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CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION

COVID-19 restrictions easing delayed until 19 July

Yesterday the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a delay of up to four weeks to the easing of coronavirus restrictions planned for Monday 21 June.

Current restrictions, with a few exceptions, remain in place and you should follow the guidance on what you can and cannot do until Monday 19 July. 

This is the new date that England is expected to move to Step 4 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, though the data will be reviewed after two weeks in case the risks have reduced.

Nationally there are currently around 8,000 COVID-19 cases a day, the highest since the end of February, and these are increasing by around 64 per cent each week. Hospitalisations are also starting to rise, with the average number of people admitted to hospital increasing in England by 50 per cent per week.

Latest week in Devon 129 confirmed COVID19 cases

What’s the situation like in Devon?

The weekly case rate in Devon right now is 16 cases per 100,000. It was seven per 100,000 a week ago. Case rates are currently highest and increasing most rapidly in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

The more transmissible Delta strain is not the dominant variant in Devon just yet. But it is very likely to become so, just as it is already in many parts of the country.

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

Steve Brown

“From a public health perspective, with case numbers rising again across the country and with a much more transmissible variant now the dominant strain, delaying the further lifting of restrictions is sensible.

“Not only will it maintain the rules around social contact, but the delay will also allow more people to receive their first or second vaccinations, offering them valuable protection against this latest strain.

“I ask all Devon residents to be patient. We will get there, but we need to move with great caution. We are seeing case numbers start to rise in the county and we will see the Delta variant becoming the dominant strain.

“We must therefore continue to follow the all important rules on social distancing, wearing face coverings when indoors in public places and washing our hands regularly.

“Please continue to get tested regularly using the rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests if you don’t have symptoms, and self isolate if you test positive or are asked to do so by contact tracing teams. And please take up the vaccination when you are invited to do so.”

The Leader of Devon County Council, Councillor John Hart said:

Cllr John Hart

“The country’s in a race between our vaccination roll-out and the more infectious variant of the virus so I believe this delay was inevitable.

“We need to close the gap between the proportion of our population who’ve had two jabs and those who’ve only had one because the difference in protection is very, very marked. And we must encourage younger people to book their vaccinations if they haven’t already done so.

“I think many residents of Devon will be pleased with this delay as the county has already been very busy with visitors. But I have to repeat my plea to the government to ensure that our hospitality businesses continue to receive support.

“We’re entering their peak time now and these continuing restrictions will obviously hamper their ability to operate at full capacity, so it is vital that they receive help. In the meantime, Devon County Council will continue to do everything in its power to ensure our economy recovers strongly from the pandemic.”

social distancing graphic of two figures with arrows and virus icons

Why has the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions been delayed by up to four weeks?

Many of us might feel frustrated about the delay in easing coronavirus restrictions this month, and that’s understandable. It’s important to understand why the government has made this decision.

Remember that the government always said lifting the COVID-19 restrictions in a phased way would be led by the data at each step, and that those target dates were ‘at the earliest’ rather than set in stone.

The decision to move safely from one step to the next is based on four tests:

  • the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  • evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  • infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  • assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern

At this point, the government’s four tests have not been met.

The UK has rising numbers of positive coronavirus cases, driven by the Delta strain which spreads much more easily between people.

At the same time, the national vaccination programme is very well advanced, but delaying the lifting of restrictions means that even more people will be able to have their first and second doses.

This means that most of the population will be protected from becoming seriously ill if they catch coronavirus, and it reduces the spread of the virus, by the time restrictions are lifted next month.

But we can’t rely on the vaccine alone to prevent the virus spreading. Keeping restrictions that limit our social interaction is a sensible precaution right now, but it takes all of us to do our bit. And by doing so we’re protecting ourselves, our families and friends, and reducing the number of people needing hospital treatment or dying because of coronavirus.

We know the advice. We’ve just got to follow it a little longer, and right now that means redoubling our efforts to stop case numbers escalating.

get your covid-19 vaccine when offered

Vaccination programme accelerated

The vaccination programme is being accelerated to respond to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. By Monday 19 July, all adults will have been offered a first dose and around two thirds of all adults will have been offered two doses of the vaccine.

The latest evidence shows that two doses are needed to provide effective protection against the Delta variant, which is rapidly driving up case numbers because it’s between 40 per cent and 80 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant.

All adults aged 18 years old and over will now be offered a first dose by Monday 19 July, which is two weeks earlier than planned. All adults aged 23 and 24 years old can now book their first dose.

By Monday 19 July, everyone aged over 50 years old and the clinically extremely vulnerable will have been offered their second dose, and those second doses will have taken effect.

Second doses for those over 40 years old will be accelerated by reducing the dosing interval from 12 weeks to eight weeks. All those over 40 years old who received a first dose by mid-May will be offered a second dose by Monday 19 July.

Cases are expected to continue rising due to the transmissibility of the Delta variant, but with the acceleration of the vaccination programme hospitalisations are expected to stabilise.

wedding

Some restrictions will change on Monday 21 June

Despite the delay of up to four weeks in moving to Step 4 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, some restrictions will change on Monday 21 June. 

  • Life events – The number of people who can attend weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions, and commemorative events following a death such as a wake, stone setting or ash scattering, will be determined by how many people a venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. The government will update the published guidance on wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations and arranging or attending a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic this week. 
  • Large events pilots – A limited series of large events pilots will take place from Monday 21 June to produce additional evidence on reopening events safely. Attendees will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. This will include some UEFA EURO 2020 matches at Wembley and a small number of other sports, arts and music performances. The full list of pilots, and further details about the events, will be announced by the government shortly.
  • Visits in and out of care homes – All care home residents will be able to nominate an essential care giver who will be able to visit them even if the resident is self-isolating. In most cases, residents who go on a visit out of a care home will no longer need to isolate for 14 days when they return. Residents returning from some higher risk visits out of the care home, such as an overnight stay in hospital, will still be required to isolate. Decisions about risks will be made following a risk assessment by the care home for each visit out. The government guidance on care home visiting will be updated this week.
  • Overnight trips for out-of-school groups – Out-of-school settings can organise domestic residential visits for children in consistent groups of up to 30 children. This replaces the current limit of six people or two households.

Keep up to date with what you can and can’t do on the government’s website.


Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

It’s hotting up here, vaccination information for the under 30s and four new work hubs for Devon

63 positive COVID-19 cases in Devon 29 May to 4 June 2021

In this update:

  • Summer is here! South-west hots up for G7 summit
  • Enjoy Euro 2020 safely
  • What do under 30s need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Four new work hubs in Devon
  • Doctors in Devon remind their patients “We are here for you”
sunshine and sunglasses

Summer is here! South-west hots up for G7 summit

Temperatures are set to sore this weekend, and the world’s leaders attending the G7 conference in Cornwall will be seeing the south-west at its sunny best.

