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CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION

Additional Restrictions Grant

North Devon+, who are administering our Additional Restrictions Grant, have asked that we publicise and share this link https://www.torridge.gov.uk/AdditionalRestrictionsGrant. Chris Fuller (TDC) has said that in short, there is a huge degree of confusion out there about who might be eligible for this. In particular there is an understandable belief that a business needs to have been forced to close by the lockdown, whereas actually the key requirement is that a business is severely impacted by the restrictions or that it is outside of the Business Rates system.

Community Food Programme

Over the summer, Co-op customers raised £1.5m to help those going hungry by buying items from their picnic range, with 20p per item being donated to the National Emergencies Trust (NET). NET are working with 46 local Community Foundations to distribute this money to food charities and community causes to fund programmes that provide access to food and sustainable solutions to food poverty.

This funding will support food programmes for vulnerable communities across Devon with a focus on foodbanks and provision of emergency meals for people affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Funding of £1,000 – £3,000 is available to eligible organisations. Payment of grants for successful applications will be made in early December 2020 with a grant period of 6 months. The grant must be spent by 31st May 2021.

Please note – application deadline is 13th November at 5pm!

Please click link below for more information:-https://devoncf.com/apply/community-food-programme/

Devon County Council – Covid Fund

Devon County Council has temporarily re-opened the COVID-19 Fund to provide flexible resources to organisations working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to help mitigate for the social and economic consequences of the second National Lockdown.

Applications will open on Monday 9th November 2020 and will close on 2nd December 2020.

Applications will need to include details of how much funding will be required and how you have assessed the need for that amount.  Grants will typically be between £300 and £700, although in exceptional circumstances we may make offers of up to £1,000.

More information is online here: https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/document/covid-19-fund/

Leader of TDC seeks to reassure residents & those experiencing hardship – ahead of second National Lockdown

The Leader of Torridge District Council, Councillor Ken James, has sought to reassure residents that those experiencing hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic shouldn’t be afraid to come forward and seek help. Torridge Council has supported many government initiatives to distribute funding to those affected including business support grants and signposting to other schemes but there are also locally operated schemes that people may not be aware of.

Councillor James said:

“Nobody could have predicted the impact covid-19 would have on everybody’s lives both financially and on people’s health and mental wellbeing. While we have well publicised national schemes and a local scheme to help with Council Tax arrears further support is also just a phone call away through a fund being administered by our partners at Encompass”

Encompass is a registered charity working across Northern Devon to prevent and reduce homelessness and the impacts of poverty and financial hardship. The fund was set up with financial support from Devon County Council and is designed to support families who are suffering immediate financial hardship as a result of Covid-19. It can be used to provide support for essential basic needs such as food, personal or household items, repairs and even gas and electricity costs.

Councillor James went on to say:

“The governments extension to the furlough scheme and other measures is very welcome as we enter yet another period of uncertainty for businesses and families. Whilst we have been fortunate in the low Covid-19 infection rate in Torridge the financial impact of lost business and family income has been significant for many. For some this may also be the first time they have found themselves in this situation and in need of help. Anyone feeling they need support should contact the specially trained advisors at Encompass who will be able to signpost them quickly to help and assistance either from the government, Torridge Council hardship schemes or the hardship funding set up for Covid-19. There is no stigma attached to anyone needing help and in the current circumstances this could happen to any of us.”

Encompass can be reached by calling them on 01271 371499 and by selecting the “Community Helpline” option – Monday to Friday between 9.30am-3pm. Their list of expertise includes advice on welfare benefits, money, housing, but also mental health support from mind.

There are also extensive support pages on Torridge Council’s web pages here https://www.torridge.gov.uk/coronavirus and Devon County Council website here https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/document/support-for-people-and-families/ covering support right across the County.

