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COVID-19 infections reach their highest level; the difference between COVID-19 booster jabs and third doses and get NHS advice quickly ahead of ‘winter like no other’

3,907 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 24 to 30 October 2021

Coronavirus case rates in Devon continue to be above the national average, as they are across the whole south-west region, but over the past couple of weeks they have reduced and appear to be plateauing.

Cases continue to be highest in the school age and working age population.

In this edition:

  • COVID-19 infections reach their highest level
  • Third dose versus booster – what’s the difference? 
  • Invitation for church and faith groups to talk about support in local communities
  • Carers eligible for free flu vaccine
COVID-19 virus

COVID-19 infections reach their highest level

The latest findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show prevalence of COVID-19 infections are the highest recorded since the study began in May 2020, and the highest prevalence is in the south-west.

The REACT-1 study is one of the largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England involving data from 67,000 volunteers.   

Infections, it shows, have grown fastest among those of school age, and rates among people aged 65 years old and over have doubled since their last report. 

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said the latest data needs to be a wake-up call. 

“These latest figures show that we can’t be complacent. These are the highest rates of infection since this study began, and they need to be a wake-up call to all of us. 

“Coronavirus is very much still in our communities, and while the vaccine is great, we must not rely solely on it to keep us safe. 

“We need everyone who is eligible for a third dose or a booster jab to come forward without delay. 

“And we need everyone to take steps to mitigate risk to themselves and others.”

Visit the government website to find out more about what you can do to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

COVID-19 vaccine

Third dose versus booster – what’s the difference? 

We’re familiar with hearing the terms ‘booster jab’ and ‘third dose’, but what’s the difference? They’re not the same, and both are really important in protecting us against coronavirus. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced in September that people with severely weakened immune systems at the time of their first and/or second COVID-19 vaccination, would receive a third dose as part of the standard vaccination schedule.   

Its purpose is to increase their level of protection against the virus, because they will not have reached the same levels of immunity as others after their two primary doses. Then, around six months later, that person should receive a booster jab. 

Booster jabs help maintain and extend the length of protection received from first and second vaccinations. They’re being rolled out to eligible people starting by invitation to those most at risk. That roll out will extend to all people aged 50 years old and over, and this week the government has said that anyone eligible can now get their booster jab from their nearest walk-in vaccination centre, so long as it’s been six months since their second jab. You can also book an appointment online via the National Booking System.

The invitation people receive to come forward for their third dose or booster jab will have taken into account their health at the time of their first or second vaccinations. But if you’re concerned about whether you’ve been invited for the right one at this stage, please contact your GP. 

positive covid-19 test result

COVID-19 testing confusion

We’re hearing that some people are taking a second test at the end of their 10 day isolation period (following a positive PCR test), to see if they are still infectious and then are continuing to isolate because that second test is positive.

You do not need to take a PCR test at the end of your isolation period. Once you have completed 10 days isolation, and providing you are feeling well, or if the only symptoms you have are a cough or loss of smell (which can last for several weeks), you are then able to return to normal activity, while continuing to take the usual precautions such as using face coverings, good hand hygiene and making sure rooms are well ventilated.

The reason being, if you’ve just finished self-isolating, you’re likely to test positive for a while because the virus is still present. But by then, it’s much less likely to transmit to others. 

The public health advice is to not take a PCR or lateral flow test for 90 days after testing positive with a PCR test, unless you develop new symptoms during that time. If you develop symptoms during that time, re-test using PCR. Similarly, the advice is to wait 28 days after testing positive with a PCR test to have your COVID-19 vaccination.

volunteer hand

Invitation for church and faith groups to talk about support in local communities 

Devon has some very real challenges right now within the adult care sector, largely around the acute shortage of care workers and personal assistants. 

We’re doing a lot to encourage more people to work in social care roles through free training and one-to-one support. 

But it’s more than that. There’s also a distinct need for people to have a role in looking out for friends, neighbours, and even strangers within their own communities. 

Next week, we’ve arranged a Zoom call with church and faith groups in particular to talk about the challenges in Devon, what’s being done about them, and what role communities can have in supporting local people. 