And while many a hot topic will be on the discussion table indoors, among them no doubt coronavirus, the higher temperatures, indoors and out, carry health risks that can be amplified during the pandemic, particularly for those spending more time at home because of self-isolating.

Social distancing measures have also reduced the opportunities for people to check on vulnerable friends and neighbours and some people may avoid seeking emergency healthcare when needed because of fears of catching coronavirus.

Much of the advice on beating the heat is common sense:

  • If you’re spending time outdoors remember to drink plenty of water and avoid excess alcohol. Stay in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat
  • Try to keep out of the sun and avoid physical exertion during the hottest hours of the day, usually between 11.00am and 3.00pm when the ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest
  • Never leave anyone in a locked, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals, even if windows are left open
  • Look out for those who may struggle to cope in the heat and to keep themselves cool and hydrated, such as young children or older people. Those with underlying conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk
  • Close curtains in rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors in some buildings

The NHS website has lots of useful information about how to look after yourself and others during hot weather, and keep an eye on the Met Office website for up-to-date weather forecasts.

football

Enjoy Euro 2020 safely

The long awaited and much talked about Euro 2020 football tournament starts tomorrow (Friday 11 June). There will be 51 matches over 31 days at 11 venues including London and Glasgow.

The games that kept their 2020 badge and title, have been postponed until this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. And yet amid the excitement, we’re still very much in the midst of that same pandemic, with case numbers across the country rising as the latest and more transmissible Delta strain becomes dominant.

So, there are words of caution from our public health experts. 

“While case numbers are comparatively low in Devon for the moment, positive cases across the country are rising,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

“Euro 2020 will be a time of much emotion for football fans. And for those perhaps not sat watching it on TV at home, you may be travelling to friends and family to watch games or even to Wembley or Hampden Park to see the matches.

“My message is simple. Enjoy the tournament, but do so safely.”

The rules inside and out

  • You can watch football inside pubs across the UK, but remember that in England, only up to six people from six households or two households of any size can meet indoors
  • In England, up to 30 people can meet outside, including in a pub garden, but check if the place you’re visiting has any restrictions due to the size of their outside space
  • Follow the rules if you’re inviting people back to yours to watch the game too. Up to six people from multiple houses or any number from just two households can gather indoors, and up to 30 people outdoors
  • Use personal judgement when it comes to hugging close friends. Public Health advise to err on caution and be careful

Visit our news website for more advice about enjoying Euro 2020 safely.  

vaccination

People aged 25 to 29 invited to book COVID-19 vaccination appointment

The NHS invited around three million people aged between 25 and 29 to book their COVID-19 vaccination earlier this week.

Those now eligible for a vaccine are being asked to book their jab once they receive the ‘NHSvaccine’ text message alert which includes a web link to the NHS website to book an appointment. People who cannot go online can call the service on 119 instead to book their jab. GPs are also contacting patients to urge the newly eligible to come forward.

Current advice on COVID-19 vaccinations is that people aged under 40 years old and pregnant women should have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. So vaccination centres in Devon are now using Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for all first doses.

Group of young people smiling

What do under 30s need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out has reached young adults, with those aged 25 years old and over now invited to book their vaccination appointments.

You can’t choose which COVID-19 vaccine you get, but you will be allocated one based partly on your age. Those under 40 years old or pregnant, will get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, but if you’ve already had one Oxford-AstraZeneca jab with no after-effects, you should have a second dose. 

You might experience some side effects after your jab because your body’s defences are reacting to the vaccine. You could have a sore arm, feel tired or sick or have a fever or headache. These symptoms are usually mild and disappear after a few days.

Younger people may think that they’re less likely to be seriously ill if they catch coronavirus because of their age and general good health, compared say to older and more vulnerable people. And that may be true. But don’t let that persuade you not to have the vaccine. You might still catch coronavirus, and studies are now suggesting that those who have been vaccinated are less likely to transmit the virus to other people. 

Please take up the vaccine when it’s offered to you, if not just to protect you, but to also help protect others. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the NHS website.

don't delay getting second vaccine

Don’t delay your second COVID-19 vaccine dose

The NHS is urging people that are contacted to bring forward their second COVID-19  jab to rebook as soon as possible. 

Last month the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that everyone aged 50 years old and above or with underlying health conditions should have their second vaccine dose brought forward from 12 to eight weeks as part of the government’s plans to tackle rising cases of the Delta variant.

People who used the National Booking Service will receive a text message prompting them to cancel their existing second appointment and rebook an earlier one. There are currently plenty of appointments available and new appointments are being added regularly, so please keep checking.

Those not in vaccination priority groups one to nine will continue to get their first dose, with their second dose at 12 weeks in line with the current vaccine strategy. 

pregnant woman sat in armchair

Further advice regarding the vaccines and pregnancy

Local resident Joanna has explained why she has chosen to have the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the preferred vaccines for pregnant women of any age who are having their first dose. Around 90,000 pregnant women in the USA have had these vaccines and no safety concerns have been identified.

Anyone who has already started vaccination and is offered a second dose while pregnant, should have a second dose with the same vaccine, unless they had a serious side effect after the first dose.

Following World Health Organization advice, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that breastfeeding mothers can have the vaccines. There is also no need to avoid trying to conceive after a COVID-19 vaccination as there’s no evidence that the vaccines have any effect on pregnancy or fertility.

The government advice regarding vaccination in pregnancy, while breastfeeding or trying to conceive, can be found on their website.

work hub

Funding secured to support Devon’s economic recovery

We’ve secured funding to support some of the local economies hardest hit during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and help Devon’s strong recovery. 

In partnership with Exeter City Council, Torbay Council and Torridge District Council, we’ve been awarded more than £2.3 million of government funding to deliver local regeneration schemes. The funding will help to deliver initiatives that will create economic growth by unlocking land for new homes and jobs; providing new opportunities to save on running costs or generating income funding; or transforming services. You can find out more about the projects that will benefit from the funding on our website.

We also successfully bid for £640,000 from The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) to grow our award-winning network of work hubs. They provide flexible-term, value for money office space, equipped with modern facilities and are ideal for small businesses that may have started from home but are looking to grow into larger accommodation.

New work hubs are being established in Great Torrington, Newton Abbot, and Teignmouth to provide co-working and office space, while the existing hub in Tavistock will also be expanded.

Our work hubs play an important role in supporting local communities and stimulating the local economy by providing flexible and versatile spaces which help businesses to grow and create local jobs. And with more people likely to be working from home, even after normality returns, these facilities will be an asset to local businesses, workers and entrepreneurs and will help to create high quality jobs and attract businesses to Devon.

For more information and guidance, and to download an application form, please visit the Devon Work Hubs website.

