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Prevention measures still vital with highest case numbers in Exeter, Mid Devon and West Devon, more community testing rolls out and schools prepare to reopen for all students

In this update:

  • Prevention measures still vital in Devon
  • More community testing rolls out across the county
  • Plans to ease lockdown met with cautious welcome
  • What we can and can’t do from Monday 8 March
  • Local support available for clinically extremely vulnerable residents
  • Care home residents to be allowed one regular visitor
  • Devon’s schools prepare for return to face-to-face education
  • Support the vaccine roll out via your social media
shop worker

Prevention measures still vital in Devon

People’s attitude towards coronavirus, and the parts we all play in getting through this pandemic, are changing as we look ahead to a time without restrictions. 

The vaccine roll out to priority groups is helping people see a way out of the pandemic, and a return to normality. But please remember we’re not there yet. 

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, is concerned that people are thinking measures like local community testing are no longer necessary, when they really are still vital. 

“We’ve done well to follow the rules in Devon since last year, which have kept our case numbers to one of the lowest in the country and undoubtedly saved lives. But I fear these rules are now becoming less of a priority in some people’s minds,” he said. 

“But coronavirus testing for those with and without symptoms, and self-isolating for ten full days if the result is positive, is as important today as it always has been. And it will continue to be so for some time. As will washing your hands, covering your face and giving people space. 

“We must not let the vaccine, and the hope it brings, persuade us that these measures are no longer necessary. They are. Even those who have had their jabs will still need to follow them.

“For now, we must all continue to stay at home as much as possible, but with many employees and volunteers who can’t work from home having to go out to work, there is a risk of catching the virus and spreading it to others without realising it if you don’t have any symptoms. 

“That’s why rapid community testing is so important. We are offering free lateral flow tests, that deliver results typically within the hour, for anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others, including people caring for others. I urge these people to use our community testing twice a week, two to four days apart. This will help to identify infection early and reduce risk to others.”

mobile testing centre

More community testing sites roll out across Devon

More areas of Devon are benefitting from community testing to help identify people unknowingly spreading coronavirus because they are carrying it but don’t have any symptoms.

Rapid testing sites have been rolled out in East Devon and West Devon as areas of the county currently with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

  • Exmouth’s Foxholes car park is the first stop for one of our brand new state-of-art mobile testing centres this Saturday (27 February) and every Saturday and Tuesday thereafter. 

It will also visit:

  • Axminster’s West Street short stay car park on Sundays and Wednesdays
  • Honiton’s Blackdown House car park on Mondays and Thursdays

From Thursday 4 March our second mobile testing centre will make weekly visits to:

  • Tavistock’s Riverside car park on Mondays and Thursdays
  • Okehampton’s Mill Road car park on Tuesdays and Fridays
  • Ivybridge’s Leonards Road car park on Wednesdays and Saturdays

A fixed community testing centre has also opened at Exe Valley Leisure Centre on Bolham Road in Tiverton, staffed by Mid Devon District Council. 

These free rapid tests are recommended to be taken twice a week by anyone without coronavirus symptoms who must leave home to attend work or volunteer, and people who are in contact with vulnerable individuals. They are quick, easy to book and the results are back within an hour via text or email. If you test positive, you must self-isolate for ten full days to avoid transmitting the virus to anyone else. 

Community testing is also available in Exeter at County Hall on Topsham Road and in Barnstaple at the Civic Centre. 

Another site is planned to open in Newton Abbot soon.

The latest information about where and how to access testing is available on our website.

COVID-19 roadmap 2021

Plans to ease lockdown met with cautious welcome

No doubt you will already be aware that earlier this week the Prime Minister announced plans to ease lockdown in England, starting on Monday 8 March with one named visitor for care home residents and the return of face-to-face teaching for all school pupils and college students.

We sent you a summary of the 4-step plan, which the government is calling the ‘COVID-19 Roadmap 2021’. If you missed it, you can find a copy on our website.

The plan has been met with a cautious welcome by leaders in Devon, including Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

He said: “While it was good to see this week the publication of the government’s roadmap, which does set out dates for restrictions to be eased, it’s really important to remember that these dates are ‘no earlier than’ dates.

“Each step-down will obviously have to look at the science and the data and information, and those dates may well be pushed back if the science tells us the best thing to do is to delay those step-downs.

“At this stage, the most important thing to do is to continue to follow the national lockdown restrictions.”

Devon’s latest data shows confirmed cases of coronavirus falling across all age groups, with highest case numbers among 20 to 39 year olds.

Case numbers overall in the county are falling, but that decline has slowed, with cases currently highest in Exeter, Mid Devon and West Devon.

You can listen to what Steve said in full on our News Centre.

two women meeting sat on benches

What we can and can’t do from Monday 8 March

From Monday 8 March, some of the rules on what you can and cannot do will be changing as lockdown begins to slowly ease.

  • You will be allowed to spend time in outdoor public spaces for recreation on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This means you can sit down for a drink or picnic. You must continue to maintain social distance from those outside your household. This is in addition to outdoor exercise, which is already permitted.
  • Schools and colleges will re-open for all pupils, and they will be able to return to face-to-face education.
  • Wraparound childcare can reopen and other children’s activities can restart for all children where it is needed to enable parents to work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group. Vulnerable children can attend childcare and other children’s activities in all circumstances.
  • Students on practical courses at English universities will be able to return to take part in practical teaching and assessments and access specialist facilities so they can complete their courses.
  • Care home residents will be able to have one regular named indoor visitor, providing they are tested beforehand, wear personal protective equipment and avoid close contact.
  • There will continue to be restrictions on international travel. Holidays will not be a permitted reason to travel. Those seeking to leave the UK must complete an outbound declaration of travel form ahead of departure.
  • Those who have been identified as ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ are advised not to attend work or education settings until at least Wednesday 31 March.

No further significant changes will be made on Monday 8 March and restrictions requiring you to stay at home will remain in place.

Later changes, including from Monday 29 March, are set out in the government’s roadmap, and we will summarise them in this email nearer the time.

man inside looking out of window

Local support available for clinically extremely vulnerable residents

New research has identified a further 19,200 Devon residents at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch coronavirus.

This means the government has added them to the ‘shielded patient list’ for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable so they can receive their COVID-19 vaccination quickly.

They are also advised to stay at home as much as possible, except to exercise or to attend health and vaccination appointments and to work from home until at least 31 March.

We’re contacting these residents to let them know about local support that is available while they are following the shielding guidance, including priority supermarket delivery slots and help collecting and delivering essential food, household supplies and medicines if they have no friends or family to ask.

There’s also financial support available for those who need short term help to afford to pay for basic household essentials, and there are a number of foodbanks and community larders in Devon that provide emergency food and support to individuals and families. You can find out more on our website.

holding hands in a lap

Care home residents to be allowed one regular visitor

Care home residents will be able to have one regular indoor visitor from Monday 8 March as part of the government’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions in England.

A single, named visitor can hold hands indoors with their relative or friend in a care home, and make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff and visitors safe. 

They will be tested prior to each visit and need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as avoid close contact, such as hugging. 

Outdoor, pod and screen visits will be able to continue in line with the government’s published guidance which has been in place during lockdown, meaning there will be chances for residents to see more than just the one person they nominate, if they want to.

Visiting is a crucial part of maintaining quality of life for residents, but it inevitably brings infection risk. Every home and every circumstance may vary, depending upon the risk of exposure to coronavirus on vulnerable residents and care home staff. So please check with the care home before visiting to understand whether visits are permitted right now, and what they require for a safe visit.

Please don’t let the preventative measures dissuade your visit. It’s vitally important to maintain contact with loved ones, and care homes are doing all they can to enable visits to happen safely.

Teacher in classroom

Schools prepare for return to face-to-face education

Schools and colleges in Devon will reopen for face-to-face teaching for all pupils from Monday 8 March and we are working with headteachers to ensure this will be done as safely as possible. 