It’s stemmed from our experience of people who are alone and feeling isolated. Coronavirus and anxieties about the virus, have perhaps made loneliness more commonplace. And it begs the question, what we can do for others less able or alone in our communities?

Church or faith groups, of any faith, are invited to join the Zoom call, and to be part of that conversation. To request the Zoom invite to join the discussion, email

meet outdoors this bonfire night

Be safe this bonfire night

Tonight (Friday 5 November) is Bonfire Night, and again many people may be out in the hope of a dry, clear evening to enjoy fireworks.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue has published a helpful guide to a safer bonfire night.

But please remember the coronavirus context, especially with infection levels so high in the school and working age population.

So whether you’re off to friends to wave a sparkler, or to an organised bonfire event, we’ve published a few tips to help you enjoy the weekend safely.

young man vaccination

Below average COVID-19 vaccine uptake prompts renewed approach to 16 and 17 year olds 

Parents and carers are being reminded of the importance for their 16 and 17 year olds to take up the coronavirus vaccine. 

Case rates among the zero to 19 year age group in Devon are still very high, and uptake of the vaccine by 16 and 17 year olds in the county is below average. 

“Many have taken up the vaccine, and we’re continuing to see 16 and 17 year olds coming through,” says Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.   

“But take up is roughly around 66 per cent, so there are still around one in three 16 and 17 year olds who haven’t come forward. 

“It’s not too late. You’ve not missed the boat, there’s still time to come forward. But we’d like you to do so as soon as possible.  

“The more protection there is in our community, the better it is for us all, especially as we move towards winter, and the very likely presence of other viruses such as flu.”

You can book your appointment at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.

NHS 111

Get NHS advice quickly ahead of ‘winter like no other’

The NHS is encouraging people to use their 111 online service to get urgent medical advice quickly – in addition to existing services – ahead of what England’s top doctor says will be a ‘winter like no other’.

NHS 111 online provides advice and support to those with urgent but not life-threatening medical issues, and can be used for a range of reasons, including to check symptoms and if an injury or illness requires further investigation, to get information on mental health support services available, or to seek advice on how to take a medication.

The online tool can also advise whether you should contact your GP, direct you to urgent treatment centres and walk in clinics and emergency dental services, visit a pharmacist or call 999, and if needed, can arrange a call from a healthcare professional.

With more people predicted to suffer from flu this year and hospitals already treating an increased number of COVID-19 patients, NHS 111 online offers an alternative way to get immediate medical advice.

Test Centre Entrance

PCR test sites nationally now close at 6.00pm 

This week, coronavirus testing centres, where people take the PCR tests, have reduced their opening hours in the evenings, closing at 6.00pm, rather than 8.00pm.

The government says that there’s limited demand for PCR tests between 6.00pm and 8.00pm, and that their decision provides value for taxpayers’ money.

And that anyone unable to attend a PCR appointment before 6.00pm can have the test kits posted to them at home.

flu vaccine

Carers eligible for free flu vaccine 

All children and adults with learning disabilities and their family members or paid supporters are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine. 

Preventing flu is particularly important for people with learning disabilities. It can lead to pneumonia and sepsis, which many people with a learning disability are much more vulnerable to than the general population. 

People with learning disabilities are less likely to get the flu if people around them have also been vaccinated. Family carers can get the flu vaccination for free if they’re the main carer, as can support workers. 

Flu jabs are available from your pharmacist or GP. 

Mencap has some helpful information on their website, and there’s a link to this NHS video.  

stars on backgroud

Devon Together newspaper wins national praise

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve endeavoured to keep you informed of the latest local and national news, information, advice and guidance via our website, social media channels and email updates.

We teamed up with NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office to produce two editions of the Devon Together newspaper. 

Over 600,000 copies were printed to provide essential information to local people who might not access their news or information digitally, particularly in rural or isolated communities where internet connection is poor.

The innovative partnership newspaper was recently awarded Best Publication at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Pride Awards for the South of England.

Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, said:

“The Devon Together newspaper is an excellent example of that collaboration, working together to reach people who did not necessarily have access to the latest online news and information about the pandemic. I am delighted that it has achieved national recognition, and pleased more so of the positive feedback I have heard from local residents.”