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CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon, confidential advice and support via ChatHealth and Exeter Chiefs’ Ollie Devoto helps bring a smile to young carers

His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, 10 June 1921 - 9 April 2021

Tributes to His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh

Earlier today Buckingham Palace announced that His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon and the Chairman of Devon County Council, Councillor Stuart Barker, have conveyed their condolences on behalf of the County of Devon. You can read or watch their tributes on our News Centre.

Arrangements being made throughout Devon will be shared on the website of Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Devon. 

Government COVID-19 guidelines mean physical books of condolence are unable to be opened in public places at this time, but residents wishing to express their condolences are encouraged to send a message to the Royal Family via the online Book of Condolence on the Royal website.

While people may want to gather to lay flowers and pay their respects, please be mindful of the current coronavirus restrictions and consider safer alternatives, such as making a donation to charity.

88 COVID-19 cases in Devon 28 March to 3 April 2021

Cases of coronavirus have continued to fall in Devon and remain below the national average. Rates are currently slightly higher in Mid Devon, and across the county they are highest in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon 
  • Further easing of restrictions on Monday 12 April
  • Face coverings in secondary schools and colleges to remain in place 
  • Care home residents can have two named visitors
  • Confidential advice and support via ChatHealth
  • Don’t be a selfish parker
barber

Further easing of restrictions on Monday 12 April

Earlier this week the government agreed that the next phase of easing the COVID-19 restrictions will go ahead as per their roadmap. That means from Monday 12 April, we will be able to do a little bit more

  • Non-essential retail can open, including personal care premises such as hairdressers, beauty and nail salons.
  • Hospitality venues will be able to open for outdoor table-service, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcohol, and no curfew, but you’ll still need to remain seated. 
  • Indoor leisure and sports facilities can reopen for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or support bubble.
  • Overnight stays away from home in England will be permitted and self-contained accommodation can also reopen so long as they are used by members of the same household or support bubble.
  • Public buildings, such as libraries and community centres can reopen. 
  • Most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts) can reopen and some smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds will be able to take place.
  • Care home residents will be able to nominate two named individuals for regular indoor visits.
  • All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance.
  • Parent and child groups of up to 15 people (not counting children aged under five years old) can restart indoors. 
  • Funerals can continue with up to 30 attendees. Weddings, outdoor receptions, and commemorative events will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees (in premises that are permitted to open). 
  • People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise domestic travel. International holidays are still illegal.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon said:

“With restrictions lifting, it is important that we continue to do all we can to control the coronavirus and keep the case levels low in Devon.

“So please be sensible and remember to continue with the hands, face, space and fresh air.

“Remember that social distancing rules still apply, as does the wearing of face coverings indoors in public places. 

“And while up to six people or two households of any size can meet, they can still only do so outside for now, so you must not socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with, or who is not in a support bubble with you.”

get a rapid flow test

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon 

Every adult in Devon is now being encouraged to take a quick COVID-19 test twice a week to help stop the virus spreading.

These type of tests, known as rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests, are for people who don’t show any symptoms of having coronavirus. One in three people with coronavirus do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus unwittingly. Rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately. They are easy, quick and convenient, and the results are usually available to you within the hour. 

There are lots of ways that you can get one of these tests in Devon, including:

Businesses can order them too, for their employees, and carers, personal assistants and frontline social care staff can order and collect testing kits at the same time as their PPE supplies. 

If the test is negative, you can carry on with your day while still following the public health guidance about social distancing and wearing face coverings. 

If the test is positive, you need to self-isolate immediately and arrange a confirmatory PCR test via the NHS. 

Remember, these rapid lateral flow tests are to be taken regularly if you do not have any symptoms of coronavirus. If you do develop and symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate and arrange a PCR test via the NHS.

pupil with facemask

Face coverings in secondary schools and colleges to remain in place 

The government has confirmed that face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school and college classrooms when students return after the Easter break. 

It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required to be worn in classrooms, or by students in other communal areas, at Step 3 of the roadmap, which will be no earlier than Monday 17 May. 

Those who are currently exempt from wearing face coverings, including pupils or staff who are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, will remain so. 

holding hands in a lap

Care home residents can have two named visitors

From Monday 12 April, care home residents can name up to two people who can come for regular indoor visits, either together or separately. 

Welcoming anyone into care homes inevitably brings risk of COVID-19 transmission. However, these risks can be managed and should be balanced against the importance of visiting and the benefits it brings to care home residents and their families.

Visitors should be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all other infection control measures (which the care home will guide them on) during visits.

Visitors and residents are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum, for example they may want to hold hands, but closer contact such as hugging increases the risk of transmission.

It is not a condition of visiting that the visitor or the resident should have been vaccinated. However, it is strongly recommended that all visitors and residents take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when they are invited to do so through the national programme.

Care homes can also continue to offer visits to other friends or family members through arrangements such as outdoor visiting, rooms with substantial screens, visiting pods, or from behind windows

Each care home is unique and will have developed suitable plans and processes to protect residents, visitors and staff, so please speak to them directly to find out more about visiting your loved ones safely. 

ChatHealth

Confidential advice and support via ChatHealth

We know that during these unsettling times parents, carers and young people may be worried about their health and wellbeing and unsure about how they can get the help they need.

Our local school nurses and health visitors are on hand with advice and support via a free and confidential text chat service called ChatHealth.

If you have a young person aged 11-19 years old in your household, please let them know they can talk to a Devon school nurse in confidence about a range of things including COVID-19, emotional health, relationships, bullying, self-harm, healthy eating, smoking, drugs, or any other concerns by texting 07520 631 722 between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday including during the school holidays.

ChatHealth is also available for parents and carers in Devon who have concerns about a child in their care or family health worries. Our health visitors can be contacted for confidential advice and support on mental health, child health and development, adjusting to parenting, sleep and feeding routines and family health by texting 07520 631 721 between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays)

Both services aim to reply to all messages within one working day and you should get an immediate response to confirm your text has been received. Texts will not be seen outside of normal working hours so if you, or someone you know, needs help before you hear back from the team, contact your GP, NHS 111 or dial 999 if it is an emergency.

Library interior

Libraries open for browsing from Monday 12 April 

Devon’s libraries are continuing to provide books and other resources, but from Monday 12 April, they will be able to offer more. 

  • Book browsing will be available in most libraries, and there will be free access to use library computers, bookable in advance. The exception to this will be at Salcombe library. Buckfastleigh, Chulmleigh and Bideford libraries will be offering Choose and Collect only at this time.
  • Mobile libraries will be back on the road, offering book browsing for one household at a time. 
  • The Home Library service will continue to run as normal.
  • And there will be an outdoor cafe and takeaway service at Exeter Library and The Hayridge in Cullompton. 

Libraries will maintain the two metre social distancing rule and hand sanitisation stations will be available. The number of customers allowed into the buildings will be limited and one-way systems to help the safe flow of customers through the libraries will be in place. 

For more information and opening times visit the Libraries Unlimited website.  

Don't be a selfish parker

Don’t be a selfish parker

With coronavirus restrictions easing we are now able to venture further from home and enjoy more of Devon’s beautiful beaches and countryside.

As popular beauty spots get busier, selfish and anti-social parking becomes a major frustration for many residents, so drivers are being asked to be kind and respect each other and make sure they park responsibly.

This includes not leaving vehicles obstructing pavements or blocking driveways, taking up more than one space or using designated bays they are not eligible to use. Most importantly drivers should be careful not to block access for emergency vehicles.

Our civil enforcement officers work hard to keep our roads and streets clear and safe for everyone to use. They ensure that local roads are kept clear so traffic can flow,  ensure that on-street parking is not abused so there’s space to park and that communities are not blighted by illegal parking. 

man standing at laptop

Recovery Loan Scheme launches

A new government-backed loan scheme has launched to provide additional finance to businesses as they grow and recover from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Recovery Loan Scheme will provide businesses with loans from £25,000 up to a maximum of £10 million. The government will provide an 80% guarantee for all loans and interest rates will be capped.

The scheme, which runs until 31 December 2021, will be administered by the British Business Bank, with loans available through accredited commercial lenders.

You can find out more, including how to apply, on the government’s website.

tick

Watch out… ticks about!

Now that coronavirus restrictions are easing and we can spent more time outdoors, it’s important to remember to be aware of ticks and the associated risk of Lyme Disease.

Ticks are small, spider like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including
people. They can vary in size, from as small as a tiny freckle to a similar size to a baked bean and are frequently found in moist areas with leaf litter or in longer grass like in woodland, glassland, moorland, healthlands and some urban parks and gardens. 

Most tick bites are harmless, but some do carry Lyme Disease, so it’s important to make sure you look and feel for ticks on you, your family and your pets after you’ve enjoyed outdoor activities and remove them promptly as evidence suggests the risk increases the longer a tick is feeding. 

You can try and prevent being bitten by ticks by walking on clearly defined paths, using insect repellent that repels ticks and by wearing light colour clothing so ticks are easier to spot on you. And if you have been bitten, look out for early signs of Lyme Disease, which include mild-flu like symptoms including a fever, headache, fatigue and a bulls-eye rash. 

If you feel unwell after being bitten by a tick, even when you don’t have a rash contact your GP or dial NHS 111 and remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or have recently spent time outdoors. 

There’s lots of useful information, including the best way to remove ticks, in this leaflet from Public Health England.

Exeter Chiefs Ollie Devoto with young carers

Exeter Chiefs’ Ollie Devoto helps bring a smile to young carers 

Exeter Chiefs’ star Ollie Devoto is a Devon Young Carers Ambassador. He’s currently hosting an online charity auction, giving sports fans chance to bid on a range of rare memorabilia, including signed players’ jerseys, boots and kit bundles. 