Our schools are experienced at managing risk and are well practiced at keeping staff, children and their families safe in line with government COVID-19 guidelines. 

Alongside the range of protective measures introduced last year, the government has asked primary and secondary school and college staff to continue to take two COVID-19 tests each week at home. 

The guidelines also include offering all secondary school and college students three COVID-19 tests on their staggered return to the classroom following their first negative test result. The government has requested that students then take two rapid tests each week at home. There are currently no plans to carry out regular asymptomatic testing for primary school pupils.

Testing is voluntary and secondary school pupils and college students will not be tested unless they (if they are aged over 18) or their parent or carer has given informed consent.

The government has also advised staff and students in secondary schools and colleges to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained and as a temporary extra measure. They are also required to wear one when travelling on dedicated school transport, unless they are exempt. 

We know some parents and children will be feeling anxious about the return to face-to-face teaching. If you have concerns, please discuss these with your school or college. They will be able to explain the protective measure they are using to help keep everyone safe.

COVID-19 vaccine

People with learning disabilities prioritised for vaccines

People who are on a GP register for learning disabilities will now be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccination, following updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

It’s because they are at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus and need to be protected as soon as possible.

Those with severe learning disabilities are already included in the vaccination priority group six, while adults with less severe conditions have not been prioritised until now.

It means that at least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will be offered the vaccine more quickly, which is great news.

Devon Together newspaper front page

Second edition of Devon Together newspaper

We have teamed up with NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Devon and Cornwall Police to produce a second edition of a free newspaper, called Devon Together.

It’s filled with important news and information regarding the coronavirus pandemic in Devon, including how to get a vaccination and where our community testing centres are located.

We’ve included interesting interviews with people who have stepped up to become care workers during the pandemic, and with the Chief Executive of the Devon and Plymouth Chamber, who describes the challenges facing local businesses and the tourism sector.   

It’s been created to bring information about coronavirus to people who tend not to receive their news digitally. We produced a first edition last summer and were pleased with the feedback we received from residents who were unable to access news online and therefore rely on newspapers. 

We’ve published it with colleagues at Archant, and they’re distributing it over the next few via their newspapers, Royal Mail, and local supermarkets. 

Although it’s designed as a printed newspaper, there’s a digital version as well, however it may not be fully accessible to anyone using assistive technology such as a screen reader.

sad child looking out of rainy window

Psychological First Aid training

Public Health England (PHE) has launched a new free training course on how to provide practical and emotional support to children and young people affected by coronavirus, or other emergencies or crisis situations. 

The course aims to help people to better identify children that are in distress and provide support to help them feel safe, connected and able to take steps to help themselves.

The course is free and available for all frontline workers such as teachers, health and social workers, charity and community volunteers and anyone who cares for or is regularly in contact with children and young people aged up to 25, including parents and caregivers. You can sign up via the Future Learn website.

Polling station doors

Proxy voting in local elections for those self-isolating

Residents who need to self-isolate because they test positive for coronavirus or are identified as a close contact of someone who has, will still be able to vote in the upcoming local elections on Thursday 6 May through new emergency proxy voting measures.

The new legislation will allow anyone who is self-isolating due to COVID-19 to access an emergency proxy vote, up to 5.00pm on election day.

As usual, anyone can also secure a postal vote in advance of the May elections. The deadline for all postal voting applications is 5.00pm on Tuesday 20 April. Anyone who wants to vote by post is encouraged to apply to do so as early as possible and not wait until the deadline.

The government has published a plan setting out guidance on how the polls will be delivered in a COVID-19 secure and effective way. 

I've had my COVID-19 vaccine Facebook profile frame

Support the vaccine roll out via your social media

During the pandemic social media has been a vital tool for people to connect and share updates with their loved ones. And now the power of Facebook and Instagram is being used by the government and the NHS for people to show their support for the vaccine roll-out.

The Premier League, the Beano and much loved author, artist and illustrator Charlie Mackesy, have all helped create a range of specially designed profile frames and graphics for people to use on social media to say “I’ve had my vaccine” or make a pledge that “I will get my vaccine” when their time comes, as well as say thank you to the hard work of our NHS heroes.

To add one of the COVID-19 vaccine frames to your Facebook profile picture via a desktopgo to the profile picture frames page, search ‘NHS Covid Vaccine’ frames and select the one you want to use, then click ‘Use as Profile Picture’ in the bottom right of the screen to save.

If you’re using the Facebook app just open your profile and click your profile picture, click ‘Add frame’ and search ‘NHS Covid Vaccine’ frames and select the one you want to use, then click ‘Use as Profile Picture’ to save.

To use one of the COVID-19 vaccine stickers on your Instagram story, add a photo or video of your choosing, then tap the ‘add media’ button or swipe up to add stickers from GIPHY and search ‘NHS Covid Vaccine’ to scroll through the options and select a sticker you want to use, then position this on your story image or video and don’t forget to use the hashtags #CovidVaccine and #WeAreDevon when you post it.

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.

New Support Grants for Businesses Following 22nd February announcements.

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister on 22 February, the Government has confirmed the next round of funding to cover the period 16th February 2021 to 31st March 2021.  If you have already applied for a Grant from 5th January 2021 there is no need to re-apply.

Eligible businesses that qualified for the first grant for the period 5th January to 15th February will automatically be included in the next round of funding. We anticipate that the first payments will be made by Mid-March. The grant levels have been set as below:

For the period 16th February 2021 to 31st March 2021 (44 days)

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under:  = £2,096
  • For properties with a rateable value of £15,001 and less than £51,000: = £3,143
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51,000 and over: £4,714

Please do not contact the Council regarding the expiry of the time limited element of the business support grant as officers will not be able of offer any update; and are currently exceptionally busy processing business support grant applications.

Further information

Roadmap out of lockdown met with cautious welcome

COVID-19 Roadmap Spring 2021

Roadmap met with cautious welcome

The Prime Minister has announced a 4-step plan to ease lockdown in England.

The news has been met with a cautious welcome by Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health. He said:

“While all of us look forward to a relaxation of the national regulations, it’s vital that we continue to exercise caution.

“COVID-19 is an extremely infectious virus, and is still very much present in the community. Cases in Devon have remained relatively low compared to elsewhere in the country and we do not want to see cases rising again.

“As restrictions start to ease, we must therefore remain absolutely resolute in adhering to the national public health measures – keeping our distance from those outside of our household or support bubble, wearing face coverings whenever indoors in a public place, and washing our hands regularly.”

You can read more about what our Leader and Cabinet Member responsible for schools said about the government’s roadmap out of lockdown on our News Centre.

What’s the plan?

The government’s roadmap, which has been published in full on their website, outlines four steps for easing restrictions. MPs will vote on it in late March.

All the changes will be England-wide with no return to regional tiers. The only exception could be localised efforts if a new variant of the virus is detected, for example additional testing.

Although there are dates given for each step, the government has warned that they are subject to change as the plan will be guided by data rather than dates, so some stages of reopening could be delayed.

Before proceeding to the next step, the government will examine the latest data to assess the impact of previous steps. This is why there is a minimum of five weeks between each step – four weeks to collect and assess data and then a week for people and businesses to prepare for the next step.

The decision to move to the next step will be assessed against four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • The government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new COVID-19 variants of concern.
school children with hands up

Step one, part one – Monday 8 March

  • Schools open for everyone  all primary and secondary school pupils and college students will return to face-to-face teaching, with before and after-school clubs reopening.

    Secondary school pupils and college students will receive twice-weekly COVID-19 testing and wear masks in class. 

    Higher Education students at English universities on practical courses can also return.
  • Outdoor recreation – people can meet one other person from outside their household or support bubble for outdoor recreation such as a coffee or picnic on a park bench, in addition to exercise. (Children count towards this).