Doctor using a mobile phone

Doctors in Devon remind their patients “We are here for you”

Devon’s GP practices are open and encouraging patients to get touch when they need to. While practices have had to move to greater use of telephone and online appointments, they have continued to offer face to face appointments to those that need them. In fact, almost 60 per cent of appointments in Devon GP practices are now face to face, which is higher than the national average.

NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group is urging people in Devon to use the right service for their needs and to bear with the very busy NHS services in the region.

Before contacting your GP, you can look up your symptoms online using the NHS App, the NHS website or via 111 online.  

The NHS 111 service is available 24/7 to provide advice, treatment and care. Just ring 111 or visit the 111 website and the service will provide advice and refer you to another service if you need it.

Don’t forget your local pharmacist can provide health advice and help with minor illnesses like colds, rashes, sunburn, hay fever and diarrhoea. You don’t need an appointment and they can provide you with the right medicines at the same time.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental wellbeing, 24/7 mental health lines are available in Devon and Torbay on 0808 196 8708 and Plymouth on 0800 923 9323.

Please remember Emergency Departments are for life-threatening emergencies. There is a network of minor injury units in Devon that can provide the treatment you need – often they’ll see you quicker, and closer to home.

Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Case numbers expected to rise due to easing of restrictions and more vaccination centre volunteers needed

Happy Devon Day everyone! We’re flying the Devon flag today to celebrate St Petrock’s Day, the patron saint of Devon, (and who the Devon flag is dedicated to). However you have been celebrating today, please be safe.

Devon flag edit
COVID-19 Cases Devon 29 May

Case numbers for Devon remain stable and well below the average in England. As restrictions ease, we do expect to see increases in case numbers as more people are mixing. Currently across Devon, the South Hams has the highest rate, although that’s falling. Case rates are highest among our 0-19 and 20-39 year age groups. We are seeing occasional outbreaks across educational settings, but generally most are single cases in a variety of settings across Devon.

In this update:

  • Case numbers expected to rise due to easing of restrictions
  • Half-term holidays – a testing time  
  • Devon charity to receive the highest award for voluntary work during the pandemic
  • Can I have the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?
  • Vaccine take up marks new milestone
  • Vaccination centre volunteers needed
Go for the flow

Case numbers expected to rise due to easing of restrictions

We were asked this week how Devon has been able to keep case numbers down, while elsewhere in the country they’re rising.

We’ve written about it. Case numbers in Devon are currently stable, but we expect them to rise due to easing of restrictions.

Positive cases overall in England have risen on average by nearly a third in the last week. The North West and South East have risen most, followed by London and the West Midlands; then East Midlands and East of England; Yorkshire and Humber; North East; and no rise in the South West recorded in the last week.

An important factor is the new variant, the Delta variant (which was called the Indian variant), and areas where cases are highest include those where the latest strain of the virus is currently most present.

But here in Devon positive cases overall throughout the pandemic have consistently fallen below the national average.

That’s partly due to people following the public health guidance. And it’s a reflection of the speed in which authorities have responded to outbreaks, and how they’ve worked within those settings to prevent further spread.

Testing and tracing in Devon has also been effective. Devon’s rollout with the vaccine is also going very well, and that’s having a positive impact on the numbers of people becoming seriously ill or needing hospitalisation due to coronavirus.

But there’s no magic bullet to beat coronavirus. While case numbers are heading in the right direction, it’s easy for us to think that it’s beaten. But we mustn’t.

We can enjoy the easing of restrictions, but we need to keep a watchful eye on cases and trends elsewhere in the country, and know that only by remaining vigilant will we prevent the virus spreading.

Get tested

Half-term holidays – a testing time

A reminder to us all – the half-term holiday may have been a time to kick-back a little, but please keep up with the twice-weekly rapid lateral flow tests to help prevent the virus spreading.

Schools and colleges will be returning next week, so a plea to secondary school-age pupils and students, to please take their rapid lateral flow tests in good time for the start of the new term.

That goes for all adults too. Taking these quick and simple tests twice a week is helping to identify positive cases of coronavirus among people who don’t know they have it. Only by identifying it, can the person with the virus self-isolate, and prevent its spread to others.

And for those yet to have a holiday, or yet to meet up with friends and family, please take these tests prior to seeing them.

If you plan to meet up with others, just take the quick test and you’ll know within half an hour whether you’re likely to be carrying the virus.

If you’re clear, it’s peace of mind to you and to the people you’re visiting, which is especially important if you’re visiting anyone older or vulnerable. If the test is positive, then please self-isolate and arrange a confirmatory PCR test. Postpone your visit for the moment and know that you’re not causing the virus to spread.

For more information about rapid lateral flow testing, and how to get it in Devon, visit devon.cc/flow. 

Volunteer

Devon charity to receive the highest award for voluntary work during the pandemic

A Devon charity is to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services, for outstanding work throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

Westbank Neighbourhood Friends help to keep vulnerable or frail adults out of hospital, or to have shorter hospital stays. They match volunteers with people who need assistance, so that they’re able to get out of hospital and back home as soon as possible.

During the pandemic, their volunteers provided support to over 2,030 patients across the Exeter, East and Mid Devon area.

Among other support, they were moving beds to make way for hospital beds and equipment at home. They installed key safes so that carers could gain access. And they provided company and warm drinks to patients following a stay in hospital.

It meant in some cases that people didn’t need to go into hospital, and for others, they were able to get home sooner because they’d had help from the volunteers to get things ready for their return.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award for voluntary groups in the UK. Westbank Neighbourhood Friends will receive the award and certificate from the Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon, later this summer.

“We are incredibly proud that our Neighbourhood Friends project has been recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and pay tribute to the dedication, hard work and commitment of our truly deserving team of volunteers,” said Nina Parnell, Westbank Head of Volunteering and Community Support.

pregnant woman sat in armchair

Can I have the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant? 

As the vaccine becomes available to younger age groups, the NHS in Devon is offering reassurance to women that they can have the coronavirus vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, and that it will not impact on their fertility.

The Government advice states that:

  • there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant
  • COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against the virus, which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has recommended that the vaccines can be received whilst breastfeeding.

Deputy Chief Nurse, Susan Masters, said:

“It is important that all sectors of the community receive the vaccine when eligible in order to reduce incidence of serious disease. This is no different in pregnancy and the COVID-19 virus can make women very unwell in the later stages of pregnancy. It is really important to discuss having the vaccination with your GP, midwife or at your appointment so that you can make an informed decision.”

The government advises that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferrable for pregnant women and people aged under 40.

When booking online, the National Booking Service automatically offers appointments with the appropriate vaccines for people aged under 40. Women aged under 40 are asked whether they are pregnant so that they can also be offered appropriate appointments.

COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine take up marks new milestone 

Three quarters of adults in Devon have now had their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine – that’s more than 750,000 first doses given and nearly half a million second doses. 