The online auction runs until Sunday 18 April, and the proceeds go to Devon Young Carers, a charity who we work with, that provides support to young people who care for others. For information about the online auction, visit their website

Ollie also surprised three rugby-loving young carers recently with deliveries of food boxes and family meals. His visit was caught on film, and their reaction is lovely.   

“I’m just so happy, I met my hero today,” said one young carer.  “I never thought that would happen to me.” 

Lets take this next step safely

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.

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon

Every adult in Devon is being encouraged to take a rapid, lateral flow test for coronavirus twice a week, and now they can do so in a variety of ways including through testing centres, workplaces, pharmacies, or home delivery.

The tests are fast and convenient, and results are usually available within the hour.

Rapid lateral flow tests are for people who show no symptoms of coronavirus – the new and continuous cough, high temperature, or change to their usual sense of taste or smell.  People with these symptoms should immediately self-isolate and arrange a PCR test via the NHS.

Regular testing of people who show no symptoms of having coronavirus is essential to help stop the spread of the virus.  One in three people with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, so regular testing helps identify those who are likely to have the virus, unknowingly.  

If they are negative, they can carry on with their day while still adhering to the public health measures, including maintaining social distance, wearing face coverings when indoors in public places, and washing their hands regularly.

A positive lateral flow test result means that the person is likely to have the virus, and they will be instructed to self-isolate and to arrange a confirmatory PCR test via the NHS.

From this week, Devon County Council is making lateral flow testing easier to access.  The Council has arranged mobile community testing in Ashburton, Axminster, Barnstaple, Bideford, Buckfastleigh, Crediton, Cullompton, Dartmouth, Dawlish, Exeter, Exmouth, Great Torrington, Holsworthy, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Ivybridge, Kingsbridge, Lynton-Lynmouth, Newton Abbot, Okehampton, Seaton, South Molton, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton and Totnes.

The service will stop in each community, at a specific location, twice a week on given days – please check devon.cc/testing for times, locations and dates near you.

Alternatively, people can collect home test kits from any of the council’s mobile testing sites, so that they can take the lateral flow tests at home.  Staff at the mobile testing sites can show you how to take the test if you’re not sure how to use the test kit.   

Home test kits can also be ordered from the NHS to be delivered to people’s home address, and they are available from NHS testing locations and pharmacies that are part of the Pharmacy Collect scheme.

Additionally some workplaces are offering testing to their employees either on-site or at home – and if you own a businesses with more than ten employees it is not too late to register.

Carers, personal assistants and front line social care staff can also order and collect testing kits at the same time as their PPE supplies.

Those who leave their home to work or volunteer and come into contact with people in the community, for instance carers and emergency service staff, are particularly encouraged to use the service.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“I encourage all residents without symptoms to get tested twice a week. There are now many ways to access testing to suit your particular circumstances either through home testing kits or mobile testing units.

“Testing is particularly important if you leave home to work or volunteer, or if you’re a carer for instance.

“If you test positive, you’ll be asked to self-isolate for ten days, and if you’re negative, you can continue your day but must social distance, wear a face covering when indoors in a public space and wash your hands regularly.”

If you do not have symptoms you can find where and when you can get tested near you by visiting devon.cc/testing.

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon: Mobile test

A plea to respect each other, getting help if you need it over Easter and a thank you to those who care

19 - 25 March 135 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Devon

Positive cases of COVID-19 in Devon have remained relatively stable over the last week, but we’re seeing some outbreaks, particularly at indoor workplaces. Rates are still slightly higher in East and Mid Devon and highest across the county in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • Respect each other and local communities
  • Continue to take your lateral flow tests during the Easter holidays 
  • Care providers and staff thanked for their efforts during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Getting the help you need this Easter weekend
  • Do you want to re-home items you don’t use? Join Tuesday Tables
Walkers on Dartmoor

Respect each other and local communities

Just days ahead of a long Easter weekend, this easing seems a natural opportunity for people to get together outdoors.

We all no doubt want to catch up with others this weekend, and the relaxation of restrictions now allows up to six people, or two households of any size, to meet up outside – in the garden for example – while adhering to social distancing and good hand hygiene.

But please let’s be cautious, otherwise we place ourselves, our families and friends at risk. 

“If you choose to meet up, please continue to stick to the public health guidance: keep two metres apart and wash your hands regularly,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

“And if you’re having a BBQ with people you don’t live with, then don’t share cutlery, and try and avoid using the bathroom. We know the virus transmits really well indoors so staying outside and keeping two metres apart is absolutely crucial to reducing transmission.”

Easing out of lockdown restrictions can be an anxious time for many, and it may take a while for people to get used to it. Steve is also asking people to look out for each other. He said: 

“These last 12 months, with successive periods of lockdown, have been extremely difficult for everyone, and I know that many people will find the prospect of coming out of restrictions daunting. Habits and routines, now common place, take a while to change again.

“So my ask to all Devon residents is to look out for each other, take your time and be responsible. And if you are out and about, please respect each other and local communities, be conscious of the impact your actions have on others and on the environment – park responsibly if you’re driving, and take your litter home with you.”

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

The Ordnance Survey website has guidance on how to get outside safely during COVID-19 and suggestions for activities, by location, including links to our very own Explore Devon website for walking and cycling ideas

With many of us planning to pull on our walking boots, it’s timely to remind ourselves of the Countryside Code, making it easier for visitors to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors.

stay outside

Stay outside when meeting others to reduce the spread of coronavirus

As the rules around social contact change, it is important to consider why the restrictions are being eased in a certain way.

Step one of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown is now underway with up to six people or two households of any size now able to meet outside and outdoor sports resuming. It’s exciting after so many weeks of lockdown, but please don’t be tempted to meet indoors as the risk of spreading the virus is significantly higher inside.

This is because the closer you are to people, the greater the risk of breathing in infected particles, particularly when indoors, as it is harder to physically distance. Outside there is more room to distance, reducing the risk of breathing in larger particles from an infected person.

When indoors, smaller droplets and aerosols containing the virus can remain suspended in the air for some time, especially if there is no ventilation and therefore build ups are more likely to be inhaled by others, but when outside in fresh air, the virus disperses more easily. 

It is also important to remember that while the requirement to stay at home has also been lifted, the advice is to minimise travel. Overnight stays away from your own home are still not permitted including over the Easter weekend. 

Those who have had a vaccination must also continue to follow the rules. The full impact of the vaccine on transmission of the virus is not yet known, therefore it may be possible to spread the virus, putting others at risk.

Public Health England has published a blog about protecting ourselves and each other as we move out of lockdown.

COVID-19 test

Continue to take your lateral flow tests during the Easter holidays 

Rapid COVID-19 tests (known as lateral flow tests) for people without symptoms of coronavirus are important because they help identify those who could be transmitting it unknowingly so they can self-isolate and help stop the spread.

Secondary school pupils, college students and staff working in all education settings have been taking these tests regularly, and everyone else in their household or support bubble has also been encouraged to take the tests twice a week. 

Even though schools and colleges are closed for the Easter holiday, please continue to take your lateral flow tests twice a week and report your results.

If you test negative it means that you’re unlikely to have coronavirus and you can get on with enjoying your day while still adhering to the guidelines on social distancing, face coverings and regular hand washing. Or, if you test positive, stay at home and self-isolate so you don’t infect anyone.

Students returning to school or college for the summer term will also need to remember to take a test either the night before or the morning of their first day back. This is to find and isolate any positive cases.

Think 111 First

Getting the help you need this Easter weekend

The NHS in Devon is reminding people how to access health services and get the care they need this Easter weekend.

The long bank holiday traditionally puts extra pressure on health services when most GP practices are closed and more people are outdoors enjoying everything Devon has to offer.

Most GP practices will be closed for the four days of Easter from Friday 2 April to Monday 5 April, with normal opening hours resuming on Tuesday 6 April.

For urgent advice over the long weekend people are encouraged to ‘Think 111 First’ and contact NHS 111 from anywhere, either by phone or online, any time of day or night.

If you need further care or medication, NHS 111 advisors will direct you to the most appropriate service. They can book you in for an appointment at your nearest Minor Injury Unit or Urgent Care Centre. If you need emergency care, they will arrange for you to be seen at a local Emergency Department and will ensure that staff in the department are expecting you and will see you as quickly as possible.

Carer wearing PPE facemask, apron and gloves

Care providers and staff thanked for their efforts during COVID-19 pandemic

This week Jennie Stephens, our Chief Officer for Adult Care and Health, paid tribute to all those involved in providing adult social care services in Devon. 

“As we reflect on the year since the first lockdown in response to the pandemic, I’d like to pay tribute to all those involved in providing adult social care services in Devon, especially those working in care homes – and delivering care in people’s homes – who have done everything they can to keep residents safe and enjoying the best quality of life they can in the circumstances,” she said. 

In her message, she says that the take-up of vaccine by care home residents and adult social care staff in Devon has been comparatively very high. And that while vaccination offers a good level of protection against serious disease, it is not failsafe. 

‘It is important we all maintain good practice in infection prevention and control in our working and home lives,’ she says. 

You can read the full message from Jennie Stephens on our News Centre

children playing outside

Free holiday time activities and meals for children

Children and young people are being invited to attend holiday-time activities, which include free healthy meals, this Easter. 

We are coordinating the activity programme, working with activity providers in locations across Devon as part of a national initiative funded by Department for Education.

Children and young people, aged between 0 and 18 years old who are eligible for the free places, are being contacted by schools and support providers. The full list of activity providers, locations, times and contact details for the providers in order to book places, can be found on our website.