    However, people identified as being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ are advised to continue shielding until the end of March. 
  • Care home visitors – care home residents will be able to nominate a named visitor who can see them regularly provided they are tested and wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Everyone should still stay at home as much as possible. 

two women meeting sat on benches

Step one, part two – Monday 29 March

  • Outdoor gatherings – evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors, so from 29 March, when most schools start to break up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either up to six people or two households, socially distanced, will be allowed.
  • Outdoor sports – outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, can reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

The ‘stay at home’ order will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place.

Travel outside the local area is allowed, but people are encouraged not to go too far.

People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.

hair cut

Step two – no earlier than Monday 12 April

  • Non-essential retail – non-essential shops and personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons can reopen.
  • Outdoor hospitality – pubs and restaurants can reopen outdoor tables and beer gardens for households and groups of up to six people. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol and no curfew.
  • Indoor leisure facilities – gyms and swimming pools will reopen, but only for people to use alone or with members of their household.
  • Outdoor attractions – places like zoos and theme parks will reopen with social distancing rules and limits on outdoor mixing.
  • Holidays – self-contained holiday accommodation (including campsites), where indoor facilities are not shared with others can reopen for individuals and household groups only.
  • Public buildings – libraries and community centres can reopen with social distancing measures and no indoor mixing between households.
  • Life events – up to 15 people can attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes.

Step three – no earlier than Monday 17 May

  • Outdoor gatherings – most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted, although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
  • Meeting indoors – the rule of six or two households will apply indoors, both in public places and at home.
  • Hugging – the government will update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.
  • Indoor hospitality – pubs and restaurants will reopen their indoor areas. They will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, nor will there be a curfew, but customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated.
  • Indoor entertainment – venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas can reopen.
  • Holidays – the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can open.
  • Life events – up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions, funerals, wakes and other life events such as bar mitzvahs and christenings.
  • Exercise – indoor adult group sports and exercise classes can take place.
  • Businesses reopen – most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to reopen. In all sectors, COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and businesses may not cater for groups bigger than the legal limits. (30 outside and rule of six or two households inside)
  • Large organised events – sporting events, concerts, theatres and conferences can go ahead with capacity limits.
hug grandma

Step four – no earlier than Monday 21 June

  • Social contact – the government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact.
  • Businesses – remaining businesses such as nightclubs can reopen.
  • Life events – legal limits on the number of people attending life events such as weddings and funerals are lifted.
  • Large events – restrictions on large events and performances eased.
  • Holidays – international travel permitted.
rainbow over beach

For now…

As we move through each of these phases in the roadmap, we must all remember that COVID-19 remains a part of our lives.

For the time being, we are going to have to keep living our lives differently to keep ourselves and others safe.

For now…we must:

  • Carry on with ‘hands, face, space’.
  • Comply with the current lockdown restrictions.
  • Get tested when needed.
  • Get vaccinated when offered.

If we all continue to play our part, we will be that bit closer to a future that is more familiar. Carry on carrying on, and do it for Devon!

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.

All mapped out!

There’s a lot going on in Devon right now by way of coronavirus vaccination and testing centres, so Devon County Council and NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have created a map to show you what’s happening where.

The information is pulled together from various places, and includes hospital vaccination hubs, local vaccination centres, temporary GP vaccination clinics, large scale vaccination centres, and pharmacy vaccination sites.

You can also find your nearest community testing sites, NHS mobile testing units, NHS local testing sites and NHS regional testing sites.


Devon’s case number highest among 20 to 39 year olds, more cash for Devon’s most vulnerable and mobile testing units hit the road soon

No everyone with COVID-19 has symptoms, act like you've got it

In this update:

  • More cash for Devon’s most vulnerable
  • Devon’s COVID-19 cases highest among 20 to 39 year olds
  • New testing and vaccination centre map
  • Mobile testing units to be on the road soon
  • NHS vaccination programme enters a new phase
  • Community testing in Barnstaple
  • Thousands added to Devon’s list of clinically vulnerable
  • Beware of COVID-19 vaccination scams
  • Coronavirus home testing kits now easier to order
Elderly lady smiling at a picture on a phone with carer in mask stood next to her

More cash for vulnerable adults and children, health

This week we set our budget for the next financial year, with more money for those who have been most badly effected by the coronavirus pandemic.

We want to support the most disadvantaged and some 73 per cent of the budget spend is on the most vulnerable.

More than £37 million extra will be pumped into vital services with an additional £21.7 million for adult care and health and £11.4 million more for children’s services.

We’ve not only been thinking about the short-term pandemic but the longer term issues as well, in addition to how we are going to lead the economic recovery in Devon.

There will be £600,000 extra to tackle the county’s potholes and road drainage and a £600,000 hardship fund for residents who have been hard hit economically by the pandemic.

In total our spending will be almost £580 million in 2021/22.

You can read the full story on our News Centre. 

391 confirmed covid-19 cases in Devon 7 - 13 February

Devon’s cases highest among 20 to 39 year olds

Devon’s Director of Public Health, Steve Brown, focuses his message this week on the county’s younger working age population – the 20 to 39 year olds.

Cases of COVID-19 are generally continuing to fall across Devon, but that decline has slowed and we are seeing a levelling off of numbers.

Rates are currently highest among the 20 to 39 year old age group.

“We’re seeing the larger proportion of people testing positive in that younger working age group,” says Steve Brown.

“So I want to remind people not to be complacent. Not just when you’re in work, but also travelling to and from work.”

You can listen to Steve Brown’s message this week on our YouTube channel.

COVID-19 rapid testing kit

Community testing available in Barnstaple 

We’ve opened another community testing centre. This one’s in Barnstaple, in the car park at Taw View, Civic Centre,

Community testing centres offer the rapid ‘lateral flow’ tests for coronavirus that give results within the hour. They’re for people who have to leave the house to work or volunteer, and whose role brings them face-to-face with others.

People who are out and about and seeing others regularly because of their work are encouraged to take these rapid tests twice a week. It’s to help identify whether a person is likely to be carrying coronavirus, which sounds obvious, but only one in three people with the virus has symptoms and therefore might not know they have it and be spreading it without realising. 

If they test positive, they’ll need to self-isolate for ten days and let NHS Test and Trace know who they have been in contact with. If they test negative, they can continue their day while adhering to social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands regularly.

More of these testing centres are planned over coming weeks at locations across the county.

Map of coronavirus test and vaccination sites in Devon

We’ve got it all mapped out!

There’s a lot going on in Devon right now by way of coronavirus vaccination and testing centres, so we and NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have created a map to show you what’s happening where.

The information is pulled together from various places, and includes hospital vaccination hubs, local vaccination centres, temporary GP vaccination clinics, large scale vaccination centres, and pharmacy vaccination sites. 

You can also find your nearest community testing sites, NHS mobile testing units, NHS local testing sites and NHS regional testing sites. 

Visit our website to see the map and click on the individual icons to find out where something is. We’ll keep this map up to date as more locations are added. 

The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to be vaccinated

NHS vaccination programme enters a new phase

The latest data published by the NHS shows 342,397 people in Devon received a first vaccine dose between 8 December and 14 February. 

And from this week, tens of thousands more people across the county are being contacted inviting them to make an appointment for their first coronavirus vaccination, as the programme enters a new phase.

People aged 65 years old and over and those who are clinically vulnerable are now in line to receive the life-saving jab. Unpaid carers will also be offered the chance to get vaccinated if they meet the national criteria set out by the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations.

This next phase includes a large group of people so GP practices are urging their patients in this group not to contact them about an appointment. GP practices hold data about each of their patients who fall into these groups and will contact them directly to arrange an appointment.

People aged 65 and over can book a vaccination at one of the vaccination centres
using the national booking service and can choose from large scale vaccination centres or selected local pharmacy services. Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free, anytime between 7.00am and 11.00pm, seven days a week. For people who are unable to travel to a large site, or who would prefer to be vaccinated by their local GP, they don’t need to do anything – their practice will contact them directly to arrange an appointment.