DCC Bulletin – Don’t cause a Halloween nightmare, half term travel advice and Exeter case numbers broadly back to national average

In this update:

  • Exeter case numbers back in line with national average
  • A plea to half-term holiday makers
  • Stay safe this Halloween
  • Helping unpaid carers take a break
  • Ask a minister a coronavirus question
  • Lockdown Legends

Exeter cases ‘broadly’ back to national average

Steve Brown, the Deputy Director for Public Health Devon has confirmed today that Exeter case numbers are now back to ‘broadly’ the national average.  

It’s the first time in weeks that case numbers in the city have fallen to the current level following a spike mostly associated with University of Exeter. 

Positive cases among the university student population have come down, thanks largely to measures introduced by the university, including restrictions to prevent student households mixing, as well as the majority of students doing their part and sticking to the tighter rules.

Case numbers across the county however are rising overall, in line with the national trend, but they remain below the English average. 

When we look at those people who are testing positive for COVID we are seeing an increase in the age profile. So we’re now seeing working age and older adults who are testing positive for COVID-19,” said Mr Brown.

“Again that’s similar to what we see across the country. While the numbers are low in Devon at the moment, it’s really important that we do all we can to maintain that,” he said.  

“We want to make sure that we stay in the medium tier, so it’s really important that everyone adheres to those key guidance and messages:  

“Keep your social distance – ideally to a minimum of two metres  

“Make sure that you wash your hands properly and regularly  

“And wear face coverings where required and appropriate.”  

South West Leaders call on everyone planning a half-term break to be extra careful and to follow the rules

Council Leaders from across the region have published a joint message this week; “Coronavirus doesn’t take a break – please respect and protect local communities.”

It’s a message for anyone thinking of coming to or travelling in and around the south west this half-term. 

And it echoes the tone of a new social media campaign across the region that is specifically targeting people coming to the region. 

“Now is the time to be extra careful,” says Leader of Devon County Council and Chair of the Devon Outbreak Engagement Board, Cllr John Hart. 

“People may be considering taking a break this half term but unfortunately coronavirus won’t be taking a holiday. 

“I urge everyone who is thinking of going away or even travelling within the area to think carefully about where they might be going and continue to follow the rules.” 

The social media campaign is targeting visitors to the region, reminding them to follow the basic rules – space, face and hands – and not to think they can relax from those just because they are away. 

‘If you’re visiting Devon this half term, please remember the rules still apply whilst you’re on holiday.  Coronavirus doesn’t take a break, so neither can we!’, the campaign message reads, in addition to reminders on the rules. 

A short video accompanies the campaign.   

Travelling around the country during COVID-19

So how do the new local COVID alert levels factor in your half-term travel plans?  

Devon is at the ‘medium’ tier alert level. So is the rest of the South West.   

Movement around the region is pretty straight forward, but remember, a holiday away from home, is not a holiday away from coronavirus.   

Everyone still needs to follow the guidance on social distancing, hand washing regularly and wearing of face coverings, wherever you are in the country. 

And please don’t travel at all if you have symptoms, however mild – a high temperature, new and continuous cough, or loss or change to your sense of taste and smell – or if you’ve been advised to self-isolate.   

The general principle is that you must follow the rules of the tier you normally live in, regardless of where you are in the country.  That’s the general principle, but there may be local restrictions on top of that which you need to know about. 

We’ve written about it on our website, including a link to a postcode checker that tells you what restrictions are in place, by postcode area.

Don’t turn Halloween into a nightmare on your street

The Halloween season is fast approaching, and families may be wondering whether trick or treating is worth the risk this year. 

It’s really not. Please just stay at home and don’t turn Halloween into a COVID-19 “nightmare on your street”.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy Halloween safely at home, from spooky window dressings to ghostly film nights.

This year public health teams in Devon are asking families to forget the usual trick or treat plans and instead celebrate safely indoors.

We’ve got some ‘low risk’ celebration ideas on our website, along with a list of things to avoid doing this Halloween. 

New funds available to help carers take a break

Carers are missing out on things that most people take for granted, even more so during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Recent research suggests that nearly two-thirds of unpaid carers have not been able to take any breaks at all in the last six months because they’re too busy caring for someone else. And that four in every five carers are currently providing more care than before lockdown, with three quarters saying that the needs of the person they’re caring for have increased recently.

