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Devon at heightened response level due to case levels – Steve Brown explains. New study tests third vaccine dose. Pop-up testing steps up. Back to School special bulletin.

Case rates in Devon have fallen slightly, but with schools, colleges and universities returning soon, it’s expected that they will rise again. 3,249 coronavirus cases were reported in Devon in the latest recorded week, with our case rates overall still above the national average. Most cases are among the late teen to young working age population. Cases are currently highest in Teignbridge and Mid Devon.

In this update:

  • Director of Public Health Devon explains the latest on enhanced response area status
  • New study tests third vaccine dose for people with weakened immune systems 
  • Business confidence hits highs 
  • Pop-up testing and vaccination steps up to meet the challenge 
  • Back to School special bulletin 
  • Getting about safely in Devon

Steve Brown explains the latest on enhanced response area status 

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health Devon has been in talks this week with various government departments to understand what support is available from them to help reduce coronavirus case rates in the county, having been designated an ‘enhanced response area’ last week. 

“We’re going to see better use of our community testing vans,” he says, in his latest recorded message.   

“We’ve got five testing vans, which go out across Devon.  Two of those vans already have embedded vaccination teams, so they’re going out to areas where there’s low uptake of vaccine and encouraging particularly young people and people who probably wouldn’t ordinarily go to our fixed vaccination sites to come forward to get vaccinated. 

“We’re going to be looking at testing as well to make sure that there is capability across the whole of Devon, so people can access testing swiftly and easily. 

“We’re also going to see an increase in our public health campaigns, to encourage people to get tested if they have symptoms, and obviously to take up the vaccination programme.” 

Steve Brown says that although cases have fallen a little, he expects they’ll rise again once schools, colleges and universities return in the next week or so.  

“We’ve all got a vital role to play,” he said.   

“Together we can help keep the rate as low as possible as we go into the autumn and winter.”  

Listen to the full recording on our YouTube channel. 

Pop-up testing and vaccination steps up to meet the challenge 

The government announced last week that Devon, alongside Plymouth, Torbay, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is now designated an ‘enhanced response area’. 

It’s because coronavirus case rates in the four authority areas are among the highest in the country. 

With that designation comes additional support from the government to help reduce the case rates, and we’re now in discussion with central government to consider the additional support options. 

But this week, we’ve announced additional resource for our pop-up testing and vaccination service, so that we can cover more ground and vaccinate more people in Devon. 

“Our pop-up community testing sites have been running for many months and we’ve recently expanded them to include vaccinations,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

“From next week, we’ll have vaccine teams embedded within our own clinics, providing us more flexibility to schedule pop-up stops in towns and parishes across Devon where we know vaccine take up is low.” 

This week, our pop-up testing and vaccination van was outside Exeter Central Station. Over two days we vaccinated more than 150 people – a lot of them college-age students. 

The pop-up vaccination service is to support the local roll out of the vaccination programme, which has reached nearly 90 per cent of the adult population in Devon with at least one dose. 

“This extra resource for our pop-up service means that we will be able to respond quickly to get the vaccine out to more people,” said Steve Brown. 

We’ll have our pop-up back in Exeter this Saturday, at Exeter Central Station in the morning (9.00am to 1.00pm) before moving to St James Park (1.30pm to 5.30pm) for the Grecians’ home game against Forest Green Rovers. 

And from Monday 6 September, we intend to offer two clinics per day, every day, at locations across the county. Our ambition is to scale-up the pop-up vaccination service to all five of their routes, visiting five or even ten locations every day. 

Find a walk-in coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site

If you are 16 or over, you can also get a COVID-19 vaccine from a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site without an appointment.

You don’t need to be registered with a GP, or bring ID. It might help to bring your NHS number.

If you’re under 16 and eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, you cannot use these walk-in sites to get vaccinated. Please wait to be contacted by the NHS.

Back to School special bulletin 

Parents of secondary school or college-age children and young people are asked to make sure their child has a face covering with them for the return to school/college, unless they are exempt. 

They’ll need it in communal areas at school or college, and they are strongly encouraged to wear them on public and dedicated school transport.

Earlier this week, we published a Back to School special bulletin.

It’s packed with information about the start of term COVID-19 testing; mixing and ‘bubbles’; face coverings; contact tracing and self-isolation – and financial support to care for a child who is self-isolating; free school meals; exams and assessments; and lots more. 

If you missed it, you can see it again!

Or you can subscribe to receive our Connect Me Children and Families bulletin.

Getting about safely in Devon

With people back from holidays and returning to work or education, there will be more people back on the move.

Please be aware of the latest advice on travel – whether that’s walking, cycling, and travelling in vehicles or on public transport during the coronavirus outbreak.

With the county now at heightened level of alert because of the high case rates, it’s now really important to do all we can to reduce risk to ourselves and others.

Please re-familiarise yourselves with the latest travel advice.

New study tests third vaccine dose for people with weakened immune systems 

A new clinical trial will investigate whether a third dose of vaccine for people with weakened immune systems gives a stronger immune response than two doses. 

It will offer people who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised a Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine to determine whether this will give a stronger immune response than two doses. 

The trial has published preliminary data showing that 89 per cent of people who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed generate antibodies following vaccination, and 60 per cent generated a strong antibody response following two doses of a vaccine. 

The government’s said, “We know some people may get less protection from the vaccine than others, so we are planning for a booster programme in the autumn, prioritising those most at risk. This new study will play an important role in helping to shape the deployment of future vaccines doses for these specific at-risk groups.” 

How the vaccination programme is going 

Across the country, 48 million people have now received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, with 42.8 million having received their second. 

Everyone over 18 years old has been offered their first dose, and 16 to 17 year olds are currently invited to come forward for theirs. 

Our pop-up testing and vaccination vehicle was in Exeter on Wednesday and Thursday, outside Exeter Central Station. Over the two days, more than 150 people came forward – a lot of them students.

The Department of Health and Social Care, (DHSC), said this week that the vaccine programme has so far saved more than 105,000 lives and over 82,100 hospitalisations prevented. 

Business confidence hits highs 

British business confidence hits highs not seen since April 2017 on hopes the economy is recovering strongly to pre-pandemic levels, it’s reported.   

The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer surveys 1,200 firms each month. It’s found that overall business confidence among UK firms rose to 36 per cent in August, driven by improvements in companies’ trading prospects and expectations of stronger growth in the year ahead. 

Increases in confidence were recorded in regions including the South West. 

The latest findings echo our own evaluations. Our report in August highlighted that while the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been more widespread across Devon than previous recessions, there are now positive signs of recovery. 

Read our own assessment of Devon’s local economy.

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.