Mobile testing unit at Middlemoor Exeter

Mobile testing units to be on the road soon

To enable us to get community testing to more areas in Devon, we’re using mobile testing units, which will be on the roads very soon.

We’ve trialled one of the mobile units today (Friday 19 February), with Devon and Cornwall Police at Middlemoor, Exeter.

It’s gone really well. Along with the fixed community testing centres, our mobile units will enable us to test the public in areas of Devon with the highest rates of coronavirus.

We plan to use the mobile units in Honiton, Exmouth, Axminster, Okehampton, Tavistock and Ivybridge, over coming weeks.

“These new mobile test centres will help us to offer more rapid COVID-19 tests in more locations to those who need it,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

man inside looking out of window

Thousands added to Devon’s list of clinically vulnerable

The government is advising an extra 1.7 million people in the UK that they need to shield from coronavirus because they’re considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable. They’ll be contacted by letter over the next few days, and their GPs are asked to prioritise them urgently for vaccination if they haven’t already had one. 

The NHS looked at data about people who have been really ill or died because of coronavirus and identified new groups at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch it. Extra factors, in addition to just health, included ethnicity, deprivation (by postcode), and people’s weight.

Previously, around 32,500 people in Devon (excluding Plymouth and Torbay), were categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable – and these residents were being advised to shield until 31 March 2021. Now an extra 5,700 people, under the age of 70, have been added to that list, and a further tranche of over-70s, who were not on the previous list, is expected to be announced soon. 

They’ll be invited to register on the National Shielding Support System as those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are entitled to ask for extra support if they need it. The new information will be given to local councils who’ll work with those people to determine what, if any, additional support they need.

temporary measures Queen Street Exeter

Temporary layout in Queen Street, Exeter

Temporary changes have been introduced to the road layout in Queen Street in Exeter. We’ve done it to encourage safe walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic as part of the government’s Active Travel Fund initiative.

The revised layout provides more space for pedestrians on the narrowest section, enabling social distancing to take place in one of the highest areas of footfall in the city. 

The temporary scheme was initially planned to coincide with the start of the academic year in January, but was deferred following the announcement of the current national lockdown. Although schools are not expected to return until next month, the new layout has been introduced while traffic levels are lower to give people chance to get used to the changes before students return to Exeter College and travel demand increases.

covid-19 rapid testing

Businesses can arrange their own testing programme

Testing is key to breaking the chain of coronavirus transmission, especially as around one in three people who have the virus don’t display any symptoms and may be unknowingly spreading it.

People who leave their homes to go to work or volunteer, and who are therefore in direct contact with other members of the public, are encouraged to have the quick ‘lateral flow’ coronavirus test (which provides a result within the hour) twice a week. 

Lots of workers are using our community testing centres, but some larger employers are making their own testing arrangements for their employees. The government is encouraging businesses that employ 50 or more people who cannot work from home, to take up the offer of rapid work place testing to help detect coronavirus in people who are not showing symptoms so they can self-isolate and help stop the spread.

An online portal has been launched to make it even easier for business to get involved and find out more about offering rapid testing in the workplace. All those who can work from home should continue to do so.

farmer standing in a field of crops looking at the sky

Extra support for farmers and other businesses

If you work in the farming industry there is still time to sign up to the latest free online mental health seminar being hosted by our trading standards service.

The next online webinar will be held on Tuesday 23 February at 6.00pm and will include speakers from the Gay Farmer Helpline, an accredited CBT therapist, Market Chaplin, Farming Community Network and Kingsbridge Young Farmers. Previous seminars aimed at the farming community are available on our website.

It follows the Farming Community Network (FCN) reporting that nearly half of all calls made to their helpline between July and October last year were related to mental health and 56 per cent of all calls last April related to COVID-19. 

Looking wider than the farming industry, extra support for businesses generally is available through the ‘Listening Ear’ service. We’ve developed it with the charity Devon Communities Together to provide small businesses with an experienced, impartial person to talk to about their general stresses and concerns caused by the struggle of running a business during the pandemic.  

If you would like to find out more about talking to our experienced Listening Ear volunteers, and book your session please visit the Devon Communities Together website, or contact or call 01392 248919.

how will you vote at the elections in May?

Voting safely at the elections

On Thursday 6 May 2021, residents in Devon will go to the polls to have their say on who represents them in the Devon County Council elections and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. There are also casual elections in some parishes and towns.

While the elections are not until May, plans are already being made to help you stay safe while casting your vote.  

There are a number of ways to have your say in the elections in May – you can vote in a polling station, by post, or by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf, which is known as a proxy vote.

If you would like to vote by post, now is the time to register using the Electoral Commission website.

vaccine fact check

Beware of COVID-19 vaccination scams

Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on Devon residents, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.

There have been reports of scammers calling to offer vaccination appointments at a cost or sending a text or email that directs the recipient to a convincing fake NHS website with a booking link.

Please remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is only available through the NHS and will be delivered free of charge for everyone either through your GP or a large vaccination centre. You can find out more about how you will be contacted about your vaccination when it’s your turn, on the NHS website

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips. 

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.

If you believe you have been the victim of fraud you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

COVID-19 home testing kit

Coronavirus home testing kits now easier to order

For those with sight loss, it can be challenging to understand and follow the procedure for COVID-19 self-testing without some help. So the government has introduced a number of new accessibility improvements to the home testing programme to make it easier to get tested.

NHS Test and Trace has been working in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to improve the home testing service for people with visual impairments, including an information line you can call to hear a recorded version of the instructions and a live video assistance service.

People who do not have access to the internet can now order home testing kits over the phone by calling 119, without needing an email address or any other digital requirement. 

You can read the full story on the government’s website.

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.

Don’t be stupid because of cupid, more cash if you’re struggling and businesses urged to help stop the spread with regular testing

Bending the rules costs lives

In this update:

  • Devon has lowest case rates, but don’t celebrate just yet
  • Calling all businesses in the Exeter area – help stop the spread!
  • Not too late for over-70s to get a vaccination in Devon
  • Stay local and #ExploreFromYourDoor this half term
  • More hardship cash for struggling Devon residents
  • Have you received your free school meals holiday vouchers?
  • Free online events to help business owners with their wellbeing 
  • Free PPE and support if you care for a loved one
The picture in Devon this week - 472 confirmed cases

Devon has lowest case rates, but don’t celebrate just yet

Devon has the lowest case rates of all upper tier council authorities in the country, with six of the county’s eight District areas among those with fewest cases of coronavirus. 

While that is good news, Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, says it is too soon for celebration. 

“Case numbers are continuing to fall in most parts of Devon, and that’s because people in the main are adhering to the national restrictions. 

“We have however seen a slight increase in cases in Mid Devon, although case numbers there are still low – and far lower than the national average. 

“But those Mid Devon numbers should be a reminder to show how easily cases can go up quickly as well as go down.” 

Listen to the latest update from Steve Brown on our News Centre

Many Devon cases are in the working age population, with outbreaks occurring in some workplaces. 

“Please don’t be complacent or drop your guard, either in the workplace or indeed travelling to or from work,” said Steve Brown. 

The reminder this week comes as the council is inviting local businesses in the Exeter area to encourage their workplace-based employees to use community testing centres to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Drive through community testing

Calling all businesses in the Exeter area – help stop the spread!

Community testing is a quick and convenient way for people who have to leave their home to work or volunteer to check whether they’ve got coronavirus (COVID-19). 

One in three people with the virus don’t know they have it because they show no symptoms. Taking these quick tests regularly identifies whether a person is likely to be carrying the virus.   

If it’s a negative result, people can continue their day remembering the vitally important public health measures – social distancing, wear a face covering when indoors in a public space, and washing hands regularly. 

If it’s a positive result, people must self-isolate for ten days and let NHS Test and Trace know who they’ve been in contact with. It’s to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which is an essential part of us beating this virus. 

