COVID-19 case rates in Devon have continued to rise, with Torridge in particular exceeding 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population. Overall, Devon’s case rate remains above the national average.
Cases are highest in those aged 0 to 19 years old, especially among those of secondary school and college ages. Schools and colleges are following the latest public health advice to control the spread of the virus.
Vaccine take-up in the county is good, but people are encouraged to come forward and have their vaccination as soon as they become eligible to do so.
In this update:
- COVID-19 case rates in Devon now among the highest in the country
- COVID-19 vaccine continuing to prove effective
- Care workers urged to take up COVID-19 booster vaccine
- Stopping young people going hungry this Christmas
COVID-19 case rates in Devon now among the highest in the country
Case rates in Devon have continued to rise, with Torridge now reaching more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population – one of the highest case rates in the country.
Elsewhere in the county there are local pockets where case rates are rising significantly, with Devon’s average rate overall still higher than the England average.
“I urge everyone who is eligible for a booster or third vaccine, who hasn’t yet had it, to take it up as soon as they can,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.
“The latest Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study shows how effective the vaccine is at preventing people from becoming seriously ill from the virus.”
Meanwhile, the number of patients in Devon hospitals with coronavirus has risen, with NHS Devon reporting 168 COVID-19 inpatients earlier this week, up from 111 in early November.
They say the increase in community infections is impacting on staff, as almost 600 NHS staff in the county are off work due to coronavirus – accounting for nearly one in four NHS staff absences.
Dr Paul Johnson, Chair of the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:
“There has been high demand for booster doses and I want to thank the tens of thousands of people in Devon who are attending our vaccine clinics for the jab each week. We are continuing to open up thousands more appointments, in addition to pop-up clinics.
“However, as the temperature drops and we are more likely to mix with people inside, it is important to remember that Devon currently has some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the UK.
“Please continue to socially distance, wear a mask when mixing with people inside and open a window where possible.”
COVID-19 vaccine continuing to prove effective
People who have received a booster or third COVID-19 vaccination are on average around two-thirds less likely to be infected, compared to those who have had two doses of the vaccine, according to the latest findings.
The study, by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, involved over 100,000 volunteers.
It’s latest findings also show a decline in prevalence, with one in 64 people now infected with the virus, compared to one in 58 people, identified in their last study.
Young people, aged between 12 and 17 years old, who have had a single dose of the vaccine, are 56 per cent less likely to develop infection than those who are unvaccinated.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that the latest studies provide another reminder of the effectiveness of the vaccines against coronavirus. She said:
“As we approach winter, it is vital that everyone eligible comes forward for their jabs, whether that’s their first dose, second or booster.
“Please do take up the offer to ensure your immunity does not wane.”
Care workers urged to take up COVID-19 booster vaccine
Domiciliary and care home staff, who had their second coronavirus vaccinations at least six months ago, are being encouraged to come forward for their booster vaccinations at the earliest opportunity, to maintain protection against COVID-19 for themselves as well as those they care for.
“With winter just around the corner, and the expected rise in flu cases this year on top of the usual health and social care winter pressures, it’s vital that care workers stay on top of their vaccinations,” says Steve Brown.
“Making time in the working day is difficult, I know, but there are a number of ways to minimise the time it takes to get your jab.
“Frontline social care staff can book their vaccination through the National Booking System or by contacting 119, and they can make appointments at either the mass vaccination centres or there are a number of community pharmacies offering boosters.
“Appointments can be booked from five months following their second jab, for an appointment slot timed six months after your vaccination.
“There are also a number of permanent walk-in centres and pop-up sites at locations around the county, that care staff can access.”
Recent data from the adult social care sector places Devon eight out of 152 authorities for booster vaccination take-up of care home staff working in older adult care homes, and shows Devon ranking seventh out of 152 local authorities for vaccination take-up by domiciliary care staff.
COVID-19 testing in Devon is high
One of the reasons why Devon’s coronavirus case rate is high, is because we test more for it, and therefore identify more of it.
There were 46,395 PCR tests conducted in Devon in the last available week (to Wednesday 17 November), and 2,428,661 PCR tests conducted in England over the same period.
Using mid-year population estimates for Devon and England, we have calculated the weekly PCR testing rate as being 5,722 tests per 100,000 people, compared to 4,294 tests per 100,000 people in England.
So PCR testing in Devon is around 31 per cent higher than the national average.
Stopping young people going hungry this Christmas
The pandemic has had a financial impact on households across Devon, and we’ve seen a rise in the number of young people becoming eligible for free school meals.
Nearly 18,500 children in Devon now qualify for free school meals – 2,500 more children than this time last year.
We’ve recently secured just over £5 million from the government’s Household Support Fund to help people who are struggling to pay for food, fuel and utilities this winter.
So one of the things we’re doing with it is making sure that young people, who are eligible for free school meals, don’t go hungry this Christmas.
We’re also using the money to help pay for another Holiday Activity and Food scheme, which provides a range of activities and meals for children and young people who receive free school meals.
District councils are also using the money to help people who may be struggling to pay their bills, including household essentials, such as if your boiler breaks down, or if you need to buy your child a winter coat.
And we’re working with Citizen’s Advice Devon to help people who use pre-paid meters to pay their bills, and targeting support to harder to reach groups who might also be struggling financially this winter.
Protect yourself and your baby by having the flu vaccine
The government has warned that there could be a significant flu surge this winter coinciding with continuing or rising COVID-19 cases, so pregnant women in Devon are being urged to have the flu vaccine now to protect themselves and their unborn baby from the potentially deadly illness.
NHS advice states that during pregnancy, a mother’s immune system is weakened, meaning they’re less able to fight off infections, more likely to be admitted to hospital with flu and more at risk of complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.
Clara Southby, Interim Maternity Matron for Community and Outpatients, at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said:
“Having flu when pregnant can put you and your baby at a greater risk of severe complications, so we would encourage anyone who is pregnant to have the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible.
“We’re likely to have lower immunity this year because of lockdowns during the flu season last winter. It’s more important than ever to have the vaccine to protect you and your baby. The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn and it is safe to have at any stage in pregnancy.”
The flu vaccination is seasonal and based on the flu strains that are currently circulating. This means that pregnant women need to have the vaccination this autumn, even if they had it last year. It’s not a live vaccine, which means it can’t give you flu and it is safe to have both during pregnancy and if you are breastfeeding.
You can have the jab when you come to the Maternity Department for your scan or clinic appointment. Alternatively, you can book an appointment via your pharmacy or your GP. Any adult who is eligible can find a nearby pharmacy offering the NHS flu vaccine online.
Look after yourself this winter
NHS Devon is encouraging people to look after themselves, and to have a better understanding of how to deal with minor illnesses, long-term conditions, or prevent ill health.
Doctors are reminding people that by practicing self-care, they can help themselves and reduce the need to use busy NHS services.
“It is really important to look after yourself, especially as we are getting closer to winter, with both flu and COVID-19 likely to both be circulating,” says Dr Alex Degan, NHS Devon’s Primary Care Medical Director.
The Self Care Forum is a national charity that aims to encourage self-care in everyday life.
They have a factsheet to help people improve their health and wellbeing.