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CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION

Fresh appeal to the ‘not yet boosted’ as cases of COVID-19 in Devon reach their highest level since the pandemic began

6,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 9 to 15 January 2022

COVID-19 case rates across Devon continue to be high. Rates have been falling over the past few weeks however there are early indications that this reduction is slowing. It is anticipated following the return to school that we will start to see increases in cases, particularly in school aged children.

Currently the highest COVID-19 case rates across Devon are within the school age population, particularly in North Devon and Exeter.


In this update:

  • Fresh appeal to the ‘not yet boosted’  
  • England to return to Plan A
  • Director of Public Health Devon advises caution in response to PM’s statement
  • Pregnant women urged to have their vaccine as cases rise
  • Local charity receives Queen’s Award for their support during lockdown 
Get boosted!

Fresh appeal to the ‘not yet boosted’  

Overall take-up of COVID-19 booster vaccinations in Devon so far is good, but we can do better. 

More than 80 per cent of eligible people aged 50 years old and over have had the jab, but people younger than that have been a bit slower to get it done. And the younger we go, the take-up of the booster vaccination gets lower. 

For some people there’s likely to be a good reason for not having had their booster jab yet, such as a recent COVID-19 infection or because 12 weeks haven’t yet passed since their second vaccine dose. 

But for others, especially those aged between 25 and 50 years old, who by now should have had sufficient time to be ready for their booster, but haven’t yet come forward – this appeal is for you.

Experts say the booster jab makes a big difference to our immune system. It’s not a ‘nice to have’, after the first and second doses. It’s as important, if not more so for the additional protection it gives us against getting seriously ill. 

So please come forward, if you’re eligible for the booster and haven’t yet had it.   

There are plenty of opportunities to get it now, with or without an appointment, at walk-in sites and vaccination centres across Devon.

And for those young enough, or old enough to remember the classic arcade games first time round, here’s a little video to make you smile, and encourage you to get your booster as soon as possible.

Revert back to plan A

England to return to Plan A

The government has announced that England’s COVID-19 measures will revert from Plan B to Plan A.

This means:

  • the government is no longer asking people to work from home if they can. People should now talk to their employers to agree arrangements to return to the office
  • face coverings are no longer required for staff and pupils in secondary schools and college classrooms
  • from 27 January, face coverings will no longer be required for staff and pupils in communal areas of secondary schools, nor for staff in communal areas of primary schools
  • from 27 January, there is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in public indoor places. The government suggests that you continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet
  • from 27 January, venues and events will no longer be required by law to check visitors’ NHS COVID Pass. The NHS COVID Pass can still be used on a voluntary basis

Visit the government website to find out more about the changes, and what you can do to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Case rates are still high and it is important that people understand this announcement is not one of ‘freedom day’, but a reverting  back to plan A

Director of Public Health Devon advises caution in response to PM’s statement

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has outlined his intention for the country to return to ‘Plan A’.

Responding to the statement, Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:

“Case rates are still high and it is important that people understand that this announcement is not one of ‘freedom day’, but a reverting back to plan A.

“Omicron is by no means a mild virus, and the symptoms to those who are unvaccinated or who have underlying health concerns can be extremely serious if not life threatening.

“So while the Prime Minister is indicating light towards the end of the tunnel, my advice is that we are not yet out of the woods.

“We must stay vigilant and alert to risk that is still around us.

“Please be cautious, let’s use our common sense, and continue to follow good basic public health advice.”

Please visit the news page of our website to read Steve Brown’s statement in full.

It's important to keep mentally well this winter

If you are concerned about change and feeling uncertain 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a roller coaster, and continues to impact all of our lives. 

Even the latest changes announced this week will, no doubt, cause concern for some and be met with joy for others. 

We’re all different, and we all see things from our own perspectives. 

But if you’re concerned about change and are feeling uncertain right now, there is some information online that might help you. 

The NHS Every Mind Matters pages help describe ways to manage uncertainty, and help us reduce stress and cope better

It has 10 things that you can do to help deal with change and look after your mental wellbeing in the face of uncertainty, as well as places you can go to get further free advice and support. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect you and your baby

Pregnant women urged to have their vaccine as cases rise

Leading health experts are renewing their calls for pregnant women to have their COVID-19 vaccine, as cases of coronavirus in Devon reach their highest level since the pandemic began.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recently announced that pregnant women should be considered a clinical risk group.

And now, a Plymouth teacher who was hospitalised while pregnant with flu, shortly after catching COVID-19, is appealing to pregnant women to have both the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. Christine believes that having the jabs helped to prevent her from becoming more seriously ill. She said: 

“It was really horrible. I became severely dehydrated. My baby wasn’t getting the reserves it needed and the midwives became very concerned. It was all a bit scary, especially when there were no foetal movements for 24 hours and my temperature wasn’t coming down. Thankfully I’ve recovered and my baby is okay, but I certainly never want to experience that again.

“My advice to anyone would be to get every vaccine you can. Especially if you’re pregnant, it makes sense to take anything and everything you are offered to protect both you and your baby. They wouldn’t be offered if they weren’t safe for both of you.”

You can find out more about pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS website.

16 and 17 year olds can book their booster jab online

More teens encouraged to get boosted

Young people aged 16 and 17 years old can now book a COVID-19 booster vaccination appointment online.

Top-up doses of the vaccine are available at least three months after you had your second dose.

Invites have been sent encouraging teens in this age group to book their appointment through the online booking service, calling 119, or by finding their nearest walk-in site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment, as soon as they can.

Clinically at-risk 12 to 15 year-olds or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed can now also have their booster jab three months after their two primary doses, with those who are severely immunosuppressed able to get their booster after a third primary dose. Those eligible in this age group can go to a walk-in vaccination site or wait to be contacted by a local NHS service such as a GP surgery and book an appointment with them.

A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine tops up the protection you have from your primary doses of the vaccine, making it effective longer-term and helping prevent you getting seriously ill if you catch the virus. 

Westbank Queen's Award

Local charity receives Queen’s Award for their support during lockdown 

The charity, Westbank, who we work with to deliver a number of community services, has been presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services. 

The Queen’s representative in Devon, the Lord-Lieutenant for Devon, David Fursdon, presented it to them recently. 

It’s for the amazing work Westbank’s Neighbourhood Friends did during the coronavirus lockdown period. 

The Neighbourhood Friends help vulnerable or frail adults, from Exeter, East and Mid Devon, to stay out of hospital or to have shorter hospital stays. They match volunteers up with people who need help, for example, moving furniture so that there’s room for hospital beds or other equipment in their home; installing key safes so that care workers can gain access; and providing company and a warm drink to people following a stay in hospital. 

Over the lockdown period, they helped around 2,030 people.   

Jenny Luscombe, the charity’s longest serving volunteer said: 

“It was such a pleasure to meet the Lord Lieutenant of Devon and an honour to have received The Queen’s Award, which is the equivalent of receiving an MBE for people like myself who give their time to volunteer.” 

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Director of Public Health Devon advises caution in response to PM’s statement

Revert back to plan A

Director of Public Health Devon advises caution in response to PM’s statement

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has outlined his intention for the country to return to ‘Plan A’, in moves to keep coronavirus rates as low as possible.   

In a statement to the House of Commons, he said:

“Today’s latest ONS data shows clearly that infection levels are falling in England. And while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally.”

Hospital admissions nationally, he said, have now stabilised and the numbers in intensive care are falling. Mr Johnson said that:

  • From the next Thursday (27 January) mandatory certification will end, meaning people will no longer have to prove their Coronavirus status to gain entry to some venues
  • The government will no longer ask people to work from home, but that people should talk to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office
  • That it will no longer be compulsory to wear face coverings, starting this week in classrooms
  • There will be easing of restrictions governing visits to care homes

But while the current rules around self-isolation remain in place, Mr Johnson said:

“There will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether – just as we don’t place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.”