Shielding advice ends 1 April

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are no longer advised to shield

The government has advised that clinically extremely vulnerable people are no longer advised to shield and can now follow the same national restrictions as the rest of the population. This is because cases of COVID-19 have fallen considerably since shielding measures were introduced in January, and over 30 million people have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Updated guidance about extra precautions you can take to protect yourself while the virus is still spreading in our communities has been published on the government’s website. It provides practical steps that cover things like socialising, travel and going to work and school. These are not rules but advice, so you can choose whether you wish to follow them or not, but we urge you to take care to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus. 

Shielding has not been easy, so as well as taking care of your physical health it is important to look after your mental health. The Every Mind Matters website has advice and practical steps that you can take to support your wellbeing and manage your mental health during this pandemic and beyond. The Let’s Talk Loneliness website also has a variety of tips, advice and further resources that you may find helpful.

home COVID-19 test kit

Workplace testing programme expands to offer free rapid home testing

In the next major push for the government’s workplace testing programme, all employers will now be able to offer their employees free, rapid and regular testing that can be taken at home.

From Tuesday 6 April, the government’s workplace testing programme will supply home lateral flow test kits to companies with over 10 workers where it is not possible to set up testing on-site, due to a lack of space or because companies operate across multiple sites.

Employers with fewer than 10 people can continue to access regular testing through our community testing sites.

Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing, so regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Businesses are encouraged to register before Monday 12 April in order to access free tests until the end of June, even if they’re not yet open or are not able to start using the tests straight away.

COVID-19 vaccination

30 million people receive first COVID-19 vaccine dose

More than 30 million people in the UK have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the NHS prepares to administer millions of second doses in the coming weeks.

Around 57% of adults have received their first dose, which includes over 96% of people aged 60 years old and over. Everyone over 50 years old or those who are clinically vulnerable are urged to come forward for their vaccine as soon as possible.

As the drive to vaccinate people with second doses accelerates the total number of jabs administered overall is now more than 33 million.

Around 6% of the adult population have had their second doses so far and there will be a strong push over the coming weeks to give people their second jabs in line with the 12 week dose interval.

The rollout is continuing at pace and the UK is on track to achieve the Prime Minister’s target of offering all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable their first vaccine by 15 April, as well as all adults by the end of July.

Tuesday Tables

Do you want to re-home items you don’t use? Join Tuesday Tables

The coronavirus lockdown has given many of us the chance to sort out those long forgotten corners of the loft or garage and have a good de-clutter ready for Spring. 

And now communities across Devon have the chance to rehome those every-day items they no longer need simply by leaving them outside their front door every Tuesday, starting from 6 April.

The new initiative is called ‘Tuesday Tables’ and is part of Recycle Devon’s commitment to help residents reduce the amount of waste they throw away.

It encourages people to pass on items they no longer need so that they can be used by someone that may benefit. All you have to do is put things you don’t want any more on your doorstep, in your front garden, or on your driveway every Tuesday – and let people know that you are taking part in ‘Tuesday Tables’. You can either display a makeshift sign saying FREE or you can download, print off and display one of the signs available on the Recycle Devon website.

Because coronavirus can be transmitted on hard surfaces, please quarantine items for three days in a garage or a box before the event to help keep everyone safe. 

Please make sure that any items you leave for collection are not broken, dirty or potentially dangerous and are not on the pavement or road. And at the end of the day bring in whatever is not taken and maybe try a local Freecycle or Freeagle group, or list items as ‘free’ on Facebook marketplace or Gumtree – you will be surprised what people will come and collect when it’s free. If your road or local area has a social media group this is a great place to share which roads are taking part to build local interest.

For more information please visit the Recycle Devon website.

Lets take this next step safely

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.

If you’re eligible then get your vaccination now, Devon’s decline in positive COVID-19 cases slows, more people can access rapid tests and a warning to visitors

126 confirmed covid19 cases in Devon during week 13 to 19 March

Coronavirus cases continue to fall nationally, but are still above the levels seen last summer and early autumn.

In Devon cases have been falling over recent weeks, and continue to be below the national average, but that rate of decline has slowed.

Case rates are slightly higher in Eastern and Mid Devon and currently highest across Devon in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • We’re going to have to learn to live safely with COVID-19
  • If you’re eligible then get your vaccination now
  • We will give visitors a warm welcome when the guidelines allow, but not before
  • Childminders and foster carers have access to regular testing 
  • £30 supermarket vouchers to help families buy food over the Easter holidays
  • Plymouth midwife reassures women the COVID-19 vaccine is safe
  • A year living with coronavirus and our message of thanks and hope
sanitising hands

We are going to have to learn to live safely with COVID for the foreseeable future

This week Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said that we are all going to have to learn to live safely with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, and that a key part of that is for us to keep the infection rates as low as possible.

In just a few days, if the current national data supports it, England will see the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“As of Monday 29 March, up to six people or two households of any size are able to meet, but only outdoors,” said Steve Brown.

“Organised outdoor sports and leisure will also be permitted, but remember, you should keep your travel to a minimum. Please continue to maintain your social distance, wear your face coverings when you’re indoors in a public place, and remember to wash your hands frequently and properly.”

Steve also urged people who are not showing symptoms of coronavirus and are in contact with others, especially families or households with school or college age students, to take up regular testing.

You can watch Steve Brown’s full message on our YouTube channel.

Aged 50 or over? Now it the time to book your COVID-19 vaccination

If you’re eligible then get your vaccination now while there are thousands of spaces

More than half of people aged 16 years old and over in Devon have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and now those who are eligible are being urged to book an appointment before the end of March while there are thousands of spaces
available.

Everyone aged 50 years old and over, people with underlying health conditions and health and care workers are among those being encouraged to book an appointment for a first dose before the vaccine supply constraints begin in April.

If you’re not sure if you are eligible for a vaccine at the moment you can use the information on the NHS website to check before booking.

Most people who are clinically vulnerable will have been contacted by their GP practice in recent weeks, so if you are in this group and haven’t had your vaccine yet or booked an appointment please do so as soon as possible. 

Making an appointment is simple. You can use the National Booking Service via the NHS website or by calling 119 to get an appointment at large vaccination centres or the selected community pharmacies that are offering the jab. Or, if you’ve been invited by your GP, please respond to book and attend while there are still plenty of spaces available.

If you use the online national booking system remember to click on the ‘confirm’ button which will finalise your booking. You should then receive an email confirming the details of your appointment.

Existing appointments for first and second doses of the vaccine are not being cancelled and it’s really important that you attend any booked appointments as planned. There is enough vaccine for everyone who is due a second dose to get it. 

From Monday 29 March you can gather with either 2 households or up to 6 people outdoors

What can I do from Monday 29 March?

The next key date in the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown is just a few days away now.

The government said these key dates were no sooner than’ dates, depending on the latest data at the time. So, subject to the data, the changes we can expect from Monday 29 March include: 

  • Outdoor gatherings, including in private gardens, of up to 6 people (the Rule of 6) or two households of any size, will be allowed. 
  • The ‘stay at home’ rule ends on Monday 29 March, but many restrictions remain in place. People should still continue working from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible. 
  • Travelling abroad is still a no-go, for all but a few permitted reasons. Holidays abroad are not allowed. 
  • Tennis courts, basketball courts, open-air swimming pools and other outdoor sports facilities can reopen. People can take part in formally organised outdoor sports. 

That’s it for now. The next milestone after this one is Monday 12 April when, data permitting, we can expect non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries, gyms, outdoor hospitality venues, holiday lets and more to reopen.

busy beach

Visitors asked not to travel too soon and to respect local communities

We will give visitors a warm welcome when the guidelines allow, but not before.

That’s the message from us and other authorities across the South West who have joined together to warn people against travelling to the region too soon before further lockdown measures are due to be relaxed on Monday 12 April.

Under the government’s roadmap, Monday 12 April is the earliest date outdoor attractions and self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, are allowed to open. Until then, many facilities, shops and hospitality venues will not be fully open with food and drink only available from essential shops or takeaways.

Visitors are being warned it is illegal and could be dangerous to travel before the government restrictions are lifted. With Easter approaching, there are fears a minority of tourists might be tempted to travel early and before facilities are ready or attractions are open. This false start to the tourist season would risk spreading coronavirus and put unnecessary extra strain on the emergency services.

Keri Denton, our Head of Economy, Skills and Enterprise, said:

“After all our hard work to keep COVID-19 cases in Devon so low we do not want to risk things now.

“We ask everyone thinking of coming to Devon after Monday 12 April, to behave responsibly and make sure you book the sort of accommodation and experiences you can enjoy safely in advance.

“We also ask potential visitors, as well as our own residents thinking of travelling within Devon, to take extra care and to show our local communities respect and courtesy. This includes the simple things like parking responsibly, respecting the countryside and taking litter away.”

The government’s full timetable for reopening after lockdown can be found on their website.

pupils in a classroom

Support for return to school in Devon

We’ve set up a special fund to support children having difficulties returning to school.

The £1.9 million fund is being financed with government cash to tackle the effects of the pandemic.

More than 95 per cent of children were back in school in Devon at the end of the first week of full opening which is really positive and reflects that seen in a normal year.

But some children with additional needs who, for example, might have been shielding throughout the pandemic, are feeling particularly anxious about returning to school and may require extra support.

Devon County Council’s Head of Education, Dawn Stabb, said:

“We wanted to be able to provide extra, short-term support that we might not otherwise have been able to afford when schools or our own staff refer them to us.

“This financial support means that if a child is suffering from anxiety or with emotional, health and wellbeing difficulties then we can provide that extra help.