It means carers are missing or overlooking their own health complaints because they’re too busy to go the doctors or to see the issue. Or they’re not working, when they’d like to be, because they haven’t got time beyond their hours of caring. Or they’re missing out on educational opportunities, to develop or enhance their own personal lives.

So we’ve joined forces with NHS Devon to make grants of between £1,000 and £15,000 available to care providers, personal assistants, and carers themselves who can develop and provide innovative opportunities that will give other carers a break, during COVID-19 and beyond.

Details about the Replacement Care Innovation Fund are available on our website. To register your interest in applying for funding, email carefund@devon.gov.uk.

Working together to keep essential services running

NHS organisations across Devon are sharing their resources and expertise to manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, prepare for winter and keep essential services running.

As coronavirus infections rise, health and social care partners are preparing for an increase in patients with the virus at hospitals in coming months.

Devon’s four main hospitals (Derriford, North Devon District, RD&E and Torbay) will work closely as a network to manage resources in the most effective way to deliver a range of services as safely as possible.

While all four hospitals will continue to see and treat patients with COVID-19 who present in their Emergency Departments, they are working together to share their inpatient capacity if it is deemed medically appropriate.

This may mean in some cases, to receive the most appropriate care, patients may be cared for in, or transferred to, a different hospital. This will allow the NHS in Devon to do all it can to treat COVID patients at the same time as continuing to provide planned and urgent care. The NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter is also on standby, ready to receive COVID-19 patients, if needed.

Doctors are also calling on local people to do play their part by keeping their appointments and choosing the right service for their needs.

In light of the rising number of cases, local hospitals are also having to introduce tighter visiting restrictions to keep patients and staff safe.

And the NHS is reminding local people that they need to play their part by continuing to follow Government’s ‘hands, face, space’ guidance on good hygiene, wearing a mask where needed, social distancing and limiting the number of people they meet with.

Ask a minister a question about coronavirus

The government is inviting people to submit questions about coronavirus to be put to a minister. 

If your question is chosen, the minister will answer it during an event broadcast to the public.

An independent polling organisation chooses the questions. The minister will not see the question in advance. The government is not involved in choosing questions.

You must be 18 years old or over to submit a question and you will need to provide your name and email address. 

If your question is chosen the Cabinet Office will contact you within 3 days of submitting your question. You can either record a video of yourself asking your question to be shown during the public event or have your question read out by the minister.

Footage of the event will be available afterwards online. It may also be used by news services or websites.

If the Cabinet Office does not contact you within 3 days, your question will not be used. However, the Cabinet Office might contact you to ask for your permission to use your question elsewhere.

UK could be first for human challenge vaccine studies

It’s been reported this week that the UK is pushing ahead to be the first nation to carry out ‘human challenge’ studies. 

It’s a trial in which up to 90 healthy people will be deliberately exposed to coronavirus, in order that scientists can then work out if a vaccine prevents infection. 

The government is putting money towards it, believing that it will speed up the race to get a coronavirus vaccine. 

Of course the plans need ethical approval and sign-off from regulators first. If it gets the green light, the trials could begin in January. 

Lockdown Legends

A special exhibition to celebrate local people who showed particular kindness, courage, humanity or ingenuity during the coronavirus pandemic has opened.

In July 2020, The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Liveable Exeter and Exeter City Council asked people across Devon to nominate their Lockdown Legends.

They received a wide range of nominations, from refuse collectors to face mask creators, fundraising heroes to taxi drivers-turned-delivery men, and many more. All of them were truly inspiring and highlighted the selfless actions of individuals who went above and beyond to help others, showing how our communities pulled together during the crisis.

The resulting exhibition is a celebration of the resilience of the people of Devon who have helped the most vulnerable in our society during a time of great uncertainty, and serves to remind us of our shared humanity and the importance of community.

Visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery website to view the online exhibition.