He added that he does not expect to renew the current self-isolation regulations, when they expire on Thursday 24 March.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon

Responding to the statement, Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:

“While we have seen a reduction in the overall number of people reporting a positive test in the past week, numbers are now stabilising, and we are seeing increased rates in younger children.

“Case rates are still high and it is important that people understand that this announcement is not one of ‘freedom day’, but a reverting back to plan A.

“Devon’s uptake of the vaccination is good, with more than 85 per cent of eligible people overall now having had their booster.

“However, take-up of the booster is lower in some younger age groups, and it’s imperative that they and everyone who is eligible for their booster jab, comes forward as soon as they can.

“Omicron is by no means a mild virus, and the symptoms to those who are unvaccinated or who have underlying health concerns can be extremely serious if not life threatening.

“So while the Prime Minister is indicating light towards the end of the tunnel, my advice is that we are not yet out of the woods.

“We must stay vigilant and alert to risk that is still around us.

“Being fully vaccinated, and boosted, gives us best protection from this virus.  It’s not too late to start vaccinations, and there are now plenty of opportunities in Devon to get your booster jabs at walk-in and vaccination centres.

“Wearing face coverings is still an effective and sensible precaution to continue in indoor and crowded spaces, especially with people you don’t know.

“Regular lateral flow device testing for people with no symptoms is still the best way to identify those carrying the virus.  As is taking a PCR test by people showing symptoms.

“Keeping indoor spaces ventilated is a sensible precaution to reduce risk.

“And staying at home and avoiding others if you have symptoms of the virus or test positive for it, is still the most responsible way to avoid spreading it to others.

“Please be cautious, let’s use our common sense, and continue to follow good basic public health advice.”

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Devon’s COVID-19 cases stabilising, but still very high

In this update:

  • Devon’s COVID-19 cases stabilising, but still very high
  • Option to leave self-isolation after five full days 
  • April deadline for frontline health and CQC-regulated social care workers to be fully vaccinated
  • Hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses can apply for a grant
  • National Booking Service open to 12-15 year olds for second COVID-19 vaccine dose 
9,177 cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 1 - 8 January

Devon’s COVID-19 cases stabilising, but still very high

The increase in COVID-19 cases in Devon has slowed and stabilised in recent days, but numbers still remain very high. 

Over 9,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Devon in the latest available week, with the weekly rate here (1,132 per 100,000) remaining below the national average (1,695 per 100,000). 

Case rates across the county are highest in those aged 20 to 39 years old (2,071 per 100,000). 

“We are monitoring the data extremely closely,” said Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health. “Our COVID-19 case numbers are still very high, and with young people now returned to schools and colleges again, and more socialisation among those age groups, we expect case levels to change again. 

“We know that the Omicron variant is highly infectious, and we are now seeing an increase in hospitalisations in Devon. Thankfully, it’s not leading, to the same extent, to deaths or stays in Intensive Care Units.” 

Meanwhile more than 85 per cent of those eligible for their COVID-19 booster vaccinations have now had their jabs. Figures show that around three months after those aged 65 and over receive the third jab, protection against hospitalisation remains at about 90 per cent. 

new self isolation guidance

Option to leave self-isolation after five full days 

The default COVID-19 self-isolation period continues to be 10 days, but the government announced this week that from Monday 17 January, people will have the option to reduce their isolation period after five full days, if they test negative on both day 5 and day 6, and do not have a temperature. 

But it’s crucial that people isolating wait until they have received the two negative lateral flow device (LFD) tests on two consecutive days – the first test no earlier than day 5, and the second must be taken the following day.  

And it’s essential that the two tests are reported before people return to their job or education, if leaving self-isolation earlier than the full 10 days. 

However, there are still risks. If you leave isolation on day 6, after 5 full days of isolation, between 20 to 30 per cent of people are still infectious. 

So anyone leaving self-isolation earlier than 10 days is strongly advised to wear face coverings and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and work from home if they can. 

There are exceptions though. Self-isolation may continue in certain circumstances, such as for those who work with vulnerable people. The government will publish a full list in their guidance in due course, they report.

from 11 Jan 2022 if you have a positive lateral flow test you don't need to take a follow up PCR

Confirmatory PCR tests suspended

On Tuesday this week, we sent you a special edition of this newsletter to mark the change in government guidance around COVID-19 testing, to help everyone understand what they need to do and when.

If you missed it you can read a copy online here.

People in England, who receive a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result for coronavirus are required to self-isolate immediately, without having to take a confirmatory PCR test.

It’s a temporary measure while cases of coronavirus are so high across the UK. There are exceptions though, and you can read more about them in the email we sent you on Tuesday.

protect the people you care for - get your COVID-19 vaccine

April deadline for frontline health and CQC-regulated social care workers to be fully vaccinated 

All patient-facing health and Care Quality Commission (CQC) – regulated social care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated from April 2022. 

For everyone to be fully vaccinated (first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine) by this date, unvaccinated people will need to have had their first dose by Thursday 3 February.

Vaccinations can be booked through the National Booking Service, or by ringing 119, or by attending one of the many walk-ins available across the county.

There are some exemptions, including people under 18 years old; people who are clinically exempt; people taking part in a COVID-19 trial and people who don’t have face-to-face contact with the public. 

The government’s decision brings front line CQC-regulated social care workers, such as domiciliary care workers, in line with care home staff. It was made a requirement for care home staff to be fully vaccinated last year. 

Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, said: 

“The NHS has always been clear that staff should get the life-saving COVID-19 vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and their patients and the overwhelming majority have already done so. 

“Working with NHS organisations, we will continue to support staff who have not yet received the vaccination to take up the evergreen offer. 

Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, Deborah Sturdy, said: 

“I encourage anyone working in social care who has not yet had their vaccine to come forward as soon as possible to protect yourselves, your colleagues and those you care for.” 

cafe

Hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses can apply for a grant 

Cash grants of up to £6,000 are now available to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 Omicron variant. 

Hospitality, leisure and accommodation businesses are able to apply for the one-off grant. Eligible businesses include, but are not limited to, pubs, restaurants (excluding takeaways), cafés, tourist attractions, event venues, museums, theatres, holiday parks, hotels, and campsites. 

The level of payment of the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant is based on the rateable value for each eligible business premises: 

  • Businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or below can apply for a grant of £2,667; 
  • Businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can apply for £4,000; 
  • Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or above can apply for £6,000. 

The grant funding forms part of a £1 billion support package from the government, and will be administered by your local district council.

If you are an eligible hospitality, leisure or accommodation business owner that has previously received a COVID-19 support grant, you are likely to have already been contacted directly with details about how to apply.  

For more information, please visit your district council’s website or the Heart of the South West Growth Hub website.

12-15 year olds can now have their COVID-19 vaccine

National Booking Service open to 12-15 year olds for second COVID-19 vaccine dose  

The National Booking Service is now open for 12-15 year-olds to make appointments to have their second COVID-19 jab.  

All eligible 12-15 year olds are now able to book their second jab online if they had their first dose more than 12 weeks ago, in line with updated JCVI guidance

Nationally more than 1.3 million young people have taken up the offer of a vaccine so far and more than 5,000 schools have been visited. Over 75,000 school children are currently eligible for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Young people and their families are being urged to book in online for either their first dose, if they haven’t done so already, and their second dose as soon as they become eligible. 

Young people are also able to get their vaccine through existing school immunisation services. 

flu vaccine

Record level of flu jab uptake in those aged 65 years old and over 

More people aged 65 years old and over have received their flu vaccine this year than ever before according to the UK Health Security Agency.

However uptake in pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, and pre-schoolers remains behind older adults. 

Of people aged 65 years old and over, 81.4 per cent have already come forward for their flu vaccination this season. This is the highest uptake in this age group on record, above the end of season uptake of 80.9 per cent last year. 

