In this update:
- Devon’s COVID-19 cases stabilising, but still very high
- Option to leave self-isolation after five full days
- April deadline for frontline health and CQC-regulated social care workers to be fully vaccinated
- Hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses can apply for a grant
- National Booking Service open to 12-15 year olds for second COVID-19 vaccine dose
Devon’s COVID-19 cases stabilising, but still very high
The increase in COVID-19 cases in Devon has slowed and stabilised in recent days, but numbers still remain very high.
Over 9,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Devon in the latest available week, with the weekly rate here (1,132 per 100,000) remaining below the national average (1,695 per 100,000).
Case rates across the county are highest in those aged 20 to 39 years old (2,071 per 100,000).
“We are monitoring the data extremely closely,” said Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health. “Our COVID-19 case numbers are still very high, and with young people now returned to schools and colleges again, and more socialisation among those age groups, we expect case levels to change again.
“We know that the Omicron variant is highly infectious, and we are now seeing an increase in hospitalisations in Devon. Thankfully, it’s not leading, to the same extent, to deaths or stays in Intensive Care Units.”
Meanwhile more than 85 per cent of those eligible for their COVID-19 booster vaccinations have now had their jabs. Figures show that around three months after those aged 65 and over receive the third jab, protection against hospitalisation remains at about 90 per cent.
Option to leave self-isolation after five full days
The default COVID-19 self-isolation period continues to be 10 days, but the government announced this week that from Monday 17 January, people will have the option to reduce their isolation period after five full days, if they test negative on both day 5 and day 6, and do not have a temperature.
But it’s crucial that people isolating wait until they have received the two negative lateral flow device (LFD) tests on two consecutive days – the first test no earlier than day 5, and the second must be taken the following day.
And it’s essential that the two tests are reported before people return to their job or education, if leaving self-isolation earlier than the full 10 days.
However, there are still risks. If you leave isolation on day 6, after 5 full days of isolation, between 20 to 30 per cent of people are still infectious.
So anyone leaving self-isolation earlier than 10 days is strongly advised to wear face coverings and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and work from home if they can.
There are exceptions though. Self-isolation may continue in certain circumstances, such as for those who work with vulnerable people. The government will publish a full list in their guidance in due course, they report.
Confirmatory PCR tests suspended
On Tuesday this week, we sent you a special edition of this newsletter to mark the change in government guidance around COVID-19 testing, to help everyone understand what they need to do and when.
If you missed it you can read a copy online here.
People in England, who receive a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result for coronavirus are required to self-isolate immediately, without having to take a confirmatory PCR test.
It’s a temporary measure while cases of coronavirus are so high across the UK. There are exceptions though, and you can read more about them in the email we sent you on Tuesday.
April deadline for frontline health and CQC-regulated social care workers to be fully vaccinated
All patient-facing health and Care Quality Commission (CQC) – regulated social care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated from April 2022.
For everyone to be fully vaccinated (first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine) by this date, unvaccinated people will need to have had their first dose by Thursday 3 February.
There are some exemptions, including people under 18 years old; people who are clinically exempt; people taking part in a COVID-19 trial and people who don’t have face-to-face contact with the public.
The government’s decision brings front line CQC-regulated social care workers, such as domiciliary care workers, in line with care home staff. It was made a requirement for care home staff to be fully vaccinated last year.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, said:
“The NHS has always been clear that staff should get the life-saving COVID-19 vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and their patients and the overwhelming majority have already done so.
“Working with NHS organisations, we will continue to support staff who have not yet received the vaccination to take up the evergreen offer.
Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, Deborah Sturdy, said:
“I encourage anyone working in social care who has not yet had their vaccine to come forward as soon as possible to protect yourselves, your colleagues and those you care for.”
Hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses can apply for a grant
Cash grants of up to £6,000 are now available to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses are able to apply for the one-off grant. Eligible businesses include, but are not limited to, pubs, restaurants (excluding takeaways), cafés, tourist attractions, event venues, museums, theatres, holiday parks, hotels, and campsites.
The level of payment of the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant is based on the rateable value for each eligible business premises:
- Businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or below can apply for a grant of £2,667;
- Businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can apply for £4,000;
- Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or above can apply for £6,000.
The grant funding forms part of a £1 billion support package from the government, and will be administered by your local district council.
If you are an eligible hospitality, leisure or accommodation business owner that has previously received a COVID-19 support grant, you are likely to have already been contacted directly with details about how to apply.
For more information, please visit your district council’s website or the Heart of the South West Growth Hub website.
National Booking Service open to 12-15 year olds for second COVID-19 vaccine dose
The National Booking Service is now open for 12-15 year-olds to make appointments to have their second COVID-19 jab.
All eligible 12-15 year olds are now able to book their second jab online if they had their first dose more than 12 weeks ago, in line with updated JCVI guidance.
Nationally more than 1.3 million young people have taken up the offer of a vaccine so far and more than 5,000 schools have been visited. Over 75,000 school children are currently eligible for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Young people and their families are being urged to book in online for either their first dose, if they haven’t done so already, and their second dose as soon as they become eligible.
Young people are also able to get their vaccine through existing school immunisation services.
Record level of flu jab uptake in those aged 65 years old and over
More people aged 65 years old and over have received their flu vaccine this year than ever before according to the UK Health Security Agency.
However uptake in pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, and pre-schoolers remains behind older adults.
Of people aged 65 years old and over, 81.4 per cent have already come forward for their flu vaccination this season. This is the highest uptake in this age group on record, above the end of season uptake of 80.9 per cent last year.
However, uptake in pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions remains low in comparison to older adults (37.1 per cent for pregnant women and 49.2 per cent for those under 65 with underlying health conditions), and preschool vaccination rates are less than last year’s record uptake during the same period (49.0 per cent of 3-year olds and 46.6 per cent in all 2-year olds). Uptake recorded in healthcare workers is also lower than at this point in previous years.
Charity warns of winter respiratory bug for babies and young children
The British Lung Foundation is urging parents to be on their guard against the winter virus, RSV, which usually peaks in January, and could coincide with large numbers of COVID-19 infections.
This week, the charity reported a 400 per cent rise in calls from parents to its helpline, with many asking for advice about RSV.
RSV is common in babies and children under two years old. It can cause breathing issues, but most babies and children will only have mild symptoms that can be looked after safely at home. But around three in every 100 have symptoms that require hospital treatment.
The charity says that there were very few cases of RSV last winter when lockdowns were in place, which means that young children have much lower immunity this year.
Their advice for parents includes asking anyone who has a cough or cold to stay away from young children; making sure that anyone who handles their child washes their hands regularly; and not smoking around young children and babies, especially if they are unwell.