COVID-19 case rates in Devon are above the national average and continuing to rise. Cases are highest in Northern Devon, with Torridge in particular having one of the highest rates in the country. Most cases are in the late teen, school and college-age population.
In this update:
- Why are COVID-19 case rates in Devon so high?
- Schools are doing their bit to halt the spread
- Money available to help support people during self-isolation
- Thank you, says NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse
- Protect yourself and your baby by having the flu vaccine
Why are COVID-19 case rates in Devon so high?
Case rates of coronavirus in Northern Devon are among the highest in the country, with levels in Torridge in particular now reaching 849 cases per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 384 cases per 100,000.
Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:
“There are a few reasons why North Devon and Torridge may be seeing such high rates.
“Both district areas have, until recently, maintained steady and comparatively low case levels, and with that, therefore relatively lower levels of infection-induced immunity within communities.
“Secondly, testing for coronavirus here in Devon is a lot higher than the national average, so it may be that we are seeing higher levels than elsewhere because we’re identifying them.
“We know that the dominant strain across the UK, and in Devon, is the highly transmissible Delta variant, and that too is driving case levels.”
However, the high case levels are not translating into a significant increase in coronavirus-related hospitalisations, or deaths. People developing the virus may tend to feel unwell, but are not requiring the medical attention that was once required, and they’re getting better.
Schools are doing their bit to halt the spread
Most areas of the South West have positive coronavirus case rates above the national average for England. In Devon, it’s the high case levels particularly among the secondary school and college-age population that are driving the infection.
Schools, however, are doing their bit to halt the spread.
Most of our secondary schools in Devon have reached the government’s threshold – they have five or more linked cases of coronavirus – which triggers plans for additional actions, in line with the government’s guidance.
But because case rates in the region are high, Directors of Public Health across the South West agreed last month that all secondary schools are advised to consider adopting the additional measures, even those that have not yet reached that trigger point.
Those additional measures are to reduce risk of transmission, and include steps that encourage face covering, hand hygiene, and social mixing.
“We must all take responsibility,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. “Follow the school’s rules when there and remain extra cautious when out of school and mixing with friends.”
- meet outside where you can
- open a window if meeting inside. A window or door open for even a short period makes a difference
- please wear a face covering on public transport and in crowded public spaces
- have the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s offered to you
“With case levels this high, we need to be proactive in our actions to stay safe,” said Steve Brown. “Living with coronavirus in our community means that we must remember it’s there, and that we take what steps we can to keep safe.”
Money available to help support people during self-isolation
With the high rate of positive coronavirus cases across Devon right now, there are growing numbers of people required to self-isolate.
For many, with minor symptoms and people to help them, ten days self-isolating is OK. It’s workable. But for others, self-isolating can be very difficult, especially if they live alone, they’re unwell, or have other responsibilities outside the house.
We’ve made small to medium-size grants available to local voluntary and community groups, which can help people during their self-isolation period – groups that can support with:
- getting food and other supplies
- caring responsibilities
- practical things, like dog walking
- mental health and wellbeing, including loneliness and boredom
It’s to help people with the practical, social or emotional support they need, so that they can self-isolate properly, and so that they don’t potentially pass the virus onto others.
You should self-isolate if you have symptoms and test positive with a PCR test; and if you’re asked to self-isolate, because you’re a known contact to someone who has tested positive and you’re not vaccinated; or ahead of a medical procedure.
Grants typically can be up to £5,000 for small projects, and up to £20,000 for larger projects. Applications for larger projects will be considered.
Or to discuss an application, contact email@example.com
Government announces new advice on when it’s necessary to take a rapid lateral flow device test
The government has made a new announcement this week about when people in England should take rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests.
Previously, the advice has been to take LFD tests regularly twice a week. But the new advice is that people in England should be taking a LFD test on days when they are more likely to catch or spread COVID-19. For example:
- when they will be in a high risk situation that day, such as mixing with other people in crowded indoor spaces where there is limited fresh air
- before they visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness, if they were to get COVID-19
Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:
“Testing continues to be a key element of Devon’s local outbreak response.
“Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, but may still be infectious and able to give the virus to others.
“Rapid lateral flow tests help identify people with the virus, so that they can self-isolate and arrange a confirmatory PCR test.”
Research shows LFD tests are a reliable test for COVID-19. They give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab.
Even if you’re vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on. Doing LFD tests regularly helps to protect yourself and others.
If you test positive for COVID-19 using an LFD test, you should self-isolate immediately and request a follow-up PCR test.
Change to guidance on vaccination for under 18s
The government has revised the guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations for under 18 year olds who are not in clinical risk groups.
Previously, the advice had been that under 18s should not have their vaccination for four weeks following a positive PCR test. That’s now changed, with under 18s now asked to not have their vaccine until 12 weeks following a positive PCR test.
For those who have recently had their vaccine, after four weeks but within 12 weeks of a positive PCR test, that’s OK – the vaccines are safe. But for those under 18s who are yet to take up the vaccine, you will not be given the vaccine until 12 weeks following a PCR test.
16 and 17 year olds to receive vaccine second dose
16 and 17 year olds, who are not in an at-risk group are to be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is advising.
The second vaccine dose should be given 12 weeks or more following the first vaccine dose.
For those who have had COVID-19, the second dose should be given 12 weeks or more following their positive PCR test result.
Thank you, says NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse
NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse, Darryn Allcorn has thanked everyone who has booked or had their booster.
“You are helping to protect yourselves and your loved ones and to reduce pressure on our busy NHS services this winter,” he said.
Walk-in clinics have been very busy and extra appointments are being offered where possible to meet demand.
The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation has previously advised booster vaccinations for all adults aged 50 years and over and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group. The offer has now been extended to include those aged 40 to 49 years.
The advice comes as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) publishes the first data on booster vaccine effectiveness in the UK. The analysis shows that people who take up the offer of a booster vaccine increase their protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection to over 90%. Protection against more severe disease is expected to be even higher.
People can book their COVID-19 booster appointment five months (152 days) after their second dose, meaning they could receive their top up vaccine on the day they become eligible at six months (182 days).
Booster vaccines can still only be given after a six-month interval (at least six months after your second vaccine dose), but allowing appointments to be booked at five months means people can get their jabs booked in ahead.
Chief Medical Officer says hospital admissions are preventable
England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chris Whitty, has urged all women who are pregnant, or hoping to become pregnant, to get a coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference this week, Mr Whitty referred to data regarding the number of pregnant women being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.
“From February 1 to September 30, 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98 per cent, had not been vaccinated,” he said.
“And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98 per cent – had not been vaccinated.”
The CMO is reported as describing the hospital admissions as ‘preventable’, and that that the view among experts is that the benefits of the vaccine ‘outweigh the risks in every area’.
Do you look after someone who could not manage without your help?
The number of unpaid carers in the UK has nearly doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 130,000 now providing care in Devon.
An unpaid carer is someone who gives their time to support a family member, friend, or neighbour. This may be due to an illness, condition, frailty, disability, COVID-19, or post hospital care. It could be on a regular basis or occasionally.
National research estimates that over 50,000 carers in Devon are at risk of breakdown at any one time, 96,200 feel exhausted and over 45,000 say they feel unable to manage their caring role. There’s no question that unpaid carers play a vital role, the value of their work in Devon has been estimated at £1.6 billion per year, that’s over £20,000 per carer.
Early identification and support of unpaid carers not only improves the lives and situations of the carer as well as the person they look after, but it can also help avoid unsustainable pressure on public services and finances.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, please get in touch with Devon Carers, they offer a range of specialist support from a listening ear to advice on finances and emergency planning.
Visit the Devon Carers website or call 01392 307720.
Post expires at 9:54am on Tuesday November 23rd, 2021