But the number of people in Devon not attending their second appointments has risen in recent weeks

Public Health England has looked into the effectiveness of the vaccines against the latest strain of the virus – the Delta strain, which is really good at spreading between people. 

With the first dose, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines offered 33 per cent protection against the latest Delta variant. But after the second dose, the protection offered by both vaccines to the new variant increased significantly.  

Following the second dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective against the Delta variant, while the AstraZeneca vaccine was 60 per cent effective. 

Positive case numbers in Devon are relatively stable right now, but we expect case numbers will rise with the easing of restrictions. 

“The vaccines are an important frontline defence to help prevent you becoming seriously ill or requiring hospital treatment should you catch coronavirus,” said Tina Henry, Deputy Director of Public Health Devon. 

“One dose gives your partial protection, the second dose will give you the maximum protection. Please take up the second dose when invited to do so.”

Carers Week logo

Devon County Council is ‘Making Caring Visible and Valued’ this Carers Week (7–13 June 2021)

New figures suggest that there are now more than 130,000 people in Devon who are carers, the figure having risen by half again because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Worryingly though, just 21,000 of that number – roughly only one in every six – are accessing vital information and support that is available to them. 

Next week is Carers Week, and Devon County Council, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Devon Carers are shining a light on it to encourage people who are carers for friends and family to recognise themselves as unpaid carers, and to come forward for help.

Goodie Box

Healthy meal boxes delivered to families with young children across Devon

Thousands of meal boxes have again been delivered to families with young children this half term holiday week, in an initiative to help those who are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

We first ran ‘The Goodie Box’ initiative during the Easter holidays, with incredible success. The boxes included ingredients and simple recipe ideas, and they were delivered to families’ front doors. Families loved them.

We’ve done it again this holiday, and the boxes have included fresh and store cupboard ingredients for dhal curry and flatbreads; hearty veg-packed pie; veggie bolognese; creamy summer pasta; tomato and courgette risotto; Mexican bean burrito; pitta pizzas; and fruity pancakes.

Each recipe has tips on how to swap or add ingredients and advice on healthy eating and how to prevent food waste.

Like last time, there’s been no specific eligibility to receive the meal boxes, but professionals who work with young families have helped us identify those who may be having a difficult time right now and who would enjoy and benefit from The Goodie Box.

COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination centre volunteers needed 

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allowing many people to return to work, vaccination centres in Exeter and Plymouth need to recruit more volunteers to help things run smoothly. 

The stewarding role involves work inside and outside, doing things like directing people as they arrive and leave and checking their appointment details. 

Shifts are currently 8.00am to 12 noon; 12 noon to 4.00pm and 4.00pm to 8.00pm. Days and shift allocation can be arranged to suit you once applications are processed. 

Applications for both sites can be made via the Our Plymouth website, and because so many people have now had at least their first jab, there is less risk faced by older age groups, which means offers of volunteering can be accepted from those aged over 69 years old. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine safe and effective for 12 to 15 year olds

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has authorised that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for use by 12 to 15 year olds. Their Chief Executive says that benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.

It is now up to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether this age group will be vaccinated as part of the vaccination programme.

Devon Climate Challenge
While we have you We’ve teamed up with Crowdfunder to help fund projects in Devon that are passionate about tackling the climate emergency.Right now we are looking for three carbon-cutting projects that you believe can play a part in tackling climate change in Devon.To enter, please just tell us about your project in 100 words by Tuesday 8 June at 12 noon.The chosen projects will take part in a 24-hour crowdfunding challenge next month to raise as much money as possible for their cause, as well as win funding from us.Find out more on the Crowdfunder website. 
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.

Advice if you’re travelling to areas of the UK where the new variant of concern is spreading, a rise in COVID-19 cases in the South Hams and drive to combat children’s holiday hunger in Devon gets £250,000 boost

77 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 16 to 22 May 2021

Positive cases of coronavirus remain stable in Devon, with the latest rate of nine cases per 100,000 being well below the 24 cases per 100,000 seen nationally.

We are experiencing isolated outbreaks in some settings but with little evidence of the virus transmitting widely within those local communities.

Across Devon positive case numbers are low compared to previous months in all age groups, although rates are slightly higher in those aged under 40 years old. Case rates are currently highest in the South Hams area.

In this update:

  • Enjoy the bank holiday and half-term break safely
  • Advice if you’re travelling to areas of the UK where the new variant of concern is spreading 
  • Rise in COVID-19 cases in the South Hams
  • Drive to combat children’s holiday hunger in Devon gets £250,000 boost
  • 30 year olds now invited to book COVID-19 vaccine
  • Getting the help you need this bank holiday weekend
Enjoy Devon safely

Enjoy the bank holiday and half-term break safely

It’s a bank holiday this weekend, followed by the May half-term break next week, and we are encouraging everyone to enjoy the time safely, whether at home or away, by continuing to follow the advice and guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

This includes the familiar social distancing, regular hand washing, wearing a face covering when required, but also making sure you know what the latest rules are for socialising and following COVID-secure guidelines if you are visiting places like shops and restaurants.

We can meet with people we don’t live with indoors now, in groups of up to six from any number of households, or a group of any size from just two households, which is a big step. But remember socialising outdoors is always the safest option where possible, and we can meet outside in groups of up to 30 people. If you are having visitors or visiting others, make sure you let fresh air in.

You should also add that extra layer of safety and take a free rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test to check you don’t have coronavirus before you see more people and travel further, just in case you do and you spread it unknowingly. They are quick and easy to do and making them part of your regular weekly routine – especially when catching up with friends and family – will help to identify positive cases among people who may not be showing symptoms, so that they can self-isolate.

Secondary school pupils, college students and staff working in all education settings have been taking these tests regularly for a while now. Even though schools and colleges are closed for the half-term holiday, please continue to take your lateral flow tests twice a week and report your results. And don’t forget to test the night before or morning of the first day back.

With tourism and hospitality reopening, many will be planning a holiday this bank holiday and half-term, so we’ve rounded up some commonly asked questions so you know what to expect.

Coronavirus

Advice if planning to travel to areas of the UK where the new variant of concern is spreading 

There are no known cases of the new variant of coronavirus (COVID-19) within Devon at the moment, but as people plan to visit friends and families during the half term holiday, Public Health Devon is advising people to be cautious. 

The new variant, which was first identified in India, spreads more easily between people. 

Currently cases are highest in council areas of Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, London Borough of Hounslow, and North Tyneside. 

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“If you must travel to any of those locations, please be extra cautious.

“Try to meet outside with family or friends rather than inside where possible. And please keep two metres apart from people that you don’t live with, unless you have formed a support bubble with them.

“If you are away visiting friends and family this holiday, remember to take tests with you, and take them again on your return home. Testing and self-isolating if positive are how we stop the virus spreading.”