However, uptake in pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions remains low in comparison to older adults (37.1 per cent for pregnant women and 49.2 per cent for those under 65 with underlying health conditions), and preschool vaccination rates are less than last year’s record uptake during the same period (49.0 per cent of 3-year olds and 46.6 per cent in all 2-year olds). Uptake recorded in healthcare workers is also lower than at this point in previous years. 

poorly toddler

Charity warns of winter respiratory bug for babies and young children 

The British Lung Foundation is urging parents to be on their guard against the winter virus, RSV, which usually peaks in January, and could coincide with large numbers of COVID-19 infections. 

This week, the charity reported a 400 per cent rise in calls from parents to its helpline, with many asking for advice about RSV. 

RSV is common in babies and children under two years old. It can cause breathing issues, but most babies and children will only have mild symptoms that can be looked after safely at home. But around three in every 100 have symptoms that require hospital treatment. 

The charity says that there were very few cases of RSV last winter when lockdowns were in place, which means that young children have much lower immunity this year. 

Their advice for parents includes asking anyone who has a cough or cold to stay away from young children; making sure that anyone who handles their child washes their hands regularly; and not smoking around young children and babies, especially if they are unwell. 

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

From today, people without COVID-19 symptoms no longer need a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow in England.

Testing for COVID-19

There are different tests you can get to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • PCR tests – mainly for people with symptoms, they’re sent to a lab to be checked
  • rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests – only for people who do not have symptoms, they give a quick result

The government has made some changes to the COVID-19 testing requirements in England recently, so we have created this special edition of our newsletter to help everyone understand what they need to do and when.

from 11 Jan 2022 if you have a positive lateral flow test you don't need to take a follow up PCR

Confirmatory PCR tests suspended from today 

From today, people in England without COVID-19 symptoms who receive a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result are required to self-isolate immediately, without having to take a confirmatory PCR test

It’s a temporary measure while cases of coronavirus are so high across the UK. While case levels are high, the vast majority of people with positive lateral flow device results can be confident that they have coronavirus. 

Rapid LFD tests are for regular use by people who do not show any of the three main symptoms of having coronavirus – the high temperature, new and continuous coughing, or change to their usual sense of taste or smell.  They’re to identify positive cases among people who would otherwise not know they’ve got it. 

If you have any of those symptoms, you’re to self-isolate immediately and arrange a PCR test, online.   

From today, anyone testing positive with a LFD should report their result on GOV.UK, and must self-isolate immediately. 


But there are some exceptions 

If you have a positive LFD test result, you should still also have a follow-up PCR test if: 

  • you also have COVID-19 symptoms
  • you wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment – to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment, you must have tested positive for COVID-19 following a PCR test or an assisted LFD test 
  • you have received an email or letter from the NHS because of a health condition that means you may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments – if this applies to you and you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, you should use the PCR test kit that was sent to you in the post for this purpose; if you have not received a PCR test kit you can arrange to have a PCR test 
  • you are taking LFD tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks you to take a follow-up PCR test 
positive COVID-19 test

If you have a positive test result 

You should stay at home and self-isolate if you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus or if you have a positive LFD or PCR test result.

Self-isolation will help protect your family, friends and the wider community by reducing the risk that you will pass the infection on to others. 

Your self-isolation period starts immediately from when your symptoms started, or, if you do not have symptoms, from when your positive LFD or PCR test was taken, whichever test was taken first. 

The self-isolation period lasts for 10 days, after which you can return to your normal routine if your symptoms have gone, or if you’re just left with a cough or loss of sense of taste or smell (these symptoms can last a few weeks).  

If you’ve still got a high temperature, or still feel unwell after 10 days, stay at home and seek medical advice. 


Ending your self-isolation period earlier than 10 days 

You can end your self-isolation period before the end of the 10 full days, if you take an LFD test from six days after the day your symptoms started, and another LFD test on the following day.   

The second LFD test should be taken at least 24 hours later.   

If both test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative LFD test result. 

report your COVID-19 test result

Don’t forget to report your COVID-19 test result

When you take a rapid lateral flow device (LFD) COVID-19 test, always remember to report the result via the government website.

Whether it is positive, negative or void, reporting results is a great way to help the NHS reduce the spread of the virus.

Reporting results helps to:

  • reduce infection rates in your community
  • protect people at higher risk of infection
  • prevent and reduce the spread of the virus
  • find out if you’re infectious (you may not have symptoms)

Report the result every time you use a LFD test, as soon as possible after you get the result.

If you are taking daily LFD tests because you are a contact of someone who has COVID-19, you should report your result every day.

You cannot report a result after more than 24 hours and you can only report one result at a time.

COVID-19 testing in Devon

How to access COVID-19 tests in Devon

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 get a PCR test as soon as possible, even if the symptoms are mild. 

You can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a local walk-in or drive-through test site via the government website.

Rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests are only for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Even if you’re vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on. Doing rapid tests regularly helps to protect yourself and others.

You can order free packs of LFD tests to be sent to your home via the government website.

Picking up rapid LFD tests from a local pharmacy or collection point is the quickest way to get them for most people.

Our pop-up community testing vans also provide on-site LFD tests, without the need for appointments, at locations across the county. However, difficulties with the supply of LFD tests mean that they don’t have any home test kits to hand out at the moment. Details of our mobile community testing van timetable are available on our website.

Which COVID-19 test do I need?

We know it can be hard to keep track of which COVID-19 tests you should take; when you should take them, how often, and what you’re meant to do afterward.

So we’ve put together a tool to try to help.

Start by answering a simple question about your current situation and then follow the guidance provided. In some scenarios, there are further options for you to select from which will help you to understand what you should do in the most common situations.

The NHS website provides more guidance about COVID-19 testing and you can also use it to find out how to book your COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Help reduce risk for the sake of others as COVID-19 cases rise in Devon

8002 cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 26 Dec 2021 to 1 Jan 2022

The number of cases of coronavirus in Devon is currently lower than the national average, but rising rapidly in all age groups and we expect to see rates increase considerably in the coming weeks. 


In this update:

  • A new year message of hope from Devon’s Director of Public Health
  • Help reduce risk for the sake of others
  • Confirmatory PCR tests temporarily suspended
  • Plenty of capacity at Devon COVID-19 vaccination sites
  • Returning to school safely
Happy new year 2022

New Year message of hope as COVID-19 cases rise in Devon

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, wishes everyone a very Happy New Year, with hopes for a brighter and safer year ahead of us. He said:

“Cases of COVID-19 in Devon are among the lowest in England, but are rising and much higher than previous points in the pandemic, with the highly infectious Omicron variant now dominant in all areas.  

“Devon has lagged behind the national trend by a few weeks with coronavirus, which allows us more time to get booster jabs and be better protected. Cases of Omicron have so far been less severe for most people, compared to earlier variants, and our uptake of the vaccinations is high, which is all good news. 

“However cases here in Devon are rising in all age groups and with the return to schools this week, we expect to see rates increase considerably in the coming weeks. 

“At the same time, there are huge pressures within local health and social care services, including hospitals and ambulances. NHS Devon report that the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and the number of hospital staff absent due to the virus have both risen by one third in the last fortnight, and the pressure on those critical services is expected to get worse over coming weeks. 

“My New Year’s message is simple. We are not out of the woods with coronavirus, and we have an immediate hill to climb over the next few weeks to get us over this current Omicron surge. We know what to do. Please follow the guidance, and do everything you can to minimise risk to yourselves and others.”

  • Take up the vaccine as soon as you’re eligible – it’s not too late to have your first, second or booster jab 
  • Test regularly with lateral flow device tests if you have no symptoms, and take a PCR test if you do have symptoms 
  • Self-isolate if you have symptoms, and if you test positive 
  • Wear face coverings when indoors in crowded spaces, including on public transport and in shops
  • Keep indoor spaces well ventilated 
  • Wash your hands properly and regularly 
wear a face covering

Director of Public Health Devon urges people to help reduce risk for the sake of others 

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, was asked this week, with coronavirus cases in Devon already high and predicted to get considerably higher this month due to the Omicron variant, what more should people in the county do?