The quick tests are ideal for workers and people who are having to leave their home and be in contact with others. People in regular contact with others are encouraged to take the quick tests twice a week. 

We’ve been testing people in the Exeter area, and we’re now calling on local businesses in the city to encourage their employees to take these quick tests too

Results are back with the person within the hour, so it’s really quick and it’s another way for us all to be doing everything we can to halt the spread of coronavirus. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Not too late for over-70s to get a vaccination in Devon

The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme is progressing well in Devon and is on track to meet the government’s target of offering everyone in the top four priority groups a jab by mid-February. 

Anyone over 70 years old or who is clinically extremely vulnerable and has not yet been vaccinated, is urged to get in touch with the NHS and book an appointment as soon as possible. You don’t need to have received a letter to book an appointment as long as you are in an eligible group

From today (Friday 12 February) until Sunday 14 February, Devon residents in priority groups one to four who haven’t had their vaccine, can call a special temporary phone number hosted by NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group on behalf of local vaccination services to arrange an appointment at a vaccination centre convenient for you within the next few days wherever possible.

The number is 01626 204920. It will be open 9.00am to 5.00pm on Friday 12,
Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 February ONLY. 
Calls are charged at your
normal rates and if all lines are busy, please leave a voice message and you will be called back. 

Alternatively you can use the national booking service anytime, or call 119 for free between 7.00am and 11.00pm seven days a week, to book an appointment at one of the large vaccination centres or the selected community pharmacies that are offering the jab. 

And don’t forget, even after you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccination, you still need to:

  • Follow national restrictions
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cover your face
  • Keep your distance
Explore from your door this half term

Stay local and #ExploreFromYourDoor this half term

Daily exercise has become an essential tool for helping everyone cope with life during lockdown, offering us important physical, mental and emotional benefits.

It’s February half term next week, and many of us will be taking a well deserved break from work, school and home learning and getting outside for some fresh air. But please remember to continue to stay local, avoid busy hot spots and follow the national restrictions to keep you, your household and Devon safe.

We live in a beautiful part of the world, but if the beaches or moors are out of reach, don’t be tempted to travel to visit, they will still be there to enjoy after lockdown.

For now, make the most of your village, town or part of the city where you live and share with us what you have discovered using the hashtag #ExploreFromYourDoor on social media.

man sat on sofa in shadow

More hardship cash for struggling Devon residents

new hardship fund is being set up for local people struggling with their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

We are allocating £600,000 in our 2021/22 budget to support people who need short-term emergency assistance.

This is on top of the £1 million that we made available in the current financial year.

The new cash will be split across Devon’s eight district councils, with each one responsible for considering applications and administering grants in their locality.

Our proposed budget for 2021/22 will be finally approved at the full council meeting on Thursday 18 February, and today our leader, Councillor John Hart confirmed he was proposing the extra cash is added to the budget.

cycleway sign

Measures introduced to support walking and cycling 

We were awarded £1.3 million from the Department for Transport to provide safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Many measures to do just that have been introduced or are proposed in areas across the county. 

Among them new crossings and improvements to shared-use routes in Newton Abbot; proposals for a new cycle path in Barnstaple linking to the Tarka Trail; plans to make the temporary pedestrian zone measures in Sidmouth permanent, and a new pedestrian and cycle crossing at Countess Wear in Exeter as well as other measures across the city. 

“It’s great to see excellent progress being made with the Active Travel schemes right across the county,” says Cllr Stuart Hughes, responsible for highway management.   

“Travel habits have changed over the past year with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and by improving our highway network with these schemes it’s making it easier for people to make short journeys on foot or by bike.”

lady video conferencing on laptop

Free online events to help business owners with their wellbeing 

“Running a business is stressful at the best of times. Running a business during a pandemic is even harder,” says Dr Louise MacAllister of Devon Communities Together. 

We and Devon Communities Together launched a project this year that gives business owners in Devon the chance to talk informally to an experienced volunteer about the pressures of trying to keep a business afloat during the coronavirus pandemic

It’s called ‘Listening Ear’. It doesn’t provide business advice as such, but it does give people the time to talk to volunteers – many of whom have run their own businesses – and to focus on themselves and their mental wellbeing. 

There are some free online events starting this month, with expert guest speakers talking about support opportunities and other ways to help people shape their business. 

“Your wellbeing is important to both your health and the future of your business,” says Dr MacAllister. “Talking to one of our Listening Ear volunteers is a way for you to prioritise your own mental wellbeing, especially when you may not feel comfortable talking to your friends and family.”

school dinner

Free school meals holiday vouchers

Families of more than 15,000 children across Devon currently receiving free school meals have been sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the February half term holiday.

It’s part of a £2 million programme we’ve organised to combat holiday hunger in Devon. More information about the scheme is available on our website.

If your child gets free school meals during term time because you are in receipt of certain benefits and you haven’t received a letter or email with details of how to claim your holiday vouchers yet, please get in touch by emailing or calling our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

lady sat in a chair reading a kindle

Books, reading, community and connection

New parents and carers who may be feeling isolated or struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic are being invited to join their local library’s new ‘Reading Friends’ scheme.

Libraries Unlimited, the charity which runs Devon and Torbay’s library services, is promoting the use of books and reading to help mental health. 

The scheme, which will run across all 54 libraries in Devon and Torbay, will see library staff chat one to one over the phone to parents and carers about books, magazine articles or news items. While reading is the focus, there’s no pressure to have read a particular book before the session, it’s about having time for social interaction and conversation. 

Once libraries reopen and social distancing is relaxed, Reading Friends groups will meet in person with toys and books for the children. Books will be delivered by Choose and Collect at local libraries, or downloaded as eBooks.

It’s also hoped to link up authors with the groups and individual customers, and to eventually develop a podcast from author events.

Anyone wanting to join the Reading Friends Group or find out more should email

gloves, face mask and hand sanitiser

Free PPE and support if you care for a loved one

Throughout this pandemic the people looking after loved ones who couldn’t manage on their own have been on the front line in responding to the challenges posed by coronavirus.

It’s estimated that there are around 130,000 unpaid carers in Devon due to the pandemic, although the true number is likely to be higher. And their role, often already exceptionally difficult before the coronavirus pandemic, has been made a lot more difficult given the restrictions, and the risk to themselves and their families.

Since last summer, we’ve been supplying carers with Personal Protective Equipment, (PPE), to help them carry out their caring safely. Lots of people are carers to their husbands, wives or partners within their home, and many are carers to people outside their home for their parents and other relatives, friends, and neighbours. So carers have needed to stay vigilant and extra careful when visiting people in other houses – careful not to catch coronavirus themselves, and careful not to spread it.

Gloves, aprons and face masks are the most common items of PPE requested by carers. There are other items, including visors, goggles and other things. We have stock available in our four main stores in Newton Abbot, Barnstaple, Exeter and Tavistock. 

If you provide unpaid care to a family member or friend, we want to make sure that you’re doing so safely. Free PPE is available to help you do that. You just need to fill in an online request form, and we’ll be in touch with you to arrange your collection from your nearest store.

Information, support and advice for people who care for others is also available from Devon Carers, a charity commissioned by Devon County Council and NHS Devon. Whether you are looking after an elderly, sick or disabled relative all or some of the time, or just providing a few hours a week emotional support for a friend with a learning difficulty or mental health problem – they are there to help you do it safely, confidently and effectively. Visit their website or call 01392 307720. 

stay safe online - know the signs

Keeping children safe online

The lockdown measures to tackle coronavirus mean we are all spending lots more time at home and are likely to be spending lots more time online.

There are huge benefits to being online in order to stay connected to family and friends during this period, but many parents and carers may feel concerned about the activities and content their children are accessing.

It is important to have regular conversations about staying safe online and to encourage children to speak to you if they come across something worrying online.