We also would like people to make getting tested regularly, using the rapid lateral flow device tests, a routine part of their week. 

So, when you know you’re going to meet up with friends, please take a few moments earlier in the day to take a test first. You’ll know the results within half an hour, and it might prevent you from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. These tests are really quick and easy to do, and they are free.

For more information about how to get a rapid, lateral flow device test in Devon, please visit our website.

Outside in the fresh air is safest

Rise in COVID-19 cases in the South Hams

Positive cases of coronavirus remain stable in Devon, and well below the national average in most areas.

But there’s been a rise in cases in the South Hams over the last week or so, and the rate there is now 25.3 per 100,000 which is slightly above the national rate of 22.5 per 100,000.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon said:

“We have a low coronavirus case rate across Devon, and that is thanks to the effort everyone continues to put in to complying with the restrictions and following the guidance around regular asymptomatic testing, social distancing, hand washing and wearing a face covering when required.

“We need to be cautious though, because outbreaks can and do still happen and when numbers are low, even a small rise can cause a big jump the case rate.

“There’s a spike in cases in the South Hams at the moment because of a small outbreak in a school. It’s being well managed by the school and our public health team.

“Although the number of cases in the rest of the South Hams is still comparatively low and all other cases in the area are single positive cases, it highlights the importance of continuing to take care as restrictions ease to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting the virus as much as possible.”

Get your free supermarket vouchers before they expire

Drive to combat children’s holiday hunger in Devon gets £250,000 boost

Almost 17,000 food vouchers worth over a quarter of a million pounds are being distributed to families this half-term as we continue to combat holiday hunger in Devon.

Families of children currently receiving free school meals have automatically been sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the holiday to replace the meals their children would normally have in school.

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

If your child currently receives free schools meals you should have your vouchers for the upcoming May half-term holiday already – please get in touch with us as soon as possible if you don’t yet have them. Also, don’t forget to redeem your Easter vouchers before they expire.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a real strain on many family budgets and many have seen their financial circumstances change suddenly. We’ve seen a big increase in the number of families claiming free school meals over this last year.

If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has reduced or stopped, please apply online through our website to check if you are eligible for this support as soon as possible. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, you can call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

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

People over 30 can now book their COVID-19 vaccine

30 year olds now invited to book COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and gives you the best protection against coronavirus, and nearly three-quarters of adults in Devon have now had one dose.

If you’re aged 30 years old or over, or if you turn 30 before Thursday 1 July 2021, you can now book your COVID-19 vaccine.

As the vaccination rollout reaches younger age groups, more women of childbearing age are becoming eligible for their first jab. The government has offered reassurance that the vaccines are safe for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive. 

Two doses are needed for strong protection, particularly with the new variant of concern first identified in India now circulating in some regions of the UK, so don’t delay getting your second jab when it’s offered. 

Over-50s, frontline health and social care workers and people who are considered most vulnerable if they catch coronavirus (vaccination priority groups one to nine) are having their second doses brought forward to eight weeks after their first – rather than 12 – to help ensure they have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity following concerns about the variant. 

Text invitations appear as an alert from ‘NHSvaccine’, with a weblink to the NHS website. There are currently plenty of appointments available and new appointments are being added regularly, so please keep checking and if you cannot go online you can call 119 to book.

You cannot catch coronavirus from the COVID-19 vaccine. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so make sure you’re getting it from a trusted source. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the NHS website.

don't delay getting second vaccine

Vaccines highly effective against B.1.617.2 variant after two doses

A new study by Public Health England shows that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India.

The results after two does are similar to the B.1.1.7 (Kent) variant which is dominant in the UK. The study found that, for the period from 5 April to 16 May:

  • the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant two weeks after the second dose, compared to 93 per cent effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant
  • two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant compared to 66 per cent effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant
  • both vaccines were 33 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2, three weeks after the first dose compared to around 50 per cent effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.

The difference in effectiveness between the vaccines after two doses may be explained by the fact that the rollout of second doses of AstraZeneca was later than for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and other data on antibody profiles show it takes longer to reach maximum effectiveness with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

As with other variants, even higher levels of effectiveness are expected against hospitalisation and death. 

lab testing

Sewage testing ramped up to help tackle COVID-19 outbreaks

Exeter is the home of one of the biggest wastewater processing labs in the world, and it’s at the forefront of pioneering research.

The government has ramped up testing of wastewater for traces of COVID-19, to help detect outbreaks of variants of concern.

Testing sewage for coronavirus now covers more than two thirds of England’s population, and is helping identify where variants of concern may be circulating undetected in communities.

Exeter’s lab opened last month and is dedicated to analysing waste water as part of the government’s programme.

Insights from the programme have already been used in Bristol and Luton to provide timely understanding of the spread of variants in their communities and help to provide reassurance that local outbreak control measures are working.

You can find out more on the government’s website.

COVID-19 testing

Which COVID-19 test do I need to take, and when?

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

That’s why it’s so important you take the right test when you need to, and know the different sorts of tests available and how to access them.

A COVID-19 test usually involves taking a sample from the back of your throat (where your tonsils are) and from the nose, using a long cotton bud. You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 years old or over) or someone can do it for you.

There are two main types of test to check if you have coronavirus now:

  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are mainly used for people who have symptoms. It checks for the genetic material of coronavirus in the sample and is sent to a lab for processing. Most people get their results via text or email the next day, but it can take up to three days.
  • rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests are only for people who do not have symptoms. It uses a device similar to a pregnancy test to give a quick result, usually within 30 minutes of taking the test. It detect proteins called ‘antigens’ produced by the virus and recent research has found them to be very accurate and reliable with extremely low false positive results.

If you have coronavirus symptoms (high temperature; new, continuous cough; loss or change to sense of smell or taste) then you should use the government’s website to arrange a PCR test that is provided by the NHS test as soon as possible. You can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site. You and everyone you live with must immediately self-isolate. Do not leave home until you get your test results, except to post a test kit or for a PCR test appointment.

If you do not have symptoms then you are encouraged to take a simple rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test twice a week to check if you have coronavirus. The tests are free and can be done at one of our walk-in test sites or picked up from community testing sites, pharmacies or sent through the post for you to do yourself at home. 

For more information about coronavirus testing in Devon, please visit our website.

Just think 111 first

Getting the help you need this bank holiday weekend

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

The long weekend traditionally puts extra pressure on health services when most GP practices are closed and more people are outdoors enjoying everything Devon has to offer. Most GP practices will be closed over the three-day weekend with normal opening hours resuming on Tuesday 1 June.

For urgent advice over the long weekend people are encouraged to ‘Think 111 First’ and contact NHS 111 from anywhere, either by phone or online, any time of day or night. If you need further care or medication, NHS 111 advisors will direct you to the most appropriate service. They can book you in for an appointment at your nearest Minor Injury Unit or Urgent Care Centre. If you need emergency care, they will arrange for you to be seen at a local Emergency Department and will ensure that staff in the department are expecting you and will see you as quickly as possible.