“This latest surge demonstrates that coronavirus is still very much with us, and still a serious health risk to many people,” he said. 

“The Omicron variant, while extremely infectious, may not be leading to the same extent to high levels of illness or death, but the health risk to people who may be immuno-supressed or who have other underlying health conditions is still extremely serious. 

“Add to that the risk to health, or at best disruption to day jobs while self-isolating, for the thousands of front line staff in health, social care and other essential workers, and such high levels of coronavirus are likely to have a dramatic impact on the delivery of the services we rely heavily upon.  

“We know what helps reduce risk – it’s taking up the vaccine when invited, including the booster; wearing face coverings where appropriate and self-isolating when we need to.   

“So I’m asking people to follow the guidance, if not for yourself, but for others – for those people who are more likely to get seriously ill from having coronavirus; and people whose professions we rely on to keep essential services running.” 

fish factory

Critical workers to take daily lateral flow device tests to keep services running 

From Monday 10 January, free COVID-19 lateral flow tests will be given to 100,000 critical workers in England, to help keep essential services and supply chains running.

Critical workers will be asked to take a test on every working day, for an initial five weeks. 

Lateral flow tests are for people who show none of the three main symptoms of coronavirus, so daily testing by critical workers is to help identify people who are carrying the virus and could spread it unknowingly and limit the risk of outbreaks within those workplaces. 

‘Critical workers’ in this case include people who work in critical national infrastructure, national security, transport, and food distribution and processing. It includes roles in Border Force, police, fire and rescue services control rooms, electricity generation, test kit warehouses and test surge labs. 

Not included in this scheme are workers within adult social care or education, who already have a testing allocation with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). 

The government is contacting organisations included in the scheme directly this week ahead of roll out starting on Monday. 

no home-test kits available from community testing vans

No home-test kits available from our community testing vans

Difficulties with the supply of lateral flow tests to our community testing vans means that we now have to prioritise the stock we have towards health, care and other key public sector services.

Our pop-up test units will continue to provide on-site lateral flow device tests, without the need for appointments, at locations across the county.

However, for the time being, we will unfortunately no longer be able to hand out home test kits from our vans to members of the public.

If you represent a voluntary or community organisation that is providing essential support to local people and rely on our pop-up service to access lateral flow tests, please speak to a member of staff at one of our pop-up sites who will seek to help you.

For more information about COVID-19 testing in Devon, please visit our website.

from 11 Jan 2022 if you have a positive lateral flow test you don't need to take a follow up PCR

Confirmatory PCR tests temporarily suspended 

From Tuesday 11 January, people in England who test positive for coronavirus with a lateral flow device test will be required to self-isolate immediately, but won’t need to take a confirmatory PCR test. 

The temporary change comes because COVID-19 rates currently remain high across the UK, so when people are now testing positive with a lateral flow, there’s a strong degree of confidence that they’ve got COVID-19. 

But lateral flow tests should still only be used by people who show no COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with a new and continuous cough, high temperature, or change to their usual sense of taste or smell, should stay at home, self-isolate and take a PCR test. And if that’s positive, they continue self-isolating for the duration. 

Under the new guidance, anyone testing positive with a lateral flow device should report their result on GOV.UK, and must self-isolate immediately. They don’t need to take the confirmatory PCR test. 

There are some exceptions to this new approach. You can find out more on the government’s website.

Lateral flow tests

Are lateral flow tests accurate?

Yes! Rapid lateral flow tests are most useful at identifying coronavirus in people without symptoms, and are over 80 per cent effective at finding people with high viral loads who are most infectious. 

NHS Test and Trace have found that for every 10,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there are likely to be fewer than three false positive results. 

Right now, with the high prevalence of infection, it’s highly likely that a positive lateral flow test will be a true positive, therefore a confirmatory PCR test isn’t necessary. 

For more information about COVID-19 testing in Devon, please visit our website.

get boosted now!

Plenty of capacity at Devon COVID-19 vaccination sites – get boosted now!

Over 80 per cent of eligible people in the south-west have now had their COVID-19 booster jab, which is excellent. It means that we are much better placed as the Omicron variant drives up COVID-19 cases. Earlier this week the Prime Minister said that 90 per cent of patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) across the country are unvaccinated and 60 per cent have not had their booster jab.

January is always a busy time for the health and care system and this year is definitely no exception, and in Devon we anticipate a very busy few weeks ahead.

While cases locally are lower than many other parts of the country, they are still far higher than at previous times in the pandemic. As a result, health and social care services are being impacted by an increase in the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and the number of staff off work due to the virus, in addition to the winter pressures seen in a normal year. 

There is plenty of capacity for walk-ins and booked appointments in Devon so anyone who has not come forward is urged to Get Boosted Now to protect against Omicron. All adults can now have their booster dose three months after their second dose.

Details of walk-in clinics are being regularly shared on NHS Devon CCG’s Twitter channel. You can find your nearest walk-in clinic on NHS England’s site finder and appointments can be booked via the National Booking System.

Dr Michael Marsh, South West Medical Director NHS England and NHS
Improvement, said:

“Why not start the New Year with a resolution to keep
healthy and get a life-saving booster jab. It’s the best way to protect
yourself and your loved ones against Omicron. Also if you haven’t had your first or second dose yet, please come forward as it’s not too late and we would be pleased to see you.”

school classroom

Devon schools rise to the challenge 

Devon County Council schools have reported a 94 per cent pupil attendance this week, following a staggered start to the new term. Prior to Christmas, pupil attendance was around 90 per cent. 

All our schools reopened this week, with many secondaries providing on-site testing for pupils ahead of the term start. 

Our schools have encouraged the wearing of face coverings in communal areas since last summer due to the high number of positive cases, but now, the national guidance expects secondary school pupils to wear them in the classroom as well, unless exempt.

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health, said: 

“I want to thank pupils and parents for their continued support in helping to follow the national guidance, to help contain the spread of the virus. 

“With schools back this week, and with the highly infectious Omicron variant getting a stronger foothold in Devon, we expect case rates to rise over coming weeks. 

“I ask that pupils continue to wear face coverings in the classroom, as well as in communal areas, and to keep up with the regular lateral flow tests when showing no symptoms. 

“We are continuing to work very closely with our schools and colleges, especially where we see outbreaks, to help reduce risk to pupils and staff.” 

travelling to England

Pre-departure testing removed for vaccinated travellers

The government has announced that COVID-19 testing and border measures are changing for fully eligible fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England.

From 4.00am on Sunday 9 January, eligible fully vaccinated travellers and over five year olds will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR on or before day two of their arrival in England. Lateral flow tests for travel can be booked from today (Friday 7 January) and taken upon arrival, by the end of day two.

Lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider as NHS Test and Trace lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel. Passengers who have already bought a PCR to use for travel do not need to buy another test as PCRs can still be used.

Since 4.00am today (Friday 7 January) eligible fully vaccinated passengers and under 18 year olds no longer need to take a pre-departure test or self-isolate on arrival in England, but must continue to take their post-arrival tests.

Anyone who receives a positive result on their lateral flow test must self-isolate immediately and order a NHS PCR test from the government website. Positive PCR tests for arrivals will be sequenced to understand if and where variants are emerging around the globe in order to protect the UK public.

Unvaccinated passengers must continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 and self-isolate for 10 days. ‘Test to release’ remains an option for unvaccinated people to shorten their self-isolation period.

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Help everyone this Christmas by testing, £1 billion in support for businesses most impacted by Omicron, Plenty of booster slots available

Christmas might be a little different again this year because COVID-19 is still with us, but if we all continue to make the right choices and follow the restrictions in place to help keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe, there’s hope for brighter times ahead in 2022. 🎄

With best wishes for a safe and happy Christmas,
from everyone at Devon County Council 

4,470 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Devon between 11-17 December

While case rates in Devon have been stable over recent days, they still remain high. We expect the number of positive cases to rise, as they are doing everywhere, because of how infectious the Omicron variant is. Positive cases are currently highest amongst those aged between 20 and 39.