“This might include for example, some sessions with a youth worker, ensuring counselling is available or supporting their school to provide a personalised curriculum for a short time. This can all support their return to school.”

child reading a book

Childminders and foster carers have access to regular testing 

The sorts of people now encouraged to routinely take up the rapid coronavirus tests – that give results within the hour – is growing. 

If you are a childminder, foster carer, bus driver who drives children to school, or you work in a before-school breakfast club or provide after-school childcare, you can access the rapid lateral flow COVID-19 tests.  

The following people in England now have access to regular rapid lateral flow COVID-19 testing:  

  • Secondary school pupils and college students  
  • Staff of primary and secondary schools, nurseries and colleges  
  • People who live with or look after children at pre-school or nursery, primary and secondary school and college  
  • People who live with or who care for staff who work in nurseries, primary and secondary school and college  
  • And anyone who works in professions related to childcare and schools, including childminders, foster carers, breakfast club and after-school club workers, and drivers of children to school or college.  

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“If you’re not doing so already, I urge you all to take up lateral flow tests twice a week.”

You can find out more about rapid lateral flow COVID-19 tests and who can access them on the government’s website.

get a rapid flow test

How do I get a rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test in Devon? 

Rapid COVID-19 tests can be taken at home using home test kits, available online from the NHS or to collect from NHS testing sites.  

Home test kits are not yet available from our Devon County Council community testing sites – we’ve applied to have them available to collect from our testing sites, and we’re waiting to hear from the government.  

Alternatively, people can come to any of our community testing sites to take the rapid test. They’re really quick and easy and we’ll get the result back to you within the hour, by email and text.  

“These rapid tests are for people who don’t show symptoms,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

“Routine testing like this is identifying people who are coronavirus positive, even though they showed no symptoms.   

“Identifying them, so that they self-isolate, means they are not walking around with the virus giving it to other people.    

“With more people now being regularly tested, we’re likely to see more positive cases being identified.  But that’s a good thing if it stops those people giving it to others.” 

The government published a new ‘step-by-step’ guide for COVID-19 self-testing, this week.  

claim your free supermarket vouchers before they expire

£30 supermarket vouchers to help families buy food over the Easter holidays

More than 15,000 children across Devon will be receiving free supermarket vouchers ahead of the upcoming Easter school break as we continue to work to combat holiday hunger. 

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

The vouchers – worth £30 (£15 per week for each child) – can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon. Arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket. 

We also issued supermarket vouchers for the Christmas and February half term breaks, but some vouchers from February half term remain unspent. Families are urged to check their vouchers and redeem them as soon as possible before they expire and get in touch with our free school meals team if you were expecting to receive a voucher but didn’t. You can email freeschoolmeals@devon.gov.uk or call 0345 155 1019

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 for this support as soon as possible. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision. You can also call 0345 155 1019.

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

man at window

Shielding advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable to stop from Thursday 1 April

More than 52,000 clinically extremely vulnerable people in Devon will be told they are no longer advised to shield from Thursday 1 April 2021 as coronavirus infection rates continue to fall across the country. 

In line with the government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 roadmap, those on the shielded patient list will begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population, but are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe. 

The government will send you a letter with updated guidance on practical steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching the virus, including continuing to maintain strict social distancing and keeping your overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible. If you have already registered for priority access to supermarket delivery slots, these will continue until Monday 21 June 2021.

More than 9 in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable people have been vaccinated with a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are aged 16 or older and have been advised you are clinically extremely vulnerable and have not yet been offered your first dose, please contact your GP as soon as possible to arrange an appointment.

If you have received your first dose, you should still ensure you take up your second dose of the vaccine when it is offered to you as having two doses should further increase your level of protection.

No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, so even if you have had both doses, there is still no absolute guarantee that you will not become ill if you catch coronavirus. Therefore, you should continue to follow the national rules and take the extra precautions set out in the government guidance to help protect yourself as much as possible.

You may be feeling anxious about the national shielding programme ending and that’s completely understandable. Take your time, there’s no rush. It’s important to share any concerns with those closest to you and remember that the friends and neighbours who have helped you over the year are still your friends and neighbours even after the shielding ends, and they are still there for you.

Everyone has gone to a huge amount of effort over the last year to help protect each other and stay safe and well, so as we enter the home stretch, please keep up the kindness. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Make getting your vaccination a priority when it’s your turn

Vaccine take up in Devon has been very good so far – nine out of 10 people aged 65 years old and over have already had their first dose.

But we know that as we get down the priority groups, to people of working age and with younger families still at home, pressures and busy lifestyles might make it a little more difficult to find time to get vaccinated.

Please, consider it a priority. Getting vaccinated not only protects you from becoming ill with coronavirus, but it also protects your family and friends by reducing the likelihood of transmission.

The NHS has published information that explains more about the COVID-19 vaccine and how safe it is.

pregnant woman sat in armchair

Midwife reassures women the COVID-19 vaccine is safe

The NHS in Devon is reassuring women that having the COVID-19 vaccination will not impact their ability to have a family and is encouraging health and social care workers to take up the jab.

More than 87 per cent of frontline health and social care workers in Devon have had their first dose of the life-saving vaccine. However, some female staff have been hesitant and highlighted concerns caused by misinformation circulating about fertility.

University Hospitals Plymouth Acting Head of Midwifery, Charlotte Wilton is among those offering reassurance and has recorded a message which you can watch on You Tube. She says:

“The vaccine works by travelling to your lymph glands and then is disposed of within a couple of days by the body. There is no mechanism by which the coronavirus vaccine can affect your fertility either now or in the future.”

One of our social workers, Laura Boyle, is 33 years old and hopes to have another child. She says she had no hesitation in taking up the vaccine:

“I don’t have any doubts in my head that it’s not safe. We have so many vaccines throughout our lives. Women have the flu and whooping cough vaccine routinely in pregnancy. I wasn’t worried that the coronavirus vaccine would have any impact on my future fertility.”

Public Health England has published a guide to the COVID-19 vaccination for women of childbearing age, those currently pregnant or breastfeeding.

self isolation support package graphic

Are you eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment?

The government has updated its guidance about claiming financial support if you’re told to self-isolate. 

If you have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, and you’re eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment or a discretionary payment, you will receive £500 in addition to any benefits and Statutory Sick Pay that you currently receive. 

You are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment if you live in England and meet the government’s criteria

If you are a parent or a guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate by their education setting or by NHS Test and Trace, and you are therefore unable to attend work due to childcare responsibilities, you might also be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment, if you meet the government’s criteria

The government’s website tells you how to apply

rainbow over a spring field

A year living with coronavirus and our message of thanks and hope

Earlier this week we marked a year since the Prime Minister announced the first national coronavirus lockdown and we were told to stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.

Tuesday 23 March 2021 was named a National Day of Reflection by the end of life charity, Marie Curie, and offered a moment to stop, catch our collective breath, and remember.

Like everywhere, many of us in Devon have had a painful year due to grief, sudden changes to employment or the stresses of our own personal circumstances. 

None of us expected that 12 months later we would still be living with coronavirus. It’s been a long journey, and it’s not over yet. But while is has been extremely difficult for a lot of people, some good things have come from the changes we have had to make in our lives. We sent you a special email looking back over some of positive things that have happened in Devon during the coronavirus pandemic. 

If you missed it you can find a copy on our website, along with an archive of all our previous emails.

Government graphic saying "We must keep on protecting each other. Hands, Face, Space."

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.

A message of hope and thanks from Devon’s Director of Public Health

On this day last year, when national lockdown restrictions were introduced and we were all told to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives, none of us expected that 12 months later we would still be living with coronavirus.

‘Unprecedented’ and ‘life-changing’ are the two adjectives we are familiar with hearing used to describe this pandemic that has touched every person’s life. In some respect, it feels like only yesterday, and yet to see where we were then and where we are now, the journey that we have all experienced has been long. 

For too many, touched by grief or sudden changes to employment or personal circumstance, the year has been painful. Today has been named a National Day of Reflection by the end of life charity, Marie Curie, and offers a moment to stop, catch our collective breath, and remember.

The coronavirus pandemic is very much still with us. But there is a lot to be optimistic about, and our testing capability and the mass vaccination programme have a part to play in that. We have done well in Devon to keep the worst of the pandemic at arms length, for which I thank everyone.

So as we move towards the loosening of restrictions, we must do so with caution. The measures we have in place – social distancing, face coverings and washing our hands regularly – are likely to be with us for some time yet to come. And so they must remain, if we are to learn to live with this virus and not allow cases to rise again.

We have learned a lot about ourselves these last 12 months, and a lot of good things have come from the changes we have had to make in our lives. If 2020 was a year we’d rather scratch from the calendar, then this year let’s try to keep hold of the many good things that we’ve learned, about our ability to adapt and to look out for each other, our families, neighbours and friends.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

food being delivered to vulnerable people

Communities made the difference during lockdown

Community organisations have played a significant part in Devon’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, quickly mobilising to ensure vital support reached those who needed it most.

We’ve supported their efforts with more than £625,000 through our COVID-19 Fund which we set up at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020.

Since then 622 individuals and groups have received grants of between £300 and £5,000 to support a diverse range of local projects. They included the delivery of essential goods and services to people who are vulnerable; practical support for accessing online information; projects that help people stay connected to support mental health and wellbeing; and transport-related initiatives that support safe travel in the community.  

One such project is Uplift Devon, in Mid and East Devon. At a time when many families have found it especially challenging financially, Uplift Devon has supported over 200 families with children that are living in poverty, providing them with donated clothing and other essential items.