Local pharmacies can provide expert advice and a fast route to medication for minor ailments like aches and pains, sore throat, coughs, colds, flu-like symptoms, runny noses, earache and skin rashes. They are open until late and at weekends with no need for an appointment, and most have a confidential consulting area for privacy. Visit the NHS website to find your nearest pharmacy and check opening times, or call the free helpline NHS 111.

How to self isolate. Don't go to work, don't go shopping, don't go out for exercise.

New pilots launched to help people self-isolate 

The government announced nine pilots to test new ways to help ensure that people abide by the self-isolation rules.

It’s working with local councils in areas in the country with high prevalence of infection, and the pilots will include a range of initiatives such as providing alternative accommodation for people living in overcrowded households. There’ll be additional social care support for vulnerable people, and language and communications support for people where English isn’t their first language. 

The pilots are to encourage people most at risk of catching and spreading coronavirus to come forward for testing and to self-isolate properly if they test positive.

We have information and guidance on our website about self-isolating – when to do it; how to prepare for it; how long you need to do it for; and what help and support is available to you if you are self-isolating. 

Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Let’s be cautious over the next few weeks

https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/

Positive cases of coronavirus remain stable in Devon, with the county’s rates of eight cases per 100,000 population being well below England’s average of 21 positive cases per 100,000.

We are still experiencing isolated outbreaks in some settings, but with little evidence of the virus transmitting within those local communities. Rates are currently highest in the South Hams area. Although positive cases range across broad age groups in Devon, case rates are currently highest among our youngest population, 0 to 19 year olds. 

In this update:

  • Let’s be cautious over the next few weeks
  • Most vulnerable offered second dose of COVID-19 vaccine earlier to help protect against variants
  • Let in fresh air when meeting others indoors to reduce the spread of COVID-19
  • We’re all going on a summer holiday, carefully
Indoor gatherings of up to six or two households from 17 May
You can only meet up indoors with people you do not live with in groups of up to six from any number of households, or a group of any size from just two households. You can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people.

Let’s be cautious over the next few weeks

There’s been a significant easing of coronavirus restrictions this week, the biggest being that it is now your choice about whether to keep your distance when meeting family and friends you don’t live with.

Devon’s Director of Public Health, Steve Brown, advises caution. He said:

“While coronavirus is still present in our communities, and people are still at risk of catching it and spreading it, the common sense approach is the cautious approach.

“Around one in three people who catch coronavirus do not show symptoms, so can spread the virus to others without knowing. 

“And while vaccines reduce the chances of catching COVID-19 and passing it on, and of serious illness, they do not eliminate the risk as protection against the virus is not guaranteed. 

“I ask people to remain ever vigilant of risk as we take in the latest easing of restrictions. We are allowed to do a little bit more now, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we must.”

You can find out more about the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions and what you can and can’t do at the moment on the government’s website.

Go for the flow!

No COVID-19 symptoms? Make twice-weekly lateral flow tests part of your routine just in case

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to decline across the county and lockdown restrictions being eased, it’s easy to think there’s very little danger of catching it.

But the recent easing of lockdown rules allowing us to socialise more, particularly indoors, mean we all need to continue with the efforts we’ve made so far to prevent case rates rising again. 

As well as hands, face, space, fresh air, we also need to remember twice-weekly rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests as part of our routine. 

Regular mass testing of people without COVID-19 symptoms remains vital to helping prevent the spread of coronavirus in our communities as it allows people to check if they have the virus and are spreading it unknowingly. 

The tests are free and can be picked up from community testing sites, pharmacies or sent through the post. They involve swabbing your nose and throat, adding the swab to a solution and then putting that solution into a small white device a bit like a pregnancy test that gives you a positive or negative reading within 30 minutes.

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

“We are all in this together, and that includes everyone regularly taking a rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test to help keep friends and family safe, and prevent the spread of coronavirus in Devon.

“Even if you do not have symptoms you could still have the virus and be spreading it without realising. The only way to find out is through these rapid COVID-19 tests. They are quick, easy and free, so really there’s no reason not to do them.

“It’s important to stress that a negative test result isn’t a free pass to do whatever your like – you should still follow the national guidelines around social distancing, face coverings and hand washing.

“And even if you have been vaccinated you should still take regular rapid COVID-19 tests and stick to the rules to help keep yourself and everyone safe.”

For more information, including how to get a test to check if you have coronavirus, whether you have symptoms or not, please visit our website. 

vaccination

Most vulnerable offered second dose of COVID-19 vaccine earlier to help protect against variants

Second doses of the COVID-19 vaccination are being offered to the most vulnerable people earlier as part of the government’s plans to tackle rising cases of the B1.617.2 variant of concern, first identified in India.

Appointments for a second dose of a vaccine will be brought forward from twelve to eight weeks for people aged over 50 years old, frontline health and social care workers and people who are in at-risk groups (vaccination priority groups one to nine).

The news follows updated advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). They have considered the latest available evidence on the variant and recommended reducing the dosing interval to help ensure people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity.

Residents in vaccination priority groups one to nine, who have an appointment before Tuesday 25 May should attend as planned. Those with later appointments will be contacted as soon as possible to make new arrangements. There is no need to contact your GP or vaccination centre, please be patient and wait for them to contact you. 

People who used the National Booking Service will receive a text message prompting them to cancel their existing second appointment and rebook an earlier one. There are currently plenty of appointments available and new appointments are being added regularly, so please keep checking.

Those not in vaccination priority groups one to nine will continue to get their first dose, with their second dose at 12 weeks in line with the current vaccine strategy. 

take care, refresh your air

Let in fresh air when meeting others indoors to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Now that groups of six people or two households of any size are once again able to meet indoors, and indoor hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries are reopening, it’s likely that we will begin to spend more time with friends and family inside. 

Please remember, when you let friends in, let fresh air in too. It’s because fresh air helps disperse infected COVID-19 droplets in the air that may carry the virus, reducing the risk of infection.

You could open windows for short, sharp bursts of 10 to 15 minutes regularly throughout the day or leave windows open a small amount continuously to help remove any infected particles lingering in the room.

The government has produced a short film to show how coronavirus lingers in the air in spaces with no fresh air, increasing the risk of people breathing in infected particles, and how the risk can be reduced significantly by regularly ventilating enclosed areas. You can watch the video here on Vimeo.

lateral flow test

Testing is essential to detect COVID-19 and prevent onward transmission

People who have had their vaccination(s) are more protected from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, and early evidence suggests that the vaccine can also prevent a person’s ability to transmit the virus.

But there are no guarantees and we don’t know how effective the current vaccines may be against unknown variants of the virus.