In this update:

❇️ Thank you, and let’s stay vigilant

❇️ There are plenty of appointment slots available to receive your booster

❇️ £1 billion in support for businesses most impacted by Omicron

❇️ Self-isolation period reduced to seven days, with testing

❇️ Help everyone this Christmas by testing

Grandad with grandchild at Christmas

Thank you, and let’s stay vigilant

Thank you for taking time to keep updated about coronavirus, and I hope that you have found our bulletins during the pandemic helpful and informative.

We leave you for Christmas, to resume with the latest updates in the New Year, with a final message to urge everyone to get their vaccinations.

It’s not too late if you are eligible to get your first, second, third (if required) or booster vaccinations. And it is the single, most important thing that you can do to protect yourselves and your loved ones from potentially becoming seriously unwell should you catch coronavirus.

NHS Devon is reporting plenty of vaccination appointment slots being available across the county, at a range of locations, including vaccination centres, GP surgeries and pharmacies, as well as at pop-up clinics. You can find your nearest walk-in centre online.

Please enjoy your Christmas, but remain vigilant and do everything you can to reduce risk to yourselves and others. Follow the latest guidance, and look out for each other.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon

Mother and son washing up

12 to 15 year olds eligible for second COVID-19 vaccination

From Monday 20 December, 12 to 15 year olds are eligible to book their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Two doses are now being offered to this age group to give them the best protection against COVID-19.

Most children can get a second dose from 12 weeks after they had their first dose. However, if your child has tested positive for COVID-19 and isn’t high risk, they need to wait 12 weeks before they can have the vaccine. This starts from the date of their positive PCR test.

Vaccine teams will be back in schools in January to help with the rollout, but you can book an appointment for your child online if they are eligible now, or visit a walk-in clinic.

Men talking

Unpaid carers will receive priority at vaccination centres

Unpaid carers – people who provide care for a relative or friend – are being given the same priority as social care staff in queues to receive their booster jabs for coronavirus.

It’s to recognise their caring role, and how for many carers, time away from the person they care for is limited.

If you provide care to someone else, there’s a letter from the Department for Health and Social Care that will give you priority at vaccination centres. The letter simply informs vaccination centre staff that the bearer of it should be allowed priority if there are queues.

Print off the letter and take it with you to show a marshal at your vaccination centre. You’ll then be fast-tracked through any queue, so that you’re not held up waiting.

The letter is available from Devon Carers. You can contact Devon Carers on 03456 434 435 or by live chat on their website. Please note Devon Carers’ opening times over the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Get your booster, book online or visit a walk in centre

There are plenty of appointment slots available to receive your booster

In the past week alone, teams across Devon have delivered more than 100,000 vaccines, which is in part thanks to the many practice staff and volunteers who stepped up at such short notice to set up new clinics, promote sessions, and give vaccines.

There are lots of appointments available at our vaccine sites. Please make time to book your booster now so you can start 2022 with a New Year’s resolution rather than with COVID-19.

If you have not yet received or booked your COVID-19 vaccinations, you can do so through the National Booking Service– or by ringing 119. 

You can also attend one of the many walks-in vaccination sites across the county or attend a pop-up clinic – which are advertised each week by the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and local authorities and via targeted social media.

Image asking 'when do  need to self isolate'?

Self-isolation period reduced to seven days, with testing

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), suggests that a seven day isolation period, alongside two negative lateral flow test results, has nearly the same protective effect as a 10 day isolation period without lateral flow testing for people with COVID-19.

So from this week, people who have been vaccinated, but who have caught coronavirus, can self-isolate for seven days instead of 10, so long as they test negative with two lateral flow tests on days six and seven.

The first test must be taken no earlier than day six of the self-isolation period.

If they test negative with both tests, they can leave self-isolation on or after day seven, but they are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces. They are also advised to work from home and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus.

There is no change to the guidance for unvaccinated contacts of positive coronavirus cases – they are still required to self-isolate for 10 full days.

Existing public health measures remain in place including:

✅ staying at home if you feel unwell

✅ get a test if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms

✅ wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces

✅ work from home if possible

✅ maintain social distancing and regular hand washing

✅ take up the offer of the free COVID-19 vaccine

Home LFD COVID-19 tests

Which test do I need?

We know it can be hard to keep track of which COVID-19 tests you should take: when you should take them; how often; which one – PCR or Lateral Flow Device; and what you’re meant to do afterward.

So, we’ve put together a tool to try to help you work out when and how to get tested.

You just answer a few simple questions about your current situation, and it takes you through the guidance. Rest assured, no personal information is required, so there’s nothing to identify you.

Person Holding Pastry Dishes on White Ceramic Plates

£1 billion in support for businesses most impacted by Omicron

Businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises, the government announced this week.

They will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for COVID-19-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK.

It’s in recognition that the rise in the Omicron variant means some businesses are likely to struggle over coming weeks.

Businesses will also be able to apply for grants, that will be administered by local councils and be available in coming weeks.

The grants will be equivalent to the monthly cash grants provided to hospitality businesses when they were fully closed earlier this year.

To read their announcement, visit the government’s webpage.

Image asking kids at secondary school to take a lateral flow test

Help everyone this Christmas by testing

Taking regular lateral flow tests is one of the most effective ways to stop COVID-19 spreading and is especially important with the Omicron variant in circulation.

Please ask your children to keep testing over the holidays, especially if they’re meeting friends or family, to help keep everyone safer this Christmas. Remember that they will also need to test ahead of returning to school in January.

You can order tests online or collect from a pharmacy near you (using a QR code).

Woman browsing smartphones on couch together

All you want to know about current COVID-19 measures

With just a few days before Christmas, and the question on lots of people’s minds about whether additional measures will be introduced at some point over the next few weeks to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.

We thought a good place for you to stay in touch with the latest information is via the government’s Coronavirus webpage. Here you’ll find all the current restrictions and any updates as they’re announced.

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Please be cautious about socialising this Christmas; COVID-19 booster programme speeds up in Devon and we’re here if you need help over the festive period…

Christmas might be a little different again this year because COVID-19 is still with us, but if we all continue to make the right choices and follow the restrictions in place to help keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe, there’s hope for brighter times ahead in 2022.

With best wishes for a safe and happy Christmas,
from everyone at Devon County Council

4,729 covid-19 cases in Devon from 5 to 11 December 2021

COVID-19 case rates have fallen slightly over the last week in Devon, but they are rising rapidly nationally, especially in London. So although we’re currently seeing a drop in positive cases, we expect cases to start to surge in Devon and the south west in the next week or so.


In this update:

  • Please be cautious about socialising this Christmas
  • COVID-19 booster programme ramps up in Devon
  • Omicron now dominant COVID-19 variant in part of the country 
  • Consider using public transport to get to vaccination centres
  • If you need help over the festive period
Tis the season to test before you get together

Please be cautious about socialising this Christmas 

While the country may be winding down for Christmas, efforts to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 Omicron variant are ramping up significantly. 

It’s spreading at a phenomenal pace and is very likely to be the dominant strain soon, although not enough is known about it yet to fully understand its impact on our health. 

All adults are advised to take up their booster vaccine, as soon as they are eligible to do so, and the NHS is pulling out the stops to make that so. The government’s target is to get the booster programme done by the end of the year, but this week Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, urged the public to be cautious about socialising in the run up to Christmas. In short, he said: 

“Don’t mix with people you don’t have to.”

He’s urging us to prioritise events and celebrations that are important to us, because otherwise we risk getting infected attending something that doesn’t matter, and then we can’t do the things that really do matter to us. 

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, echoes the sentiment. He said:

“My advice is for everyone to be as cautious as possible over Christmas and New Year.   