Another was Brauton Ability Football Club for young people and adults with disabilities. People with disabilities and their families are much more at risk of feeling alone, isolated or anxious so the club used the funding to help keep their players active, connected and entertained during lockdown.

Unable to run their usual community craft sessions during the pandemic, the South Molton Scrapstore made the most of their funding by tackle loneliness and isolation and promoting mental wellbeing and community connection through their free environmentally friendly craft packs. They delivered over 500 locally sourced packs to those struggling with the restrictions, such as the elderly and those with learning disabilities or conditions such a dementia who found the lockdown especially challenging and lonely.

Community transport providers have not been immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but they have continued to play a crucial role to ensure people can access vital services. East Teignbridge Community Transport Association used its grant to help local people in their area attend essential appointments at hospitals and GP practices. And in recent weeks they have been taking people to have their COVID-19 vaccination, visit family in care homes and pick up essential groceries.

school children running

A look back at the school year

Within just a few days last March, schools and colleges across Devon quickly shifted their focus from learning face-to-face in the classroom, to a model of remote learning, via Teams, Zoom and other online learning platforms. 

Schools themselves of course never closed. They stayed open right throughout the lockdowns, for children of key workers and vulnerable families. 

Teaching staff worked hard to provide both in-class lessons to the few, while supporting those learning during lockdown at home. 

There were challenges. Some children had problems accessing remote learning because they didn’t have devices at home. So, in addition to government-provided laptops, local communities stepped up to help. We also gave thousands of pounds to provide tech for young people to help them access online services, including school work.

Now, a year on, schools and colleges have fully re-opened for all pupils and over 95 per cent of primary and secondary school children in Devon have returned to the classroom. 

Schools have done a tremendous job in building confidence and welcoming pupils back and we have had some great responses from pupils, parents, headteachers and their staff. 

Everyone has done a remarkable job over the past year and we’ve had positive reports about how well children are continuing to manage all the changes and how good it has been to see them enjoying lessons and meeting their friends again.

elderly man stood at front door

Working together to support Devon’s vulnerable

Supporting Devon’s most vulnerable residents has been our top priority during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Around 52,000 adults and children in the county have been ‘shielding’ because they have an underlying health condition that puts them at very high risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus.

Many have relied on family, friends and neighbours for help or called on the county’s network of volunteer community groups, trusted charities and local authorities to deliver essential supplies. 

We’ve supported this effort through Team Devon – a partnership between the county, district councils and other organisations to coordinate county-wide support to help people quickly and effectively.  

Working together with a wide range of community groups, we created a strong network for people who needed help to call on, from delivering essential supplies such as food and medication to those shielding, to providing funds to community organisations working to combat loneliness. 

And now, with lockdown restrictions easing and the national shielding programme due to end on 31 March, some vulnerable residents may be anxious about transitioning back to normal life after the last 12 months. You’re not alone, and it is completely normal to be feeling uneasy. Take your time, there’s no rush. It’s important to share any concerns with those closest to you and remember that the friends and neighbours who have helped you over the year are still your friends and neighbours even after the shielding ends, and they are still there for you.

Everyone has gone to a huge amount of effort over the last year to help protect each other and stay safe and well, so as we enter the home stretch, please keep up the kindness. 

boy cracking an egg

Combating hardship and holiday hunger in Devon

The coronavirus outbreak quickly put a huge financial strain on some people, with work and income changing overnight as a result of the national lockdowns and ongoing restrictions. 

We’ve worked closely with community and voluntary organisations, schools, children’s centres and our district council colleagues to make sure vulnerable families in Devon worst affected by the financial impacts of the pandemic were supported.  

This included committing emergency hardship funding for those struggling to pay for basic household essentials such as heating, utilities and food.

We also launched a comprehensive programme to combat holiday hunger, with families of over 15,000 children who receive free school meals during term time automatically sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food during the holidays.  

It’s clear that the effects of the pandemic are going to be felt for some time to come, so work is also underway with the Devon Community Foundation, which has close links with foodbanks, community kitchens, holiday clubs, local businesses and charities, to establish food networks across the county together with a sustainable programme of learning and support.  

Proud to Care

Many have chosen new careers in health and social care 

The year of the pandemic has proved a turbulent time for employment with hundreds of people looking for jobs – and in Devon, through Proud to Care, many of those joined the health and care sector. 

At the beginning of 2020 things were very different. The economy was getting stronger; rates of employment were high. Then the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent national lockdowns came. Almost overnight large sections of the economy stalled. 

At the same time there was a shortfall of people to support the vulnerable and people were urged to consider joining the care sector. Almost immediately we were deluged with hundreds of offers of help from people of all ages and walks of life, including lawyers, students, builders, musicians, fire-fighters, artists, hairdressers, engineers, and accountants. 

Some entered the sector because they lost their jobs; others missed the regular day-to-day contact with others. Many came back from retirement to do their bit. But regardless of their circumstances they were welcomed because they cared about the vulnerable. 

One of those people was Mollie, aged 24. She had her own business as a sports therapist, but like so many, she was not allowed to operate during lockdown and her business had to close. After considering her options, she was interested in becoming a support worker for older people including adults with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. 

“I love making a difference,” she said. “I know that I am helping people to be a better version of themselves, enabling them to do things on their own and build a level of independence. In this job you build great relationships with clients and their families and earn their trust. Trust really is the key.” 

We have made a video with Mollie, and others who have chosen new careers in health and social care. It’s part of our campaign to encourage more people to work in care. We’ve not launched the video yet, but here’s a sneak preview just for you.

Now 12 months on almost 300 people have been offered employment through Proud to Care’s applicant placing service while thousands more have applied directly for the hundreds of jobs advertised on the Proud to Care jobs board. There are many rewarding jobs and career opportunities in health and care right now, so why not take a look?

closed but still awesome

Economic recovery plan to build a stronger Devon

Running a business during the last year has been tough. The impact of the pandemic has been felt by our workforce and across all Devon communities.

The national lockdowns and ongoing restrictions have meant making rapid adjustments to the way people work, including for many, closing their doors to customers and working from home. And it’s likely that the next two years may be among the most challenging in living memory for our local economy.

This last year, we’ve been working hard with other local authorities and groups in the south west to support local businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The tourism, food and drink, construction and agriculture industries – which Devon’s economy relies largely on – have been hit especially hard. 

Last summer, we launched a vision for economic recovery over the next three years, and with it a determination and focus to support Devon’s young people to learn and work, help for employees who have lost their jobs or want to find new opportunities, and support for businesses to help them retain staff, apprentices and suppliers. 

This last year has been hard, but there is hope and opportunity to restart, regrow and reset our economy. By working with agility and flexibility, with our partners and with business, Devon will emerge stronger and be a more dynamic place to live and work.

Woman reading to a child

Impact of coronavirus on speech and language development 

Services such as Devon’s Public Health Nursing, which includes health visitors and school nurses, were quick to respond to the national coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, using online and remote ways to continue their work with parents and children. 

Alongside partners in education and children’s centres, health visitors and school nurses have continued to provide support for those most at need throughout the pandemic. 

“Children’s lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19,” says Sarah Miller, Speech and Language Advisor. 

“The disruption to services, changes to education provision and the additional pressures within families have meant that some children will be struggling to achieve their potential despite huge effort and tireless work of schools and services across the county.” 

One of the reasons why children may struggle finding their way in life is because they have difficulty communicating. So, the impact of COVID-19 on children’s language development in particular is the focus of much local and national interest. 

Sarah and her team have been working hard during the last year to raise awareness among parents and carers and professionals to help them understand the importance of speech and language, and how it’s everyone’s role to support children to be able to communicate as effectively as possible. 

Their work has been to improve communication services and support for children and young people up the age of 25 years old. They’ve helped develop a lot of resources and support networks. 

“We are very excited at how this work is going. We want to celebrate this and encourage more people to get involved” says Sarah.

You can read more about the team’s work on our News Centre.

cyclists

Devon’s carbon emissions reduced by almost a quarter in the first lockdown

Over the last year real progress has been made to create a roadmap to show the way to a net-zero Devon by 2050 at the latest. 

The Devon Climate Emergency Response Group (DCERG) and its appointed group of experts, headed by Professor Devine Wright, have created an interim draft carbon plan. That plan will become the blue-print to show what we must all do – residents, councils, businesses alike – to ensure that Devon reaches its net-zero ambitions. 

Since the first lockdown we have been encouraging more walking, cycling, and advising people on how to get around safely while social distancing. Pavements have been widened, new paths created, and roads have narrowed to accommodate greener travel options. 

Research last summer showed that Devon’s carbon emissions reduced by almost a quarter during the first lockdown. 

“We have an opportunity to introduce transformative change, and not just tinker around the edges,” said Professor Devine Wright. 

Chairman of the DCERG, Dr Phil Norrey said:

“The lockdowns have given a glimpse of how a more sustainable Devon might look, feel and sound.

“There is a huge opportunity to improve our public health, our resilience and our wellbeing, as well as address the climate and ecological emergencies. 

“We must be careful not to fall back into the same old routines.  We all must think differently about the way we work and the way we travel.”

youth workers

Devon’s Youth Workers have worked tirelessly

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by people of all ages. 

Throughout the last year Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity for children and young people’s mental health, has been investigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Their fourth survey, carried out during January 2021, showed that many young people have found this lockdown harder to cope with than previous ones. Anxiety, panic attacks, loneliness and isolation, and concerns about school are all described in their findings. 

These last twelve months, Devon’s frontline youth workers have worked tirelessly to support young people during the pandemic. There have been around 85 youth workers, and 27 volunteers, working on behalf of SPACE, who we commission to run youth services in Devon. Their support has made the difference between a young person facing an uncertain future or becoming a productive and valued member of society. 

