route to medication
- use the HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses
- use NHS 111 – online or by phone if you need advice or medical treatment quickly and can’t wait to see your GP. If you need to be seen by a minor injuries unit or emergency department they can book you in
- get vaccinated against COVID-19
- continue to maintain social distancing, good hand hygiene and meet outside where possible to reduce the spread of the virus
- collect friends or family members from hospital as soon as possible when they are ready to leave. It means their bed can be given to someone who needs it
Government launches UK-wide antibody programme
A new programme has been launched to find out more about how much natural protection people get from having had COVID-19.
From this week, adults testing positive for coronavirus with a PCR test will be able to opt in to the programme and given two home antibody tests, which involve a simple finger prick.
The first one would have to be done as soon as possible after a positive PCR test result, before the body has time to generate antibodies to the infection. And the second finger prick test would be taken 28 days later. Both will measure the antibody response over that period.
Up to 8,000 antibody tests per day will be given as part of the programme, which is run by the UK Health Security Agency, working alongside NHS Test and Trace services in the UK.
Its Chief Executive, Dr Jenny Harries, says the programme will help us gain vital insight into the impact of the vaccination programme and immune responses to different variants.
Supporting carers to get their COVID-19 vaccine
Do you look after someone who relies on your help? Would you like to have your COVID-19 vaccination but have difficulty leaving those you care for?
You can get help to organise your vaccination through the Devon Vaccine Support Team, including arranging your vaccination at a time to suit you, fast tracking your appointment to get you home more quickly or arranging transportation. To find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01752 398836.
There are more services to help you, depending on where you live:
- in the Devon County Council area, get information and advice from Devon Carers via their website, by calling their helpline on 03456 434 435 or emailing email@example.com
- in Plymouth, visit Improving Lives Plymouth, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01752 201890
- in Torbay, visit the Trust’s carers service, use the contact form for ‘Signposts for Carers’ to send an email from that page or call 01803 666620
Smoking and drinking increased during first lockdown
The number of 18 to 34 year olds who smoke increased by a quarter during the first lockdown, according to Cancer Research UK. Based on population estimates, it suggests an extra 652,000 young adults were smoking, compared with before the pandemic.
But there was also an increase in the number of existing smokers quitting successfully, so overall figures show the levels of smoking in adults has remained roughly the same.
Heavy drinking increased across adults of all ages, at the same time.
The findings are based on monthly surveys involving hundreds of people, about tobacco and alcohol use.
“We found that many smokers took this opportunity to stop smoking, which is fantastic,” says lead researcher, Dr Sarah Jackson of University College London. “It will be important to keep a close eye on how these increases in smoking and drinking develop over time to ensure appropriate support is made accessible for anyone who needs it.”
Help and support is available for people in Devon to stop drinking or smoking. Please visit our One Small Step website to find out more.
Vaccines still provide high levels of protection for the majority of the population
Research has confirmed that while experts are right to expect vaccine protection against coronavirus to diminish after a time, vaccines are still doing a very good job at protecting people against severe COVID-19 illness and death.
One study looked at positive PCR test rest results between May and July 2021, and measured a decrease in protection over several months.
But Public Health England estimate that around 84,600 deaths and 23 million infections have so far been prevented as a result of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in England, the BBC report.
Professor Tim Spector, lead investigator behind one piece of research says that waning protection is to be expected and is not a reason not to get vaccinated.
“Vaccines still provide high levels of protection for the majority of the population, especially against the Delta variant, so we still need as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated,” he said.
Outreach vaccination survey
Vaccines are the best way to protect people from COVID-19 and have already saved thousands of lives, but there are still people across Devon who have not yet had theirs.
There are many ways that people can receive their vaccination, including pop-up clinics, mobile vaccination units, mass vaccination centres and local GP led clinics.
The NHS in Devon is working in partnership with local leaders and community representatives to support everyone to have their COVID-19 vaccination, and they would like community groups, leaders and organisations to take part in a short confidential survey to help understand barriers and how they can work with communities to address them.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.