The exhibition can also be visited at the following locations at Exeter’s Historical Guildhall until Friday 30 October and at Exeter Library, Barnstaple Library and Exeter Princesshay (window display) until Sunday 1 November. 

Further dates and venues for November will be announced in the near future. 

The exhibition will also be held for posterity in the Devon Heritage Centre.

Lockdown Legends is kindly supported by Radio Exe and Archant, publishers of the Exmouth Journal, Midweek Herald, North Devon Gazette, Sidmouth Herald and the Torbay Weekly.

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.

DCC Bulletin – The picture in Devon this week

week 8 to 14 Oct 2020 564 confirmed cases, no deaths

In this update:

  • Case numbers changing in Exeter
  • Local COVID alert levels introduced
  • New advice to clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Job Support Scheme expanded
  • Ethnic minority communities and the elderly asked to volunteer for vaccine studies 
  • Support for making some active travel measures permanent
  • Financial help if you cannot work from home while self-isolating

crowd of people connected by dots

Case numbers changing in Exeter

The number of university-related cases of coronavirus in Exeter are reducing, but we are now seeing more community cases in the city. 

Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health Devon has warned of the need for extra vigilance across the county as wider community cases rise.

She said:

“The pattern in Exeter has shown a successful reduction in student cases with no sign of significant spread thanks to the swift actions of the university and other partners in working together to contain the situation. But we must not be complacent. 

“We are now seeing more community cases in Exeter and across Devon, in line with the rise in the rest of the country, particularly in the working age population, and we expect cases to increase over the next few weeks. 

“These cases cannot be linked to university students and the coronavirus appears to be passing between people outside of COVID-secure settings, which suggests that community spread is now occurring. 

“Obviously, we want to limit the impact on people in older age groups and those who are particularly vulnerable so the time to act is now. 

“Everyone – and particularly those people of working age – must be extra vigilant about maintaining social distancing, handwashing, wearing face coverings and avoiding social mixing if they can.”


Government Medium alert level

Local COVID alert levels introduced

The government has introduced a new three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels in England to make it easier for everyone to understand what they can and can’t do, depending on how prevalent coronavirus is in their area.

There are three local COVID alert levels: medium, high and very high.

Devon’s local COVID alert level is medium.

Earlier this week we sent out a special email about the new system, explaining what it is, why it has been introduced and what it means for Devon. If you missed it, you can catch up with it online here.


Elderly lady stood in from of a window smiling

New advice to people identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable

The government has published new advice and guidance to support people who are clinically extremely vulnerable

If you are in this group you will previously have received a letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you this. 

The guidance says that unlike earlier in the year, there are measures in place now that offer protection to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.  They include the rule of six and widespread use of face coverings, for example. 

In a statement this week, the government said that they will only reintroduce formal shielding advice in the very worst affected local areas and for a limited period of time. 

The government would write to you separately to tell you if you are advised to shield, but unless that happens, you don’t need to. 

However, if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, there are sensible measures that you can take – as we all can – to reduce exposure to the virus. 

We’ve written about them on our Newscentre


Bar

Job Support Scheme expanded to firms forced to close due to restrictions 

From next month, a new Job Support Scheme from the government will replace the current furlough arrangements. 

The scheme has been expanded to include employees at firms that are told to shut because of coronavirus rules

Under the new scheme, employees will receive ‘at least 67 per cent’ of their pay from the government, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, for each employee. 

Staff must be off work for a minimum of seven days to be eligible, and there is no obligation for their employer to pay towards their salary. 

The new scheme, which will run for six months, will also help firms that are allowed to open and where employees can return to work part-time. 

Alongside this, the government is increasing the Local Restrictions Support Grant scheme to up to £3,000 per month to businesses in England, to be paid sooner after closure than current arrangements. 

Further details on the expanded Job Support Scheme are available online. 


doctor giving lady an injection in her arm

Ethnic minority communities and the elderly asked to volunteer for vaccine studies 

Researchers are looking for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and people aged over 65 to volunteer for clinical studies

270,000 people have signed up so far to participate in the vaccine studies, but thousands more are needed. 