“Booster take-up is going well in Devon, but the Omicron variant is so infectious, it’s not worth putting ourselves and others at risk unnecessarily. 

“Many of us will have made plans for Christmas, to travel to see family and friends. But I think right now, this year, we need to prioritise what we want to do most, and minimise the amount of time we spend in larger gatherings. 

“If we are planning to spend time with family or friends, please do everything you can to protect yourselves and each other. 

Get your booster vaccination – that’s a priority; get tested before you get together, and if you’re away a while take tests with you; follow the national advice, especially about wearing face coverings; and remember to let the fresh air in, because that reduces the risk of infection.”

Get boosted now!

COVID-19 booster programme speeds up in Devon

The NHS in Devon is rising to the challenge of offering every adult in the county the COVID-19 booster vaccine by the end of December as quickly and safely as possible to try to limit the impact of the Omicron variant.

They’ve increased the opening hours and days of operation of their vaccine sites (with some open until 2.00am!), opening up additional GP and pharmacy sites, and increasing the number of walk-in and pop-up sessions. 

Recent data suggests that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against symptomatic infection is substantially reduced, especially with the Omicron variant, with just two doses, but a third dose boosts protection back up to over 70 per cent, so it’s important to have.

Additional appointments are regularly being added to the national booking service and demand is high so the advice is to be patient, but persevere and keep checking back. Please do not phone your GP about vaccinations – they will contact you if needed, and they cannot help with national booking service enquiries.

Drop-in/pop-up clinics will be advertised through media and social media
when they are available and when sites have availability. Follow Devon’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

COVID-19 virus

Omicron now dominant COVID-19 variant in parts of the country 

The South West has an Omicron prevalence of 30.6 per cent, (at the time of sending you this newsletter) – that’s a percentage of the population who’s positive PCR test identifies the Omicron variant.

The ZOE COVID Study has published a map of England where Omicron is present. Dark areas, such as the London region, show were Omicron has become the dominant strain, whereas light areas, such as Devon, show Delta remains dominant, for now. 

Earlier this week we sent you a special edition of this newsletter, following the various changes and announcements we’ve heard in the last week in response to Omicron. If you missed it, you can find it online. 

In it, we round up all of the new measures, which ministers have since supported in parliament; we talk about the booster jab, who’s eligible, and why we need it; but also, that it’s not too late to get any of your vaccinations. 

Thanks to all of you who have been in touch to tell us how helpful it is. 

Waiting after COVID-19 vaccine

Waiting after your COVID-19 vaccination

Up until now, people receiving the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have been asked to wait for 15 minutes before leaving the vaccination centre. This was because the rate of serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) reported after these two vaccines is slightly higher (around 5 to 10 per million doses) than after other vaccines (normally 1 per million).

The COVID-19 booster programme is being sped up because of the Omicron variant, and as part of this, and given the very low rate of anaphylaxis, the Chief Medical Officer, with the support of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that the 15 minute wait be suspended.

If you have a history of allergies, particularly to other vaccines, or if you had an immediate reaction after your previous doses, you may still be advised to stay for the 15 minutes. Please make sure you tell the vaccination centre. Please also tell them if you have previously fainted following vaccination.

Otherwise you will be able to leave the centre straight after your vaccine as long as you feel OK. However, you must not drive for 15 minutes after the vaccine – this is because of the risk of fainting.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include a persistent cough, a hoarse voice, swollen tongue, difficulty breathing, feeling lightheaded or fainting, clammy skin, confusion or being unresponsive or unconscious. These symptoms, if they develop, typically happen within 15 minutes of vaccination. If you experience any of the these, call out for help and/or ring 999 immediately (or ask someone to do this for you). 

traffic jam

Consider using public transport to get to vaccination centres

With more people able to get their COVID-19 vaccines, and the booster programme expanded, we’ve seen the roads around vaccination centres busy with traffic this week, particularly the main route to the Greendale Vaccination Centre, near Exeter.

If you have not made an appointment for Greendale, and are considering walking-in without an appointment, please check ahead to make sure that they are accepting walk-ins that day. The teams are very busy, and may be prioritising those who have booked their vaccination slot in advance. 

If you have made an appointment, please consider using public transport. The Stagecoach 9 and 9A buses run between Exeter and East Devon and pass the Greendale vaccination site. You can leave your car at Sowton Park and Ride on Sidmouth Road and catch either route from there.

And from Saturday 18 until Friday 31 December, a FREE park and ride coach service will be available from Park School in Barnstaple, for people getting vaccinated at the North Devon Leisure Centre.

When attending vaccination sites, be prepared for a wait. Bring warm clothes,
a flask of tea, anything that helps you while you wait. Staff are doing everything they can to get you seen, so please be kind and bear with them. If you are frail or have mobility difficulties, or if you are pregnant, there are people looking out for you to take you to seating areas and if you need help, please tell a marshal.

Look out for traffic updates via our Twitter account @DevonAlert 

Our Travel Devon website includes helpful information for people needing to travel to their vaccination appointments. It includes a link to Traveline, which can help you choose your public transport options. 

If you are unable to drive or get a lift or use public transport to get to your appointment, you may be able to find transport via the network of voluntary organisations that operate across Devon. We have details about voluntary transport services that are supporting the vaccination programme

pregnant

Pregnant women now a clinical risk group 

The government has said that women who are pregnant will now be considered a clinical risk group within the coronavirus vaccination programme. 

It puts more emphasis on the importance for pregnant women to take up the vaccine. 

Growing evidence shows women who are pregnant to be at greater risk of serious consequences from coronavirus. Most pregnant women admitted to hospital with severe COVID-19 are unvaccinated, so a key priority is to increase the number of pregnant women completing their first two doses, at eight weeks apart. 

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of the Joint Committee on vaccination and immunisation, said: 

“Women who are pregnant are strongly encouraged to have a first, second or booster vaccine to better protect yourself and your baby from any serious consequences from COVID-19. 

“There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines used in pregnancy increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirths, congenital abnormalities or birth complications. Having a UK approved COVID-19 vaccine is safer than having COVID-19 itself.” 

school classroom

Vaccinating school children

Vaccination teams have visited all schools across Devon in the last three months providing COVID-19 and flu vaccinations to 12–15 year olds. 

This age group can also book an appointment via the National Booking Service. First dose COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be available at Devon’s main vaccination centres through the school holidays, and, for those who received their first dose at least 12 weeks ago, they will be able to book a second dose from next week (Monday 20 December) with appointments available from 10 January.

Vaccination teams will be visiting schools again in the new term to give first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 12-15 year olds.

Open shop

Shop local to support Devon’s economy

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to be felt by businesses across Devon, particularly in the retail and leisure industry.  

High streets are open and eager to welcome shoppers in the run up to Christmas, which has traditionally been their busiest time. 

Shopping locally and supporting Devon’s retailers and traders is really important. It means your money stays in Devon and boosts the local economy, supporting jobs and livelihoods for thousands of residents.

It’s also better for the environment as produce sold in high street butchers, bakers, grocers and local eateries are likely to have travelled fewer miles and require minimal packaging.

Please remember if you are visiting the high street, to adhere to the national health and safety guidance to help protect yourself and others. This includes:

  • wearing a face covering inside any shop or business
  • keeping a safe distance from people outside of your household
  • washing your hands or using sanitiser frequently
  • using cashless payments when possible.
Need a break?

Call for unpaid carers to look after themselves this winter

Devon Carers is encouraging all unpaid carers to have the COVID-19 booster to help protect themselves, and the people they care for, from coronavirus this winter.

As someone who gives their time to support a family member, friend, or neighbour, it’s really important that unpaid carers look after their own health and wellbeing first.

We recognise that COVID-19 is particularly challenging for unpaid carers, and so have provided additional funding for ‘Special Schemes’ that have been designed to help when they need a break from their caring role.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, please get in touch with Devon Carers, they offer a range of specialist support from a listening ear to advice on break funds and emergency planning.