So whether or not we have had the vaccine, we should all continue to assume that transmission is possible and keep following infection, prevention and control guidance.

Regular testing for people who show no symptoms of having the virus is one of the main ways that we can detect COVID-19 and prevent onward transmission.

The Chief Medical Director for England, Professor Steve Powis, and Professor Jo Martin, National Specialty Advisor for Pathology for England, have both spoken out about the importance of regular testing.

And our Director of Public Health Devon, Steve Brown, wants us all to make testing part of our regular week by building it into our routines.

Find out how easy it is to take a lateral flow test in Devon.

luggage

We’re all going on a summer holiday, carefully

The ‘stay in the UK’ order was lifted on Monday 17 May, meaning people can now travel abroad for leisure. But strict border control measures, including testing and quarantine, remain in place.

Different levels of restriction apply to those returning to England from countries based on the traffic light system, which will be regularly reviewed and informed by public health advice. 

People are being guided on where they can safely visit without needing to quarantine when they return to England, with a ‘green list’ of countries. People should not travel to ‘amber’ and ‘red’ countries for leisure.

Passengers arriving from all destinations will need to provide a passenger locator form and show proof of a negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours before their return journey. 

Ten-day managed hotel quarantine requirements will remain in place for those permitted to return to England from ‘red’ countries, and quarantine at home alongside stringent testing will be required for those returning from ‘amber’ destinations.

People in England who have had both vaccine doses will be able to demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccination status via the NHS app. Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119. GPs cannot provide letters showing your COVID-19 vaccination status.

The government has also published the Passenger COVID-19 Charter, detailing how holidaymakers can travel safely this summer. It includes information on passenger rights and responsibilities, what to do if things go wrong and how to stay safe abroad.

Don’t forget, all holiday accommodation, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs, can reopen in England now and can be used by groups of up to six people or two households of any size at the moment, so if you don’t fancy hopping on a plane just yet, you could plan a staycation. 

Enjoy summer safely

With tourism and hospitality opening up, what can I expect this holiday season?

With the reopening of pubs and restaurants and an option to ease social distancing among family and friends, many will be planning a holiday this upcoming May half term break.

The public health advice is still to exercise caution, and that while restrictions have eased, it’s still sensible to take precautions to minimise risk to yourselves and others.

So if you’re planning a short break please continue those habits, wherever you’re going – social distancing where appropriate, wearing face coverings when indoors in public places, and washing your hands properly and regularly.

Holiday breaks are great, and time outdoors is brilliant for bodies and minds, as mentioned in our bulletin last week. But there’s more to factor in when thinking about your holidays this year.

We’ve posted some answers to questions that you may have when planning a holiday.

seek advice from a pharmacist

The pharmacist will see you now

Local pharmacies can provide expert advice and a fast route to medication for minor ailments like aches and pains, sore throat, coughs, colds, flu-like symptoms, runny noses, earache and skin rashes.

Pharmacies are open until late and at weekends with no need for an appointment, so they should always be considered as first port of call for common ailments. Most pharmacies also have a confidential consulting area for privacy.

In addition, Devon’s Pharmacy First scheme means that trained pharmacists in participating branches can issue medication which normally has to be prescribed by a GP for urinary tract infections (UTI) for women aged 18-64; impetigo; nappy rash and conjunctivitis for one-year-olds.

Pharmacists can also access basic information about a patient’s health and medication if the patient gives them permission to view their Summary Health Record.

Visit the NHS website to find your nearest pharmacy and check opening times, or call the free helpline NHS 111.

Graphical phone with photos on it with text reading download the NHS covid-19 app today

Lets talk about apps!

There are reports this week about the NHS app and why it’s especially important to people wanting to travel abroad, because it will document whether you have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

The NHS app is not a new app – it’s the same app that people are already able to use to book doctor’s appointments and order repeat prescriptions.

But it’s now also able to show if you’re fully vaccinated against coronavirus. In fact, the app has two new options, to share your COVID-19 status and check your COVID-19 vaccine record.

This development is really important for travellers because some countries make proof of vaccination one of the requirements before entry. You can download the NHS app via the NHS website.

Separately, and not to be confused with the NHS app, the NHS COVID-19 app is a different app that we are all still encouraged to use when ‘checking in’ at locations and venues.

The NHS COVID-19 app is the ‘track and trace’ app. This is the app that we are encouraged to use to scan the QR codes at doors or entrances of pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops. The purpose of this is so that, should you be in close vicinity of someone who tests positive for coronavirus while you’re out and about, you’ll get a notification about it with further advice of what to do next.

The NHS COVID-19 app is still important because it helps us break the chain of infection by advising people to get tested and to self-isolate pending the result, should they have been in close enough contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. You can download the NHS COVID-19 app via the NHS website.

We offer COVID-19 testing to our staff

‘We Offer Testing to our Staff’ scheme launched

new sticker scheme has been launched by the government to allow businesses to show customers, employees and the wider public that they are testing their staff regularly and going the extra mile to keep everyone safe.

Businesses that offer free rapid workplace testing to staff, either through on-site testing or workplace test collection, can download posters and stickers to display on their website and premises to demonstrate that the health of staff, customers and their local communities is a top priority.

Around one in three people with COVID-19 show no symptoms, so anyone could be spreading it without knowing. Regular testing helps identify staff who are carrying the virus without displaying symptoms, reducing the risk of transmission.

In addition to workplace testing, business owners and staff should all follow essential behaviours such as ‘Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air’ and, where applicable, check customers and visitors in using the NHS COVID-19 app.

Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Hugs are back! Go for the flow twice a week and Devon’s vaccination centres need volunteers

2 - 8 May 2021 78 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon

Positive COVID-19 case numbers across Devon are very stable at the moment and still much lower than the national average. The latest week’s data shows highest case rates among people aged under 40 years old and those in the South Hams area. 

In this update:

  • Hugs are back! But please remain cautious 
  • GO FOR THE FLOW – take twice-weekly rapid COVID-19 tests
  • One million milestone reached in Devon as over 38s invited to book vaccination
  • Devon schools encouraged to take learning outdoors
  • Vaccination centre volunteers needed
  • Update on face coverings for secondary schools
hug grandma

Hugs are back! But please remain cautious 

After well over a year now of keeping our distance from those we don’t live with, many of us will be looking forward to giving our nearest and dearest a long awaited hug next week. But please remain cautious and continue to follow health protection measures where you can. 

Even as restrictions ease, including the relaxing of social distancing rules between friends and family, the science still indicates that along with washing our hands regularly and wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces, keeping your distance from others is an important measure in preventing the spread of coronavirus.   

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon said:   

“The rules relax a bit more next week, but please remember the government has not given a green light to dropping social distancing completely just yet. It’s still an important measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. From Monday we will be allowed to be close enough to friends and family members to hug, but my advice, and that of other public health professionals, is to err on the side of caution. 