Ethnic minorities are under-represented in the vaccine clinical trials currently taking place across the UK.  Of the 270,000 people signed up, only 11,000 are from Asian and British Asian backgrounds, and just 1,200 are Black, African, Caribbean or Black British. 

More people with chronic diseases or over the age of 65 also need to be represented in the clinical trials. 

Studies with a diverse pool of volunteers help researchers better understand the effectiveness of potential vaccines. 

To find out more, or to register as a volunteer, visit the NHS website


Active travel measures in Exeter

Support for making some active travel measures permanent

The coronavirus outbreak has changed our travel patterns, with public transport passenger numbers down by around 40 to 60 per cent, and cycling levels up.

That’s why this week our councillors have supported proposals for a number of “pop-up” measures to support walking and cycling in Exeter to be made permanent, and to carry out public consultation on some of the other arrangements in the city.

We introduced a series of temporary measures in the city and other parts of the county in June, using a £338,000 allocation from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund to provide safer routes for higher numbers of people walking and cycling following the coronavirus outbreak.

Public feedback was considered as councillors explored whether to make some of the changes permanent, extend the trial period or remove some of the measures completely.

Read the full story on our Newscentre to find out how we plan to progress with the measures over the coming months. 


Mother looking worried with hand to her head and a baby on her hip

Financial help if you cannot work from home while self-isolating

Self-isolating can be difficult, but it’s important to stop coronavirus spreading to other people.

Let your employer know if you cannot work from home while you’re self-isolating. They should tell you if you’re covered by their sick leave or special leave policy. If you cannot get sick pay from your employer, you might be able to get Statutory Sick Pay or another type of financial support.

The government has published guidance for people who are employed and cannot work due to coronavirus.

If you’re asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and you’re on a low income, unable to work from home and will lose income as a result, you may be entitled to a payment of £500 from your local district or city council under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. To receive the support, you will need to make a claim and provide evidence to confirm your eligibility. You can find out more about this, including who qualifies for the support, on the government’s website.


student looking up exam results on laptop

Students studying for 2021 exams will have a little longer to prepare 

Most AS, A levels and GCSEs will be held three weeks later than normal next summer, to help address the disruption caused by the pandemic, the government has said. 

They’ll run between 7 June and 2 July, for almost all AS, A levels and GCSEs.

The government wants to work with Ofqual, the regulator, and others, on a range of scenarios and contingency plans, for example if a student is unable to sit an exam due to illness or self-isolation. Or if a school is affected by a local outbreak at the time, and can’t open. 

More detail will be published this autumn. 


man in suit on a phone

New hotline launched to report COVID fraudsters 

The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that taxpayers stand to lose up to £26bn on the government’s COVID-19 business loan scheme, because of fraud, or an inability to repay the money. 

The scheme was designed to quickly distribute cheap loans of up to £50k to small businesses hit by the crisis. But the NAO estimates that up to 60 per cent of customers may fail to pay it back because of fraudulent applications and minimal credit checks. 

The business loan scheme is just one of numerous financial support programmes available to individuals and businesses out of pocket because of coronavirus. 

Roll forward this week, and the government has launched a new public hotline for people to report suspected COVID-related fraudulent activity. 

The hotline is run in partnership with the charity Crimestoppers. 

The government says that a minority of people have been claiming support illegally from the various COVID support schemes, that were set up to help those who are struggling financially. 

The number to call is 0800 587 5030.  Lines are open 24/7 or there is a secure anonymous form on Covidfraudhotline.org.

DCC Daily Updates – Covid Cases

There have recently been a number of questions come through to the Town Council and on Facebook about whether there are any COVID-19 cases in Great Torrington and the surrounding area.  Devon County Council publishes daily updates on the number of cases in Devon down to a district level and it can be found by clicking on this link: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard and Data for Devon  This data does not drill down to the level of individual towns, but it does give clear data for the Torridge and North Devon districts.