While youth centres temporarily closed, the creation of an invite-only youth club, via the Discord app, has proven most successful. Open every evening, there’s been almost 2,000 attendances, and it’s being shared with 15 voluntary sector youth clubs across Devon. But online youth sessions are no substitute for the real thing, and young people have missed having somewhere to go, something to do and a trusted adult to talk to. 

With no guidebook on how to deliver youth services during lockdown, it was up to youth workers to develop new skills – youth workers like Alex Gurpinar, who leads a team in Newton Abbot. Her leadership qualities have been recognised nationally, winning her an award at the Inspiring Hope Awards 2021.

“She has not only embraced but pioneered many of the changes we’ve put in place so we can continue to support and develop young people,” added Dan Barton, the Partnerships and Projects Lead  

“She has continually demonstrated her determination to keep young people connected, safe, valued and happy.”

You can read more about the work Alex and the team do and why her work has been recognised, on our News Centre.

Future Skills Centre Exeter

Former Flybe building becomes Future Skills Centre 

Although the former Flybe airline was already in a difficult situation by March 2020, the emerging COVID-19 pandemic was said to have put additional pressure on the firm.

The airline went into administration that month, and with it, thousands of former employees lost their jobs. 

Alongside Exeter College, we’ve bought the building that used to be the Flybe Training Academy, and it will offer training and education opportunities for learners of all ages, skills, and qualifications fit for the economy of the future. 

The Future Skills Centre, as it’s now known, provides the region with a specialist facility for the delivery of training for high-tech jobs in engineering, digital, construction and clean growth. 

“Creating and retaining a highly skilled workforce will underpin the economic prosperity of Devon and will be a key part of our recovery plan after COVID-19,” said Keri Denton, Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills for the council. “High-tech skills for engineering and digital are vital to our economy.”

Exeter College Principal and Chief Executive John Laramy, said:

“Not only will the centre provide the future skills for a more sustainable Devon, it will also support us to develop skills in digital and data technologies, including building on our track record of working with artificial intelligence and supporting emerging sectors such as robotic agriculture.”

children collecting books from library

Libraries reflect on a year since first lockdown 

Devon’s libraries responded immediately to news of the national coronavirus lockdown, and on 23 March 2020 all branches closed their doors, mobile libraries were taken off the road and the home library service halted. 

In their place, new ways of delivering a much-needed service took over. Dozens of regular groups, events and workshops immediately went online. Library staff made over 6,000 calls to those who are most vulnerable or isolated, to check that they were OK. E-book downloads shot up, and online stocks were expanded. 

‘Choose and Collect’ enabled people to ask for specific books and arrange a contact-less collection. 84 per cent of customers surveyed said that Choose and Collect has helped them feel less isolated during lockdown, and 94 per cent said it helped with their sense of wellbeing. 

‘Grab and Go’ bags encouraged younger readers, and the long-established Book Track went online, as did the Summer Reading Challenge and Winter mini challenge. 

For people with no digital access, in-library appointments were, and continue to be arranged. 

“None of our teams have ever worked through an experience like the last 12 months, and there’s no doubt it’s been tough in so many ways,” says Alex Kittow, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited. 

“We are grateful to our volunteers and Friends Groups that have supported us throughout the pandemic. 

“We look forward to welcoming people back to our library spaces and will continue to work closely with communities to meet their changing need into the future.”

You can read Alex Kittow’s full reflections on the year in Devon and Torbay libraries on the Libraries Unlimited website.

National Day of Reflection

Marking the day in Devon 

We supported the minute silence at midday today to mark the National Day of Reflection. 

In a message to Devon County Council staff, our Chief Executive, Phil Norrey, said: 

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year, and one that many of us will never forget. 

“I am incredibly grateful to all of you who have worked tirelessly in some of the most difficult circumstances we could have ever imagined. 

“Over the past twelve months we have all made significant sacrifices and been personally affected by the pandemic.  

“Please do take the time that you need today to pause and reflect on the events of the past year and the hope for the future.” 

The one minute silence was followed by a bell toll at County Hall, Exeter. 

And this evening we’re encouraging everyone to stand on their doorsteps at 8.00pm with phones, candles, and torches to signify a ‘beacon of remembrance’.

Government graphic saying "We must keep on protecting each other. Hands, Face, Space."

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.

More outbreaks likely, new films share experiences from vaccination centres and high attendance in Devon schools

The picture in Devon this week - 158 positive COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus case numbers in Devon have been falling, and remain below the national average, but the rate of decline is slowing.

Recently there have been some outbreaks in workplaces and care homes and positive case rates across the county are currently highest in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • Vaccine incredibly successful, but more outbreaks likely
  • High attendance in Devon schools
  • COVID-19 testing as vital as ever
  • Shielding advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable to stop from April
  • New film shares experiences from Devon vaccination centres
  • What do you think about COVID-status certification?
  • Consultation on autumn exam series 2021
Steve Brown

Vaccine incredibly successful, but more outbreaks likely, says Director of Public Health Devon 

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon responded to questions this week following outbreaks of coronavirus in two East Devon care homes. 

Asked how residents and staff in the homes contracted the virus, with some of the most vulnerable becoming very unwell and a small number tragically dying, even after their first dose of the vaccine, Steve Brown said that the vaccination overall has been incredibly successful. 

“We’ve seen the number of people in hospital and the number of people dying reduce significantly,” he said. 

The latest data shows that the vaccination protects people from hospitalisation by about eighty per cent. And protection from dying from about eighty-five per cent. 

“But no vaccine is one hundred per cent effective, so there will still be people who catch coronavirus, and particularly those most vulnerable – the elderly and those who have clinical risk – who will potentially get coronavirus and still become seriously ill,” said Mr Brown. 

Asked whether outbreaks like these can happen again, he said: 

“We are going to continue to get small outbreaks in settings such as care homes, workplaces and schools. But whenever we get an outbreak, the response is quick and swift. 

“Agencies, including Public Health Devon, Devon County Council, NHS Devon and Public Health England, come together. We look at how we can put in additional resources, such as additional staff or other appropriate resources, and we step up the cleaning regime, for example. 

“Such measures are designed to protect and safeguard those people in that setting, and to try to reduce any onward transmission. 

“Even when you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still really important that you continue to adopt public health measures – and for now, stay at home as much as possible. If you do need to go out, make sure that you keep social distancing, wear a face covering when indoors in public spaces, and wash your hands regularly.”

You can watch Steve Brown’s message in full on our YouTube channel.

school children in classroom with teacher

High attendance in Devon schools

The return to face-to-face teaching in Devon has been really positive across the whole of the county.

More than 95 per cent of children were back in school in Devon at the end of last week, which reflects a normal year.

Primary schools fully re-opened on Monday 8 March and at the end of the week they recorded a 97 per cent attendance rate.

Some secondary schools staggered their start in order to test all their students for coronavirus but, at the end of the week, 95 per cent of students were in.

And in Devon’s special schools, which opened for all pupils throughout the last lockdown, the attendance rate was 91 per cent last week.

Schools have done a tremendous job in building confidence and welcoming pupils back and we have had some great responses from pupils, parents, headteachers and their staff. 

Everyone has done a remarkable job over the past year and we’ve had positive reports about how well children are continuing to manage all the changes and how good it has been to see them enjoying lessons and meeting their friends again.

Dont be the one who takes COVID to work

COVID-19 testing as vital as ever

Regular testing for coronavirus is the cornerstone of our transition back to normal life. It’s a vital part of keeping the spread of coronavirus under control, especially as around one in three people don’t have any symptoms and could be spreading it unknowingly.

A COVID-19 test usually involves taking a sample from the back of your throat (where your tonsils are) and from the nose, using a long cotton bud.

There are lots of way to get a COVID-19 test in Devon, depending on whether or not you have any symptoms. You can find out more on our website, including a map of where the various types of test sites are located.

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate immediately and arrange a free NHS test straight away by visiting the government’s website or calling 119.

It’s also important to get tested regularly, even if you don’t have any symptoms. This is in order to identify whether you are carrying the virus so if you are, you can self isolate immediately to break the chain of transmission. This is known as asymptomatic testing.

We’ve set up community testing sites across Devon so it is quick and convenient for people without symptoms of coronavirus to get tested. At the moment this service is for:

  • anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others
  • anyone who cares for others, either paid or voluntary
  • members of a household, childcare bubble or support bubble of school or college staff and pupils.

Home testing kits are also available to order online or collect from an NHS test site.

The government has said regular asymptomatic testing is also available for:

The government policy and guidance around testing is changing rapidly so please check our website as we will update it to to reflect any changes in Devon.

groceries on a supermarket conveyor belt

Free supermarket vouchers for 15,000 children

During the Easter school holidays, families of more than 15,000 primary, secondary and sixth form college pupils in Devon who currently receive free school meals will automatically be sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food.

It’s part of a £2 million programme we’ve organised to combat holiday hunger. 

The vouchers – worth £30 per child (£15 for each week of the two week break) can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon including Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi, M&S Food and Waitrose. Arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket.

Over the next week or so parents and carers of children currently receiving free school meals will be sent a letter or email with information about how to access their vouchers. Please look out for it nearer the time and get in touch with our free school meals team if you were expecting to receive vouchers but didn’t. You can email them at freeschoolmeals@devon.gov.uk or call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

If your child does not currently receive free school meals but you think they qualify due to a change in your family circumstances, please apply online through our website as soon as possible in order to receive the vouchers for the Easter holiday.