The government has published guidance and resources for parents and carers to help keep children safe from different risks online, including how to talk to your child about a range of online safety issues, setting up home filtering in a child-friendly way and setting up age-appropriate parental controls on digital devices, as well as where to go to get support and advice.

man in shirt sleeves working at a laptop

Bounce Back Loan borrowers given greater flexibility

Businesses that took out government-backed Bounce Back Loans to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic will now have greater flexibility to repay their loans.

‘Pay as You Grow’ gives borrowers the option to tailor payments according to their individual circumstances, including:

  • extending the length of the loan from six years to ten (reducing monthly repayments by almost half)
  • making interest-only payments for six months, with the option to use this up to three times throughout the loan
  • pausing repayments entirely for up to six months, meaning businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out. The option to pause repayments will now be available to all from their first repayment, rather than after six repayments have been made

The government says lenders will proactively and directly inform their customers of Pay as You Grow, and borrowers should only expect correspondence three months before their first repayments are due.

I'm getting tested now for you poster - Do it for Devon

Record number tested by NHS Test and Trace

More than 3 million people were tested by NHS Test and Trace this reporting week, the highest number ever in a single week.

In total, almost 21.8 million people have now been tested at least once since NHS Test and Trace was launched; that equates to a third of all people in England.

Of those people who took their tests in-person, at either a local or regional test centre, nearly all (97.6 per cent) received their results the following day, while the average turnaround time for home test kits was just 35 hours.

Not only are people able to receive a test result more quickly and conveniently, but the service continues to reach a high proportion of cases and contacts.

NHS Test and Trace has successfully reached 87 per cent of the people who received a positive test result, and 93.5 per cent of their contacts, making a real impact in breaking chains of transmission.

We’ve joined forces with NHS Test and Trace in a local tracing partnership, combining our specialist local expertise with the data and resources of NHS Test and Trace to go further in supporting people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and tracing their recent contacts.

If you start to display any of the symptoms of COVID-19 such as a:

  • new and continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • loss of, or change to, your sense of taste or smell

it’s vital that you arrange a test as soon as possible.

You can book a visit to a test site to have the test or order a home test kit if you cannot get to a test site. You’ll be told when booking your test where your nearest centre is. Book a free NHS test now or call 119.

International arrivals

How to quarantine when you arrive in England

The government has published guidance on what to do before and after you arrive in England, including staying at home or in a quarantine hotel and ordering coronavirus tests.

All passengers, no matter which country they have travelled from, are already required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure and must self-isolate on arrival.

And from Monday 15 February, if you arrive in England from a country on the travel ban list (sometimes called the ‘red list’) you’ll need to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel for at least 10 days. Before you travel, you’ll need to book and pay for your hotel room and two mandatory COVID-19 tests to take on day two and day eight of your quarantine stay.

If you’re coming from a country not on the banned travel list, you’ll need to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days and book two mandatory COVID-19 tests to take on day two and day eight of quarantining.

Tough new enforcement measures, including heavy financial penalties and potential jail time have been introduced for non-compliance. 

heart balloons

And finally… spread love, not coronavirus this Valentine’s Day

Love might be in the air this weekend, but remember, so is coronavirus! So if roses are red and violets are blue, remember don’t get too close, and keep that mask on too! Don’t be stupid because of cupid!

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.

Community testing programme launched, drive to combat holiday hunger continues and funding available to support communities

Stay home, save lives

In this update:

  • Community testing launched
  • Drive to combat holiday hunger in Devon continues for February half-term
  • New appeal to car sharers and people in the workplace
  • Celebrate what’s on your doorstep and #ExploreFromYourDoor
  • Funding available to help communities
  • It’s Children’s Mental Health Week
  • Over 10 million people receive first COVID-19 vaccine dose in UK
The picture in Devon this week

Latest situation on coronavirus in Devon

Coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers are continuing to fall in Devon, but they are still around the same levels now as they were at the beginning of December.

Cases are highest among the 20 to 39 year old age group.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said that while the fall in cases is good, we are still seeing the virus spreading in some workplaces, often attributed to car sharing.

If you must car share, our story below provides information about how to reduce risk to yourself and fellow passengers.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Brown also urged critical workers and people who care for others who are vulnerable to use the new community testing centres opening in Devon.

The first of 13 community testing centres opened at County Hall on Topsham Road in Exeter, last week.

Mr Brown said:

“We know that one in three people who have coronavirus don’t have symptoms at all, and while some people are involved in regular testing programmes in their workplaces, these testing centres are for people who aren’t otherwise involved in any testing programmes at all.”

There’s more about our new community testing centres in the story below.

Visit our YouTube channel for Steve Brown’s update this week on coronavirus in Devon.

COVID-19 rapid testing kit

Community testing launched to identify COVID-19 carriers who show no symptoms 

We’re launching a community testing programme to identify people with coronavirus (COVID-19) who are not showing any symptoms, and who are not already accessing regular testing. 

It’s using the rapid tests that give results in around 30 minutes. 

Tests are aimed particularly at critical workers and those in high-risk occupations who have to leave home to attend work, such as taxi and bus drivers or retail workers. 

They are also for people who are in contact with others who are vulnerable, such as carers. 

The testing is to identify any such people with the virus, so that they can be asked to self-isolate immediately, to prevent others from catching it. 

“We’re now calling on people to take the test to help protect others and to stop the spread of coronavirus,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

“We’re planning at least 13 community testing centres across Devon, and the first one opened this week at County Hall in Exeter. 

“Our booking system is open and we are encouraging critical workers whose jobs require them to work face to face with others, and people who care for others, to come forward.” 

The national advice is that front line workers and people who have regular contact with the public should be tested regularly twice a week. 

To book a test, or to find out more about community testing, please visit our website. 

Visit our YouTube channel to watch a video about our new community testing centre at County Hall, Exeter

groceries on a supermarket conveyor belt

Drive to combat holiday hunger in Devon continues for February half-term

More than 15,000 children across Devon will be receiving food vouchers over half-term as part of our £2 million programme to combat holiday hunger

Families of children currently receiving free school meals will automatically be sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the week-long holiday to replace the meals their child would have received during term-time. 

The vouchers – worth £15 a week for each child – can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon. Arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket. 

It’s part of our programme to combat holiday hunger over the Christmas, half-term and Easter breaks. 

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply online through our website to check if you are eligible as soon as possible.   

The quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through our website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact our education helpline on 0345 155 1019

More information about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme is available on our website

Car sharing advice

New appeal to car sharers and people in the workplace

Case numbers are coming down, but we’re still seeing positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in workplaces. 

It’s prompted a fresh appeal from Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, asking people at work, and car sharers in particular, to take extra precautions

“We’re still seeing cases spreading between work colleagues,” he said.

“It’s often not because of the workplace practices themselves, it’s more a consequence of social interaction between colleagues while at work. And in particular, the virus spreading between colleagues who are car sharing.”

One in three people don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus, and it can easily spread in the small enclosed space of a vehicle. So avoid car sharing with those outside your household or support bubble. Think twice before getting a lift to work with colleagues or taking a friend or relative grocery shopping or to a medical appointment, unless they are part of your household or support bubble. 

If you have to car share, please follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus:

😷 Everyone should wear face coverings

↔️ Sit as far apart as possible

🧍‍♀️ 🧍 Share with the same small group of people each time

💨 Open windows for ventilation

🖐Wash or sanitise your hands before and after your journey

🧼 Clean the car between journeys, paying attention to touch points such as door handles.

Explore from your door

Celebrate what’s on your doorstep and #ExploreFromYourDoor

We live in a beautiful part of the world and now is a good time to view your local area from a different perspective and enjoy what is right on your front doorstep.

Alongside our public sector partners, we’re encouraging everyone in Devon to stay local for their daily exercise and #ExploreFromYourDoor. Whether you live in a city, town or village, take time to appreciate the things you wouldn’t notice in the car and maybe discover something new about where you live.