Visit the Devon Carers website or call 01392 307720.

family at Christmas

If you need help over the festive period…

Lots of public services remain open over the festive period, although operating times may be reduced.

You can find our Customer Service Centre’s Christmas opening hours on our website.

There’s also information about our social care services over Christmas.

If you need to contact your GP practice please check their online services. You can book appointments, request sick notes and order repeat prescriptions and download the NHS App. You can also save time and consult with your GP practice online via their website. Alternatively, you can phone them. Most GP practices in Devon are open until Christmas Eve, and re-open again on Wednesday 28 December.

If you think you need to go to A&E, call 111 first or click www.111.nhs.uk. Clinicians will advise you on where to go, or what to do next, and can book a time to attend a service – such as a hospital, pharmacy or GP practice – where appropriate.

Many minor illnesses and injuries like coughs, colds, grazes, small cuts or a sore throat can be treated at home or in holiday accommodation. Be prepared for common health problems by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

Pharmacists advise and treat illnesses like hay fever, diarrhoea, earache, painful cough, sticky eye, teething and rashes. By visiting your pharmacy, you can avoid an unnecessary trip to your GP or A&E and save time. Find your nearest pharmacy online and check their opening arrangements over Christmas and New Year.

If you are an adult and need urgent mental health support, call: Devon and Torbay 0300 555 5000; Plymouth 01752 434 922 (24 hours). For children and young people’s support in Plymouth (including for parents and carers) call 01752 435 122. 

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

NHS Devon urging residents to ‘get boosted now’ as part of urgent national appeal to get better protection against the COVID-19 Omicron variant

UK COVID-19 Alert Level update

In response to the rapid increase in cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and the increasing risk to the public and healthcare services, the UK COVID-19 alert level has moved from level 3 to level 4.

This means that coronavirus is in general circulation, that transmission is high or rising exponentially and additional measures are required, as well as social distancing. These include: 

  • people are now encouraged to work from home if they can 
  • from Wednesday (15 December) NHS COVID passes will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where larger crowds gather. The NHS COVID Pass can be obtained by having two vaccines or a negative lateral flow test. The pass can be downloaded from the NHS app and saved onto mobile phones or saved as a PDF and printed off. They last for 30 days. 

Alongside these, people should continue to take sensible precautions including ventilating rooms, testing regularly and isolating if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Booster vaccinations are being expanded 

Get boosted!

The NHS in Devon is urging residents to ‘get boosted now’ as part of the urgent national appeal to get better protection against the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

They’re working hard to vaccinate more people each week than ever before, with more sites, longer opening hours, more pop-up clinics and recruiting more volunteers. 

Vaccination sites in Devon are already experiencing exceptionally high demand, and people attending are being asked to come prepared to queue, and to use public transport where possible due to pressure on car parking. 

NHS Devon’s chief nurse, Darryn Allcorn, said:   

“It is vital that people listen to the message that two doses is not enough to give you good protection against the Omicron variant. We need a third, booster dose to bring our immunity back up. We already have people in hospital in the UK who have the Omicron variant, and scientists cannot say that it is less severe than other COVID-19 variants.” 

Appointments at vaccination sites remain the best way to get your vaccine, and can be booked via the National Booking System

Details of walk-in clinics are being shared on NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) social media pages, and you can find your nearest walk-in clinic on NHS England’s site finder.

GP practices or other local NHS healthcare providers are vaccinating people who are housebound, as quickly and as safely as possible.

Who’s eligible for the booster jab 

The Prime Minister has expanded the booster vaccination programme and said that every eligible adult will be offered their jab by the end of the year.

Today (Tuesday 14 December), people who are eligible for the booster jab include: 

  • anyone over the age of 30 years old
  • people who live and work in care homes, or are frontline health and social care workers 
  • people aged 16 years old and over with a health condition that puts them at risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus 
  • people aged 16 years old and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from coronavirus 
  • people aged 16 years old and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections 

From tomorrow, (Wednesday 15 December), people aged 18 years old and over can book their booster vaccination. 

You will be offered a booster dose at least three months after your second dose, but you will be able to book the appointment from two months. 

If you have had coronavirus recently, you need to wait 28 days after COVID-19 infection if you are 18 years old or over, or 12 weeks if you’re under 18 years old, before you can receive your booster vaccination. 

Please bring along your NHS number with you if you can, because that helps the vaccination teams.

Why is the booster jab necessary? 

Early evidence shows that the COVID-19 Omicron variant is spreading much faster than the Delta variant, and vaccine protection against the new strain is reduced.

When vaccine protection is reduced, it’s essential to top-up that protection with a booster. Both booster vaccines, (Pfizer and Moderna) increase the immune response substantially and show good effectiveness, although with some reduction compared to Delta.

The BBC has been speaking to Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist from the University of Nottingham. In their report today, they describe vaccines working with our immune systems, a bit like we learn progressively through school, college and university.

The first dose, they say, is the primary school education that nails the fundamentals. The second and third doses are comparable to sending your immune system to secondary school and then university, to dramatically deepen its understanding. It’s not just repeating primary school over and over. 

Our antibodies learn from this education with each dose. Every dose triggers another round of antibody evolution within the immune system. It seeks out better antibodies that attach themselves more firmly to the virus, in a process called affinity maturation.

“Your antibodies are a better fit as time goes on, they are getting fancier and more sophisticated,” says Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist from Imperial College London. And the quantity of antibodies in our immune systems also increase with boosting. 

The impact is clear, the protection against getting any COVID-19 symptoms shoots up to around 75 per cent after the booster. Visit the BBC website to read the full report.  


What about under 18 year olds? 

All children aged 12 years old and over are being offered two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

If anyone under 18 years old tests positive for COVID-19, they should wait 12 weeks before being vaccinated, because of an extremely small risk of heart inflammation (this doesn’t apply to children in higher risk groups). No vaccine is currently approved for under-12 year olds in the UK. 


It’s not too late to get any of your vaccinations 

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health Devon, said this week: 

“The emergence of the Omicron variant, and the uncertainty right now about its impact on our health, is a reminder of how quickly situations can change.  

“We know that the Omicron strain of the coronavirus is more infectious than previous variants, and it is clear that we need to do more to reduce the risk of transmission. Taking up third or booster vaccination is vital, and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to do so as soon as possible.   

“I also urge everyone to heed the national guidance around the wearing of face coverings, now a requirement in most public places, especially in confined, indoor and crowded spaces; to work from home if you can; and to social distance as much as possible. 

“And from today (14 December), people who are double vaccinated or between 5 years and 18 and a half years, who are identified as a contact of someone with coronavirus, whether Omicron or not, will need to take a lateral flow test every day for a week. People who are unvaccinated and identified as a contact to someone with the virus will need to self-isolate for 10 days. 

“But while take up of the vaccines in Devon has been very good, not everyone has chosen to. My message to those who are eligible to do so but who have not yet chosen to take up the vaccine, is that it’s not too late. One dose is better than no dose, two doses are better than one, and three doses will give you better protection than two doses from becoming seriously unwell if you to catch coronavirus.” 


Self-isolating and daily COVID-19 testing

Home LFD COVID-19 tests

 

It’s still a requirement for anyone who has any of the symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, new and continuous cough, and change to your usual sense of taste or smell – to self-isolate and arrange a PCR test. That rule’s not changed. 

But what has changed this week are the requirements for people who are identified as close contacts to others who test positive for COVID-19:  

  • People who are unvaccinated and identified as a close contact of someone with the virus will need to self-isolate for 10 days. 

Current high demand for lateral flow tests 

Lateral flow device (LFD) tests are in exceptionally high demand right now. 

There are a number of ways you can collect your free LFD tests, including from your local pharmacy, some community sites, and they’re available to order online for delivery at home.   