This is the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, please call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

If you received a voucher code for the February holidays and haven’t used it to get your supermarket vouchers yet, please do so by Sunday 25 April 2021 before it expires. 

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

elderly man stood at door smiling

Shielding advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable to stop from April

More than 38,500 clinically extremely vulnerable people in Devon will be informed by the government that they are no longer advised to shield from Thursday 1 April 2021 as coronavirus infection rates continue to fall.

In line with the government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 roadmap published last month, those on the shielded patient list can begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population, but are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe from coronavirus.

Letters with updated guidance will be arriving over the next two weeks. These set out practical steps people can follow to reduce their risk of catching the virus, including continuing to maintain strict social distancing and to keep their overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible.

The move follows the steady decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations across the country for the last couple of weeks.

With the success of the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, more than 9 in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable people are now vaccinated with their first dose, but it’s still important that people continue to follow the national rules and take the additional precautions set out in the guidance to keep themselves as protected as possible.

film about vaccination centres in Devon

New film shares experiences from Devon vaccination centres as vaccination programme marks 100th day 

Earlier this week, on Wednesday 17 March, the NHS marked 100 days since they gave the first COVID-19 vaccination and broke ground in the global race to protect people against coronavirus.

More than 25 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far and will soon develop strong protection from serious illness, saving countless lives and significantly reducing pressure on the NHS. This includes 95 per cent of people aged 65 years old and over and nine in ten of people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

Everyone who has already been invited for their vaccination is urged to take up the offer as soon as possible.

New invitations are now going out nationally to millions of people aged 50 to 54 years old in the latest stage of the programme, the biggest in NHS history and fastest in Europe.

Text messages from ‘NHSvaccine’ are being sent to eligible people containing a link for them to click and pick a convenient slot at an NHS vaccine centre, or pharmacy through the national booking service website. They will arrive in advance of the standard letter, meaning this could enable the NHS to react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly.

The text alerts will be followed up with letters landing on doorsteps later in the week and people who cannot go online can call the service on 119. 

NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group has made a new film highlighting the experiences of patients, volunteers and staff across the county’s vaccination centres. 

Getting the Coronavirus vaccine – A Message from Devon aims to reassure people about both having the vaccination and the process of attending a centre. It encourages others to take up the opportunity when they are invited. 

The vaccination rollout is continuing at pace and the government has said the UK is on track to achieve the Prime Minister’s target of offering the first dose of the vaccine to all over-50s by 15 April, as well as all adults by the end of July.

someone pushing a lady in a wheelchair in a sunny field

And the winner is…. Devon scoops top award for supporting unpaid carers

A new project that supports unpaid carers in Devon has received a national award for its ‘outstanding contribution to healthcare’ during the height of the pandemic.

The Carers Hospital Service received the accolade at the Health Service Journal Awards 2020 this week for supporting thousands of unpaid carers. 

While support for unpaid carers is available, reaching them has always been difficult because people’s caring roles are often not identified. 

So Devon Carers, who we commission with NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, started working within hospitals, and as patients came forward and their situations were assessed, it was possible to see whether they had anyone, like a family member, looking after them at home.

They also work alongside hospital teams to determine what support the patient’s unpaid carer needs. Sometimes emotional help and supportive calls is enough; on other occasions being put in touch with local groups or individuals who have shared experience of caring helps. Immediate short term and simple practical help often makes all the difference and if longer-term help is needed, this is provided by Devon Carers, or where social care is needed, by Devon’s health and social care services.

By supporting unpaid carers, they are more able to look after themselves as well as caring for their loved one, neighbour or friend. In turn, support prevents further hospital admissions and reduces the length of time that patients are in hospital because they are able to return home sooner.

Between April 2019 and January this year, 3,900 carers were helped by the Carers Hospital Service, three quarters of whom were not previously known to be carers.

Read the full story on our News Centre.

Devon NHS produces video to support people with learning disabilities to access Covid vaccine

Vaccination video for people with learning disabilities

The NHS in Devon is supporting people with learning disabilities to take up the
potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccination.

The government’s vaccine advisory committee has said that all people on the GP
Learning Disability Register should be invited for a COVID-19 vaccine as part of
priority group six. GP surgeries are contacting people about booking the vaccine.

A short film has also been produced by The Turning Tides Project, in partnership with NHS Devon and NHS England, to support people with learning disabilities to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

The film features ‘Michelle’ and her carer ‘Holly’ who were filmed at Mid Devon
Healthcare Primary Care Network’s vaccination site at Lords Meadow Leisure Centre in Crediton. 

When contacted for their vaccination, people with learning disabilities should let their GP or community learning disability nurse know if they need extra support or reasonable adjustments to make them feel more confident about having the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine

UK regulator confirms that people should continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca

Following suspensions by some countries of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine over suspected blood clots, the government’s Medicines and Healthcare products
Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 far outweigh the risks. People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when invited to do so.

Following a rigorous scientific review of all the available data, the MHRA said that the available evidence does not suggest that blood clots in veins are caused by COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. This follows a detailed review of report cases as well as data from hospital admissions and GP records. This has been confirmed by the government’s independent advisory group, the Commission on Human Medicines, whose expert scientists and clinicians have also reviewed the available data.

COVID certification

Have your say on COVID-status certification

The government is reviewing whether COVID-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety as the UK recovers from the coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-status certification involves using testing or vaccination data to confirm that a person has a lower risk of getting sick with or transmitting COVID-19 to others. Such certification would be available both to vaccinated people and to unvaccinated people who have been tested.

The government will assess how effective certification would be in reducing risk, and its potential uses in enabling access to settings or relaxing COVID-secure measures.

The review is considering the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of a possible certification scheme, and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification.

The consultation is open until 11.45pm on Monday 29 March. Please visit the government’s website for details on how to take part.

empty exam hall

Consultation on autumn exam series 2021

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) has announced a two-week consultation on how an autumn exam series for GCSEs, AS and A levels should run this year.

They are keen to hear from students, teachers, exam boards and the wider education sector on the proposals, which include:

  • the autumn series being open to any student who entered or who had intended to enter to take exams in summer 2021
  • holding AS and A level exams in October and GCSE exams in November/early December
  • grades being determined by a student’s exam performance only
  • students being able to use the better of the summer or autumn grade
  • the use of the normal reviews of marking and appeal arrangements

The consultation follows the cancellation of GCSEs, AS and A level exams this summer because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. When the government set out its policy on how grades would be awarded it also confirmed it wanted students to have the opportunity to take exams in the autumn.

The consultation is open until Friday 9 April 2021.

Cars at traffic lights

A year like no other

It has been a year since people across the UK were told they should limit their non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel.

To mark this, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published research which looks at how the pandemic and the limiting of social contact has changed our lives over the past 12 months.

From deaths and the pressure on hospitals, to the number of hours worked and people’s rising fear of unemployment, the figures show how the past 12 months is like no other year.

Census 21 March 2021

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.

Care home outbreaks, parents urged to take up regular asymptotic testing and free online event to help Devon’s hospitality and tourism sector recover

28 Feb to 6 March 198 confirmed covid-19 cases in Devon

Coronavirus case numbers in Devon are continuing to fall, although the rate of decline has slowed over recent weeks. Positive cases are currently highest in those aged 80 years and older, with rates slightly higher in East Devon.

In this update:

  • Care home outbreaks are a reminder of how infectious this virus is
  • Parents asked to do all they can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus
  • Asymptomatic community testing now available in Newton Abbot
  • NHS in Devon working with local Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to increase vaccine take-up
  • Free online event to support Devon’s hospitality and tourism sector
  • Young people warned about ‘fake jobs’ on social media
  • Plans to reintroduce in-person library services
elderly man's hands on a walking frame

Care home outbreaks are a reminder of how infectious this virus is

Cases of coronavirus in Devon may still be low in comparison to the rest of the country, but we’re still seeing outbreaks in some settings, including in a small number of care homes, warns Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

He cited two care homes this week in East Devon: 

“We are working very closely with those homes to make sure residents and staff are safe, to control the outbreaks, and to reduce the risk of further transmission.

“Coronavirus is still a very infectious virus, and cases like this are a reminder of how important it is for us still to remain vigilant and to take every precaution to prevent its further spread.”

You can watch Steve Brown’s weekly update in full on our YouTube channel.

book a rapid covid test now

Parents asked to do all they can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, is asking families with school-age children to do all they can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The call comes as schools and colleges invited all students back to the classroom this week and pupils begin to be regularly tested using rapid, lateral flow tests.

“With the significant increase in the number of students becoming routinely tested, we are likely to see an upturn in the number of positive cases,” said Steve Brown.

“This is a good thing. We’re picking up people who have no symptoms, who if they weren’t tested could go on to transmit the virus to other people.

“We’ve seen a high rate of pupils returning to the classroom for face-to-face teaching, and really good take-up by them taking the lateral flow test.

“Any parents who haven’t yet given their consent for their child to be tested at school or college, I urge them to do so.”

Households of school-aged children are also encouraged to take two lateral flow tests a week, and can arrange to collect the home test kits from their nearest national testing centre, or there is home delivery by the NHS for those who can’t collect.

Alternatively, parents can have their lateral flow test at any of our local community testing centres, with results emailed and texted back to them within the hour.

We’ve set up community testing centres in locations across the county, with fixed sites in Exeter, Barnstaple and Tiverton; and mobile facilities serving Axminster, Exmouth, Honiton, Ivybridge, Newton Abbot, Okehampton and Tavistock. Tests should be booked in advance via our website.

mobile testing centre

Asymptomatic community testing now available in Newton Abbot

Newton Abbot has been added to the list of stops for our new mobile community testing centres this week.