We offer some useful resources to help you get outside in your local area:

  • Where will you discover? Use our public rights of way website and interactive map to plan a route. 
  • Our Explore Devon website is filled with some amazing walks, trails and sites to visit during lockdown on foot, bike or horseback; just remember to stay local for exercise.
  • If you live within walking or cycling distance of the seaside, why not discover the South West Coastal Path.
  • Get outside safely and search by activity and location using GetOutside from Ordnance Survey. Their website brings together current advice from the government, local authorities and other outdoor organisations to help you decide where to go and what to do.
  • Discover a great new way to get outside with your family with a treasure trail.
  • You can also find more cycle routes and trails, as well as other useful travel information at Travel Devon.

Whether it’s the first signs of spring, a new walking route or a spectacular sunset, we’d love to see what you have discovered, use #ExploreFromYourDoor on social media to get involved.

farmer standing in a field of crops looking at the sky

Mental health first aid training provides better support to rural businesses 

The farmers’ charity, Farming Community Network, reported last year that mental health accounted for nearly half of all calls to their support helpline. They said that coronavirus was one of the main causes of stress and anxiety among the farming community.  

In Devon, our Trading Standards officers have been running free online webinar events – the next one is Tuesday 23 February – bringing together support organisations and rural groups to promote mental health and wellbeing specifically for the farming community.  

It’s part of a wider project aiming to help rural businesses by highlighting the stigma surrounding mental health, and to help make people aware of support that is available to them. 

Now, our Trading Standards officers are being taught mental health first aid, to help them recognise signs of mental illness when they are out meeting business owners, so that they can then signpost them to help. 

“The importance of mental health and wellbeing and its impact on businesses and staff is as critical now as ever before,” said Mark Peacock, of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards.

“One of our priorities this year is to raise awareness, train our staff to identify the signs and help signpost our rural businesses to find help.” 

Please visit the Eventbrite website to book a place on a free online webinar. If you can’t make it, register anyway and you will receive a recording after the event.

Elderly couple having shopping delivered

Funding available to help communities 

We have money available to help provide valuable financial support to organisations working in communities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Our COVID-19 fund has grants of up to £700 available. The scheme aims to help voluntary and community groups tackle the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak and help those who are most vulnerable in their communities.

The funding can be used to address issues such as safe deliveries of essential goods and services to people who are isolating or vulnerable; supporting people to access online information and services; or starting virtual support groups to help people who are isolated to stay connected and to improve mental health and wellbeing.

For more information, including how to apply, please visit our website.

We're proud to support Children's Mental Health Week

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been tough on everyone, especially children and young people.

So, it’s more important than ever that we raise awareness of looking after children’s mental health, which is why we’re proud to support Children’s Mental Health Week.

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge recorded a video message marking the start of the week, and this year’s theme is Express Yourself, with many activities for children to get involved in.

Children’s mental health charity Place2Be is encouraging children to express themselves by doing something fun. From painting, writing or music, it’s all about doing something to help your kids feel good. Their free resources will help children and young people to explore what it means to Express Yourself. All of the ideas can be adapted for use in school, for home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning. 

If you’re concerned about the mental health of a young person aged 11 to 25 years old, why not check out Kooth? It’s an online mental wellbeing community that offers free and confidential mental health support to young people in Devon. Kooth has unveiled its “Don’t Do It Alone” campaign, designed to encourage open conversations around mental health so children and young people know they are not alone with their struggles. 

Door sign saying sorry we're closed, but still awesome

Updated guidance for employed people who can’t work right now

This week the government updated its guidance on what to do if you’re employed but cannot work

There are things that your employer can do – such as get a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant – to help them carry on paying you; and there are things that you might also be able to get, including New Style Jobseeker’s AllowanceUniversal Credit; and Pension Credit

There’s guidance if you’re off work because you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and shouldn’t attend work.

Or if you’re off work temporarily because you’ve got coronavirus symptoms or have been instructed to self-isolate.  

And there is guidance for people who currently can’t work because they’re caring for someone due to coronavirus

take care, refresh your air

Why is fresh air so important?

Making sure there is good ventilation in a room is something we sometimes overlook, but it’s one of the basic measures we should all be taking to reduce the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). 

When a person infected with coronavirus coughs, talks or breaths, they release droplets and aerosols which can be breathed in by another person. While larger droplets fall to the ground quickly, smaller droplets and aerosols containing the virus can remain suspended in the air for some time indoors, especially if there is no ventilation. 

Opening windows to bring in fresh air from outside is important. The more fresh air there is to breathe, the less likely a person is to inhale infectious particles. 

With roughly one in every three people with coronavirus not showing any symptoms of having it, it’s important to take every precaution, and remember that good ventilation is one of those measures. 

The government has updated the guidance on its website this week about how to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to be vaccinated

Over 10 million people receive first COVID-19 vaccine dose in UK

Thousands of people in Devon are being vaccinated every day as the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS gathers pace. And this week the government announced a significant milestone with more than 10 million people in the UK having received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s an important step towards hitting the Prime Minister’s target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups by the middle of February.

These top four groups account for 88 per cent of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths, which is why the vaccines will play such a crucial role in saving lives and reducing the demand on the NHS.

All vaccines being used in the UK have undergone robust clinical trials and have met the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.

The public has a vital part to play in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the government has called on people to:

  • help out: help those eligible for the vaccine by supporting friends, family and loved ones with their appointments, as well as volunteering to help those in the community
  • join up: sign up to clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, as well as treatments
  • stay informed: keep up to date with accurate and trusted NHS advice and make sure to share the facts with friends and family.

Remember, please don’t call your local hospital or GP practice about getting the vaccine – the NHS will contact you when it’s your turn.

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.

Devon’s case numbers fall, vaccination centre volunteers needed and calls for care workers to be better paid

Stay home, save lives

In this update:

  • Devon’s positive case numbers fall
  • Care workers deserve to be recognised and better paid
  • Current restrictions to remain in place for schools until 8 March 
  • Two Devon landmark venues become NHS vaccination centres 
  • Volunteers needed to help out at vaccination centres
  • Celebrities unite to dispel vaccine myths
  • We’re supporting the national NHS tracing programme
The picture in Devon this week - 556 confirmed cases

Positive case numbers have fallen, but we must continue to comply with rules

Devon has seen a fall in the number of positive coronavirus cases, across all age groups, Public Health Devon has confirmed.

“The current restrictions are helping to bring down the number of positive coronavirus cases in Devon,” says Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

“Devon residents are doing really well in adhering to the current lockdown restrictions, and we’re seeing evidence that their efforts are working. However, we must keep it up.”

This week Mr Brown described his concerns about the numbers of people testing positive in care homes, and of continuing pressure on hospitals. And while the NHS vaccination programme is going well, with more venues opening up to vaccinate more people, he says it’s important that we do not think that once we’ve had the vaccine, we can go about like normal.

“It’s essential that everyone, even including those who have received their first jab, continues to adhere to the lockdown rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Continue to social distance, wear face coverings when in public spaces, and wash hands properly and regularly.  

“And if you are instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you must do so.”

Mr Brown has recorded an interview in which he makes clear, ‘now is not the time to drop our guard’. You can listen to what he said via our News Centre.

Carer wearing PPE facemask, apron and gloves

Devon’s care workers deserve to be ‘recognised and better paid’

Devon’s care workers need to be recognised now for their vital contribution during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by being better valued and rewarded, said our Cabinet Member for Adult Health and Social Care, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter this week. 

Unless the government pledges more money to increase wages and improve opportunities for training and development, they will continue to be under-valued and Devon’s capacity to sustain vital care services will be put at risk, he said. 

Right now, more care workers are needed to provide care to older people and those with disabilities or mental health needs. 

There are currently approximately 1,500 vacancies for permanent care roles in Devon, and many other additional vacancies for temporary care roles due to coronavirus.

Cllr Leadbetter has tasked the council to help build a case, working with providers and other partners, to ask central government for more resources to better reward social care workers. 