Picking up tests from a pharmacy is the quickest way to get a rapid test for most people. You will need to give the pharmacy a ‘collect code’ when you pick up the tests. You can find out about collect codes and how to get them on the government website.

Find a pharmacy near you where you can collect LFD tests

Online ordering is very popular, and although there’s no shortage of LFD tests, the UK Health Security Agency said this week:

“To ensure we do not take orders we are unable to fulfil, we occasionally stop taking orders online. This is especially true in periods of increased demand. This pause is temporary and availability is refreshed daily. People are encouraged to re-visit the site tomorrow if they are unable to collect tests as more will be available.”

Care homes 

From Wednesday (15 December), residents in care homes will be permitted three visitors, plus an essential care giver. And care home staff will be required to take three lateral flow device (LFD) tests per week, rather than two, as well as a weekly PCR test. 

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Devon’s Director of Public Health welcomes additional COVID-19 measures as first cases of Omicron variant identified in the county

6,069 covid-19 cases in Devon from 28 November to 4 December

COVID-19 case rates in Devon remain higher than the national average.

The highest rates are among primary and secondary school aged children, followed by those aged 40 to 59 and 20 to 39 years old. We’re also starting to see small increases in cases among the over 80s.


In this update:

  • England moves to Plan B 
  • Devon’s Director of Public Health welcomes the additional measures 
  • First cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant identified in Devon
  • Plans for a safer get together
  • Join the NHS COVID-19 vaccine team 
Plan B

England moves to Plan B 

The most recent data shows that the COVID-19 Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, with analysis suggesting cases are doubling every two and a half to three days.

So this week the Prime Minister confirmed that England will move to Plan B, to try to slow the spread while more data is assessed on how severe this variant is and how effective the vaccine is against it.

These temporary measures include:

  • 🏠 from Monday 13 December, those who can, are advised to work from home
  • 📱 from Wednesday 15 December, and subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS COVID Pass will be required to enter certain venues and events where large crowds gather, such as nightclubs and stadiums. This is to check that all visitors aged 18 years old or over are fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption

The government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data but vaccines remain the best line of defence against the virus, so if you have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Please also use COVID-19 rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests regularly, particularly before entering a high-risk setting involving people you wouldn’t normally come into contact with, or when visiting a vulnerable person.

Parliament will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday 14 December. 

10

What do I need to know? 

With all the rules and advice about staying safe and helping stop the spread of coronavirus, it’s easy to lose track, so we’ve listed the top 10 things to remember on our website.

We need to see some changes says Steve Brown

Devon’s Director of Public Health welcomes the additional measures 

The ‘Plan B’ measures announced this week for England bring us more in line with our UK neighbours, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement on Wednesday. He said:

“Case rates in Devon remain above the national average, and if we want to see that reversed – especially now that we’re into the colder winter months – we need to see some changes. 

“The requirements to more routinely wear face coverings, and the guidance now for people to work from home if possible, are good additional measures. And with large events and gatherings, it’s sensible to try to ensure that those attending are vaccinated or recently tested.” 

Read Steve Brown’s full reaction on the news page of our website.

Self-isolate contact of Omicron

First cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant identified in Devon

Devon has received notification of the first confirmed cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant within the county. 

“We have been informed by the UK Health Security Agency that there are a small number of confirmed cases of Omicron in Devon,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

“None of the cases are linked to foreign travel. 

“The confirmed cases are isolating at home. All close contacts have been identified and, because their links are to people who have tested positive for Omicron, they have been advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status, and take a PCR test.  

“It was only going to be a matter of time before we saw the first Omicron cases in Devon, so this does not come as a surprise. It will take a while before we have real world data to understand the full characteristics of the Omicron variant, but early indicators do seem to suggest that it is more transmissible than the Delta variant. 

“We do expect to see the numbers of confirmed Omicron cases rise in Devon over coming weeks, and it is likely to overtake the Delta virus to become the dominant strain across the country. 

“We are monitoring the data very closely and will continue to take appropriate measures to curb transmission where we see outbreak situations.”

If you want to know more about the Omicron variant, the UK Health Security Agency has published an interesting blog.

Test before you go

Plans for a safer get together

With Christmas around the corner, traditionally it’s been a time to get together to celebrate the season. 

But with COVID-19 cases higher in Devon than the national average, there are no guarantees for a risk-free event. 

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, was reported last week advising people to be careful about socialising. COVID-19 loves a crowd, so while there are things you can do to reduce the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus, that risk is never completely eliminated. 

Tips for a safer get together:

  • choosing an outdoor venue is preferable to an indoor event 
  • before getting together, take a COVID-19 lateral flow device (LFD) test, and only go if you’re negative and have no symptoms of infection 
  • wear face coverings in crowded enclosed spaces, unless exempt
  • if your event is indoors, the venue should have plans in place to reduce risk, such as good hand washing facilities and making sure the room is well ventilated
  • don’t go if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19; or test positive; or have been identified as a close contact of someone with Omicron and therefore need to be self-isolating
  • and if you develop symptoms of coronavirus, or test positive for it, within two days following the event, you should inform NHS Test and Trace that you attended the event, to help with contact tracing

Visit the government’s website to find out more about how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thrive

Vital business support to help Devon’s economic recovery

Business support is vital as the South West looks to make a strong recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new business support programme has been launched for self-employed and small to medium sized enterprises in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay. 

It’s to help stimulate economic development by improving productivity and competitiveness, helping businesses to grow, create jobs and reach new markets. 

The programme’s called Thrive, and it offers a free diagnostic and training service, with tailor-made support that will enable businesses to improve and grow. 

To apply, businesses need to register their interest on the Heart of the South West Growth Hub’s website and one of the business advisers will be in touch.


Thank you to everyone involved in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

The vaccination programme, one year on 

More than 2.2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been given across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, since the NHS vaccination programme launched one year ago. 

968,574 first doses were given in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay between 8 December 2020 and 28 November 2021. 

896,315 second doses and 368,781 third and booster doses, taking the total to 2,234,676 doses!

NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse, Darryn Allcorn said:

“Thank you to everyone who has taken up the offer to have the COVID-19 vaccine. You are helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus and ease the pressure on the NHS.

“If you haven’t yet taken up the offer, you are still welcome at our vaccine clinics.”

Read more about the one year anniversary of the NHS vaccination programme on NHS Devon’s news webpage. 

vaccinator

Join the NHS COVID-19 vaccine team 

Following recent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the NHS is now accelerating its vaccination programme further. The aim is to offer booster and third doses to all eligible adults by the end of January, as well as providing second doses to eligible young people. 

To achieve this, the NHS has reopened recruitment for around 10,000 paid and 40,000 volunteer roles across the country, to join existing vaccine teams in protecting those who need it. 

The roles available are flexible and range from vaccinators and registered healthcare professionals, to healthcare support workers, administrators and steward volunteers. 

All roles provide full training with appropriate supervision. You don’t have to currently work in the NHS to register an interest. 

For more details, please visit the NHS website.

Wear a face covering

Devon’s Director of Public Health urges us all to bother

As we approach the end of a second year of coronavirus, and in the week that tighter measures are being introduced to tackle a more infectious variant, Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, reflects on where we are:

“It’s easy to become despondent, and to think why bother? The vast majority of us have bothered, and have followed the guidance, heeded expert advice, and rolled up our sleeves to receive the vaccinations. 

“So, with case rates rising, and a new more infectious strain of the virus now gathering momentum, it’s easy to question why bother. 

“We bother because doing so saves lives. We all play a part in this pandemic, and our individual actions add up, and have a wider impact. If we stopped bothering, we would see case rates rising even more so, and consequently more hospitalisations and, tragically, deaths. 

“So now, as we’re approaching our second Christmas and New Year with coronavirus, and with new measures announced this week in response to this latest strain, I urge us all to bother. 

“Please continue to follow the advice, as frustrating as it feels. And please continue to look out for our friends and families, and do all we can to reduce risk to them, as well as ourselves.”

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news