The service, which offers rapid tests for people without symptoms, with results available within the hour, will be at Teignbridge Depot Car Park on the Brunel Industrial Estate between 8.30am and 5.30pm every Friday. And from Sunday 21 March it will also visit the town’s Cattle Market every Sunday. 

If you are a carer, a member of a household or support bubble with school-aged children or you leave the house to work or volunteer, we encourage you to take these quick and simple tests twice a week to identify whether you are carrying the virus and potentially unknowingly giving it to others. If you test positive you’ll need to isolate immediately to break the chain of transmission.

Mobile testing vans already stop in Axminster, Exmouth, Honiton, Ivybridge, Okehampton and Tavistock and there are also fixed community testing sites at County Hall in Exeter, the Civic Centre in Barnstaple, and the Exe Valley Leisure Centre in Tiverton. You can find out more and book a test via our website.

vaccination

NHS in Devon working with local Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to increase vaccine up-take

The NHS in Devon is supporting people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
communities in the county to feel confident having their potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccination when they are contacted as part of the national programme.

Like other areas of the country, take-up of the vaccination in Devon is lower among ethnic minority communities, ranging from approximately 63 to 76 per cent compared to 85 per cent of White British people. 

They are encouraging people from communities where take-up is low or concerns are high to get in touch by emailing d-ccg.engagementteam@nhs.net so support can be offered.

Vaccine ambassadors representing different Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
communities will also be working with local groups to provide information and reassurance. 

You can find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS website including videos of vaccine information in different languages. 

In January, Citizen Khan creator Adil Ray OBE also shared a video featuring well-known British Asian people to dispel myths and encourage people from ethnic minorities to have the vaccine.

man in shirt sleeves working at a laptop

Free online event to support hospitality and tourism sector

A Devon charity is hosting a free online event next week to support those in the county’s hospitality and tourism sector through the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from it.

Devon Communities Together has organised the “Surviving and Thriving in Devon’s Tourism and Hospitality Sector” event on Friday 19 March from 11.30am – 1.00pm as part of its Listening Ear service, which we launched in partnership earlier this year.

It’s specifically designed for those in the sector but businesses in the supply chain, aligned with the industry, or considering diversification, are very welcome to attend. Four speakers from hospitality and tourism businesses in Devon will reflect on the pandemic as well as looking at growth, diversification, taking time for wellbeing, and finding hope for the future.

To book a free space at the online event please visit the Eventbrite website.   

The Listening Ear service gives business owners anywhere in Devon the opportunity to talk informally to an experienced volunteer about the pressures of trying to keep a business afloat during the pandemic. To find out more or book your session please visit the Devon Communities Together website or email info@devoncommunities.org.uk or call 01392 248919.

phones in hand

NHS starts text alerts for life-saving COVID-19 jab

The NHS has started texting people to invite them to book their COVID-19 vaccination, making it quicker and more convenient to get an appointment.

The message will include a web link for those eligible to click and reserve an appointment at one of their local large-scale vaccination centres or pharmacies.

Texts will arrive in advance of the standard letter, meaning the NHS can react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly to help increase uptake of the life-saving jab. 

However, in some cases text messages have been used by scammers to try to collect personal details from people, get them to ring premium rate numbers or enter their bank details. So our trading standards team is reminding people of a simple checklist to help give reassurance that a text invitation for a vaccination appointment is genuine:

  • Texts will be from ‘NHSvaccine‘ and are separate to any invites people may get from local NHS services such as GP surgeries or hospitals.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge – a genuine text will not ask for money or state a cost.
  • The NHS will never ask for bank account or card details, PIN or banking passwords or copies of personal documents to prove identity.

People will continue to receive letters inviting them to book an appointment as well as a text alert, to ensure that those who don’t have a number registered or need information in different languages or formats don’t miss out.

If people cannot or would prefer not to travel to a mass vaccination centre or pharmacy, they can choose to wait to be invited by their local GP service.

Braunton Ability FC player

Funding helps football team tackle lockdown isolation

A North Devon football team for people with disabilities has been helping its players stay active and improve their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic with the help of our COVID-19 Fund.

Braunton FC Ability Team was created to support members of the local community with physical, sensory, or learning disabilities with their confidence and self-esteem. The support they offer has become increasingly important over the last year, as Melanie Benson, one of the ability team coaches, explained:

“People with disabilities and their families are much more at risk of feeling alone, isolated or anxious, especially during times like this. During lockdown we also realised that lots of our players were struggling to stay fit and active whilst at home.”

The team used its £1,495 grant, that we jointly funded with North Devon Council, to help the team stay connected when they couldn’t meet and train in person. Activity packs have been delivered regularly to all their members so they can take part in educational, physical and fun activities, most recently a team ‘bake off’ competition. The packs also included stamped and addressed envelopes, so players could write and receive letters from teammates.

Since the start of the pandemic we’ve awarded over £600,000 through our COVID-19 Fund to help provide valuable funding to organisations working in communities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

man standing at laptop

Free rapid tests for all businesses for regular workplace testing

All businesses in England, no matter how small, can now sign up to the government’s COVID-19 workplace testing programme to order free lateral flow tests for their employees.

Around one in three people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately, breaking chains of transmission.

Regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. It will form a crucial part of the government’s plan to gradually and safely ease restrictions as we get back to a more normal life.

Businesses have until Wednesday 31 March to register for the government’s workplace testing scheme, which will remain free until the end of June. They will be provided with all the information they need to plan and deliver their testing programme.

Anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others can also get a free lateral flow test at one of our community testing sites. Find out more and book a test on our website.

young girl sat with her phone in her hand looking worried

Young people warned about ‘fake jobs’ on social media

Our trading standards team is warning young people to be wary of fake job adverts on social media that at first glance might appear to be the answer to their financial worries.

The pandemic has hit the pockets of many financially, among them students who rely on jobs in the tourist and hospitality sectors. As a consequence of the lockdowns and jobs not being available, many are struggling to make ends meet.

Some fake job adverts on social media have the sole aim of harvesting personal details, which are later used to commit identity theft. Fake jobs advertised have included roles such as COVID-19 testers or admin support.

Other jobs are posted with the intention of duping young people into laundering money. Often, criminals who want to move money through accounts but want to avoid the scrutiny of banks, employ ‘mules’ who allow their account to be used.

If you see an advert for a job on social media that would appear to be the answer to your financial woes and it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. By responding to some of these adverts, you could be giving away your personal details, or worse, you could be duped into committing a criminal offence.

Anyone who has been offered a job through social media and thinks it might be a scam should contact the organisation directly using officially listed contact details to confirm if the offer is genuine. For more advice or to report an incident visit the Safer Jobs website. 

lady sat in a chair reading a kindle

Plans to reintroduce in-person library services

Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs libraries in Devon on our behalf, has announced plans for reintroducing in-person library services over the coming months, based on the four-step plan set out by the government.

At the moment all library buildings remain closed. However, lifeline services to support the health and wellbeing of our communities, such as being able to choose and collect books are available at some libraries. Vital access to essential online government services through bookable computer sessions for those who don’t have IT or internet access at home are also available. 

The first step is from Monday 29 March when choose and collect services will restart and some libraries will offer essential computer access. 

Step two, which is not before Monday 12 April in line with the government’s roadmap, will see a phased reopening of library buildings for book borrowing and computer sessions and mobile libraries will be back on the road. 

The timetable is subject to government guidance and potential change, and Libraries Unlimited will continue to keep customers updated. 

In the meantime, they continue to offer a wide range of eBooks, eAudiobooks, digital magazines and newspapers on their website, as well as a vibrant programme of digital events via their Facebook and Twitter channels.

Be aware of vaccine facts

Government targets false vaccine information on social media

The government has launched a new social media campaign to tackle misleading and false COVID-19 vaccine information being shared through private message channels.

Spreading false information about the coronavirus vaccine is dangerous, so it’s important to follow the SHARE checklist:

  • Check – is it coming from an expert?
  • Look closely – does the information seem trustworthy?
  • Still unsure? Don’t share it

The campaign is fronted by trusted local community figures such as imams, pastors and clinicians in short, shareable videos which include simple tips on how to spot misinformation and what to do to stop its spread, signposting to the NHS for the best source of information.

It’s being supported by the world’s biggest social media companies and has been created following concerns from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) of low vaccine uptake amongst ethnic minority communities.

A recent Ofcom study also showed that people from a minority ethnic background were twice as likely as white respondents to rely more on people they know, people in their local area or people on social media for information about coronavirus.

The full toolkit, with content designed to be shared via WhatsApp and Facebook community groups, as well as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, is available on the government’s website.

lateral flow test

Lateral flow tests shows specificity of at least 99.9%

New analysis by NHS Test and Trace shows lateral flow tests have a specificity of at least 99.9 per cent when used in the community.

It’s a measure of how good the test is at detecting true negative cases, so for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result.

Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus without knowing. Rapid testing using lateral flow tests detect cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately and prevent the virus from entering schools, colleges or workplaces, and stop outbreaks before they occur.

All businesses in England are now able to sign up to the government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing programme.

Our community testing sites also offer free rapid lateral flow tests to anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others. Find out more and book a test on our website.

Households with primary school, secondary school and college age children, (including childcare and support bubbles), are also encouraged to test themselves twice every week. Home test kits can be collected from national testing centres, or there is home delivery by the NHS for those who can’t collect. Alternatively you can book and have the test at one of our community testing sites and receive the results within the hour via text and email.

coronavirus footer

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.

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.
restaurant

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.

👉 https://tinyurl.com/y956zfxv

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 info@devoncommunities.org.uk 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 report@phishing.gov.uk. 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.