“I believe care workers deserve better pay and conditions,” he said. “COVID-19 has laid bare, for all to see, the vital role care workers play in safeguarding vulnerable people. It’s opened the public’s eyes, and we all owe them a huge debt. 

“Social care work should be regarded as being on a par with the NHS, but it’s not. And like our NHS colleagues, care workers have never been under so much pressure. They are doing more than ever before and until they are paid more and further investment in training and development is committed, care work will always be considered the poor relation. And to me, this is unacceptable. 

“We need funding now to enable care providers to recruit extra skilled care workers during the pandemic.” 

You can leave home to get your vaccine

Two Devon landmark venues become NHS vaccination centres 

Two landmark venues in Devon opened this week as NHS vaccination centres, ready to vaccinate tens of thousands of local people in coming weeks. 

The Mayflower Grandstand at Plymouth Argyle Football Club’s Home Park Stadium, and exhibition and event venue Westpoint Exeter have offered their first booked appointments to people in priority groups. 

The Home Park and Westpoint Exeter sites mean thousands more vaccinations will be given every week in Devon and provide local people with a wider choice of options when they receive their invitation for an appointment. 

Anyone who cannot or does not want to travel to one of the sites can be vaccinated by their local GP service. Nobody needs to contact the NHS, as people will be invited when it is their turn and people cannot get vaccinated by just turning up. 

NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group created a short video about the Westpoint Exeter venue. You can watch it on You Tube.

Help deliver the vaccine

Volunteers needed to help out at vaccination centres 

With coronavirus (COVID-19) mass vaccination centres now open in Exeter and Plymouth, volunteers are needed to help manage patient flow and direct people. 

The volunteering itself is flexible – shifts are four hours long and there is no minimum commitment.  

Volunteers can choose their shifts and work more than one shift in a row if they want to.

The times of the shifts are 8.00am to 12 noon, 12 noon to 4.00pm and 4.00pm to 8.00pm, seven days per week. 

To register, fill in a simple application form online

school gate open

Current restrictions to remain in place for schools until Monday 8 March 

The Prime Minister said this week that schools and colleges will not return to face-to-face education for all pupils until 8 March at the earliest, but that schools, pupils and parents will be given at least two weeks’ notice to prepare for a return. 

Children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people will still be able to attend schools and colleges, including special schools and alternative provisions. Early years settings also remain open.  

Cllr James McInnes, Cabinet Member for Schools, said: 

“I think it was inevitable that a return to school immediately after half-term wasn’t going to happen with the spread of the more infectious strains of coronavirus. 

“We’ve now got a few weeks’ extra grace for this current lockdown to take effect and for the vaccination programme to ramp up. 

“In the meantime, I would repeat my sincere thanks to heads, teachers and school staff for the sterling efforts they are making to provide some continuity of learning and, hopefully for parents, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. 

“I would also repeat my call for school staff to be near the top of the queue for vaccinations once those in the highest priority groups have received their jabs.” 

screen grab of video

Celebrities unite to dispel vaccine myths

The rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and deaths among minority ethnic communities has been disproportionately higher compared with the white British population. 

But the results of a recent poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health suggested people in these communities are less likely to have the COVID-19 vaccine, raising concerns they are being targeted with misleading information.

So a group of celebrities, including actors Adil Ray and Meera Syal, cricketeer Moeen Ali, comedian Romesh Ranganathan, politician Sadiq Khan and presenter Konnie Huq have released a video appealing to black, Asian and ethnic minority communities in the UK to help address hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccine. 

It’s aimed at dispelling vaccination myths for those from ethnic minority communities and urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can watch it on You Tube. 

Be cautious even when you have had your vaccine

Please exercise caution, even after your vaccination 

The roll out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination is excellent news, says Devon’s Director of Public Health, but caution is still needed, he warns. 

Steve Brown said: 

“I’ve heard various heart-warming stories of gratitude from people in the first priority groups who have recently had their initial coronavirus vaccination – descriptions of the relief they feel, and the promise of getting back to a normal life.

“It is indeed excellent news, but we need to remember that the vaccination is just part of the solution, rather than the cure itself. 

“The vaccination protects those who have had it from becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.  However, there is no evidence yet to suggest that the vaccination stops a person from actually catching the virus, nor therefore prevents them from transmitting the virus to others. 

“Even when you have had the vaccination, you still need to follow the public health measures and continue to take steps to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. 

“That means, keep up with social distancing, wearing of face coverings when in public spaces, and washing your hands properly and regularly.   

“Please continue to stay at home and avoid unnecessary journeys out of the house. 

“Remember if you are identified as a close contact of a person who has tested positive you will still need to self-isolate for 10 days, even if you have had the vaccine. 

“If you’ve been vaccinated because you work in health or social care, you still need to be tested regularly to ensure that you’re not infectious, even if you show no symptoms.” 

man on phone in office

Supporting the national NHS tracing programme 

We’re supporting the national NHS Test and Trace programme, contacting people identified as having tested positive for coronavirus. 

Usually, NHS Test and Trace contact people who test positive to ask for information about who they’ve seen recently. It’s so they can instruct them to self-isolate for 10 days and take a test if they develop symptoms in order to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

But sometimes NHS Test and Trace can’t always make contact – maybe the person they’re ringing doesn’t answer, for example.

Now, local councils are helping. When attempts to reach a person have been unsuccessful for 24 hours, those cases are handed to local tracing teams run by councils to follow up. 

So, we’re following up on calls to people in Devon who NHS Test and Trace haven’t been able to reach. 

Our team will only call from one local telephone number, 01392 383500.  And they’re only making calls between certain hours of the day. 

Information about what they’ll ask you, and importantly what they’ll definitely not ask you, are on our website. 

vaccine fact check

Beware scam vaccine emails or texts

The NHS is warning people to be vigilant about fake invitations to have the coronavirus vaccination.

Scammers are emailing invites to people asking them to ‘register’ for the vaccine, and to provide their bank details.

The fake emails look as if they have been sent from NHS Test and Trace.

But no registration for the real vaccine is required, and the NHS would never ask for your bank details. The real vaccine is free.

The National Cyber Security Centre, and Action Fraud, are asking anyone who receives a scam email or text to report it.

test results

COVID-19 test result wait time improves

NHS Test and Trace has reduced the length of time it’s taking to get results back to people.

Turnaround now is similar to what it was early December, before the increase in tests over Christmas.

They say nearly 94 per cent of test results are returned the next day after the test, compared to nearly 85 per cent the week before.

There are 800 test sites now in operation, including 448 local test sites, and as of this month a fleet of 500 mobile testing units.


Latest findings in COVID-19 infections study 

The final findings of one of the country’s largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England have been published by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI. 

It provides a snapshot of the levels of infection in the general population between 6 and 22 January 2021. 

Infections have flattened, but they are at the highest level recorded by the study, with an indication of a decline at the end of the reporting period. 

Infection levels vary across the country, with the highest levels in London. 

Between 6 and 22 January, the national prevalence was 157 per 10,000 people infected.  In the South West, it was 87 per 10,000 people infected. 

Prevalence was highest nationally in 18 to 24 year olds. 

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

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.

Statement for Mayfair and Carnival 2021

It is with careful consideration and deep regret that, in light of recent increased cases of Covid-19 and uncertainty for future months with regards to the pandemic, we feel we have no option but to cancel Mayfair and Carnival for 2021. Again, this was a huge decision from the committee and was not made lightly. In this case, safety had to come first and so too does the education and well being of our young people and staff at our schools.

This decision has been made in conjunction with the school, whom we have closely liaised with over the last few weeks.

Clearly we hope that we will be meeting again in 2022 to be able to return to our normal celebrations.

From my position as Mayor, I am very sad to not have been able to experience Mayfair in this capacity, as I know how important this event is to the community of Great Torrington. However, we have all come together and I know our tradition will continue for many years.

Keeley Allin – Chair of the Mayfair and Carnival Committee