“The vaccine programme, while progressing well, has not reached all adults yet, and we know that one in every three people who catch coronavirus do not show any symptoms of having it. So there is still cause for us to be cautious, even among our closest friends and family.   

“I also urge everyone to take the free rapid lateral flow device (LFD) COVID-19  tests twice a week – they’re quick, convenient, and can be done yourself at home, or with assistance at any of our mobile sites. Regular testing means that people with the virus, but without symptoms, can be identified quickly and can self-isolate, preventing the spread of the virus to other people.” 

Indoor gatherings of up to six or two households from 17 May

Easing of COVID-19 restrictions from Monday 17 May

The government has said their roadmap out of lockdown is on track and confirmed that the planned ‘step three’ easing of restrictions will go ahead on Monday 17 May.

It comes as the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommended the country’s COVID-19 alert level move from level four down to level three. This means that, although coronavirus is still in general circulation, transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially, and so restrictions can gradually be relaxed.

So, from Monday 17 May:

  • There’s new guidance on meeting friends and family which emphasises personal responsibility and caution rather than instructing you to stay two metres apart from anyone you don’t live with.
  • You can socialise indoors in a group of up to six people or two households, including for overnight stays, and up to 30 people can meet outside. 
  • Indoor hospitality, such as restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes, can reopen. Venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks nor will there be a curfew. However, customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated.
  • Indoor entertainment venues, including cinemas, museums, and children’s indoor play areas, can reopen with COVID-secure measures in place.
  • Organised indoor sport, including group exercise classes, will be able to take place.
  • All holiday accommodation, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs, can reopen and be used by groups of up to six people or two households of any size.
  • Up to 30 people will be able to attend significant life events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings, receptions and wakes, depending on the capacity of the venue.
  • Funeral attendance will no longer be limited to 30 people, but will be determined by how many people the COVID-secure venue can safely accommodate with social distancing.
  • The government will also allow people to attend some larger performances and sporting events indoor and outdoor, with restricted numbers.
  • Care home residents will be allowed up to five named visitors (two at any one time), provided visitors test negative for COVID-19.
  • There will no longer be a legal restriction on travelling abroad, but a traffic light system with strict testing and quarantine rules depending on whether you return to England from a red, amber or green list country.
  • You should continue to work from home if you can. When travelling within the UK, you should aim to do so safely and plan your journey in advance.

Please check the government’s website to find out more about what you can and can’t do.

Go for the flow!

GO FOR THE FLOW and take twice-weekly rapid COVID-19 tests

We’ve all been doing our bit for Devon since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone has played their part, and together we’re edging closer to normality. But it’s important for us to continue keeping each other safe as restrictions across the county are easing.

One way you can do this is to ‘GO FOR THE FLOW’ and take rapid COVID-19 tests (known as lateral flow device (LFD) tests) twice a week.

It’s because one in three people who catch coronavirus don’t show any symptoms, meaning they could spread it without realising. These rapid tests help detect such cases so they can self-isolate and reduce the risk of passing the virus on, especially to someone more vulnerable. 

We want everyone to feel as safe as possible as the coronavirus restrictions continue to ease. That’s why, to prevent further transmission of the virus, we’re encouraging everyone in Devon over the age of 16 to include twice-weekly rapid lateral flow testing as part of their routine. It’s free, painless and the results are available within the hour.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“You might think it’s inconvenient, but for the sake of a few minutes out of your day, you will be helping to control the spread of the virus and keep Devon safe. 

“Before you head out – to see friends or family, to the shops or the pub, take a rapid COVID-19 test… just to be safe. 

“Case rates throughout Devon remain low, but with restrictions lifting and socialising returning, now is the time to remain vigilant. If we can all participate in regular symptom free testing as a part of our routine – like taking the bins out, or popping to the shop – then I’m optimistic about a better summer and a brighter future for us all.”

GO FOR THE FLOW. Find out how and where on our website via devon.cc/flow or call 0345 155 1015.

Join the millions already vaccinated

One million milestone reached in Devon as over 38s invited to book vaccination

Two-thirds of UK adults have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and in Devon vaccinations have passed the one million milestone.

Residents aged over 38 years old are now being invited to book their vaccination appointments via the NHS website or by calling 119.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the preferred vaccines for pregnant women of any age who are coming for their first dose, and improvements to the National Booking Service mean that, following a series of screening questions, they can now book appointments at sites that offer those vaccines.

Following a review of evidence and with the latest advice, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised a preference for adults aged 30 to 39, who don’t have any underlying health conditions, to receive an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine where available, and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated.

The NHS in Devon and Healthwatch are currently working together to ask adults under 40 years old to share their views on the vaccination, so that they can understand what, if any, barriers there might be to uptake among younger people. They’re asking people between 19 and 40 years of age, who have not yet had their vaccination, to take a few minutes to complete a short survey.

If you are eligible for a vaccination, you can use the National Booking Service website or call 119 to make an appointment. People in many areas of Devon will also be contacted by their GP practice about an appointment.

wear a face covering on school transport

Update on face coverings for secondary schools

From Monday 17 May, in line with step three of the government’s roadmap, face coverings will no longer be recommended for pupils in classrooms or communal areas in schools. 

However, children and young people aged 11 years old and over must still wear a face covering on public transport and when travelling on dedicated secondary school or college transport, unless exempt.

Face coverings will also no longer be recommended for staff in classrooms, however they still should be worn by staff and visitors in situations outside of classrooms where social distancing is not possible, for example when moving around in corridors and communal areas.

College students may be asked to wear face coverings where the teaching setting is more similar to, or is, a workplace environment or where students are likely to come into contact with other members of the public.

holding hands in a lap

More restrictions eased for care homes

From Monday 17 May care home residents will be able to have more named visitors and more opportunities to make visits out with no need to self-isolate when they return.

As part of step three of the government’s roadmap, the number of named family members or friends able to visit their loved ones in care homes will be increased from two to five, as the visiting restrictions continue to ease. A maximum of two visitors will be allowed at any one time or on any given day.

This follows a reduction in COVID-19 cases and the ongoing successful vaccine rollout with 95% of older care home residents receiving their first jab.

As well as low-risk outdoor visits out, such as a trip to the park, a garden or the beach, residents will also be able to go to medical appointments, a workplace, educational setting and day centres without having to self-isolate on their return.

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

empty exam hall

Guide for students released by Ofqual

Students taking GCSEs, A levels and many other qualifications this year are being offered important support with a new guide from qualifications regulator Ofqual.

The easy-to-use ‘Student guide to awarding: summer 2021’ contains advice on where students in England and their families can go for more information and support, including with mental health concerns, and reminds students, parents and carers not to put teachers under pressure over grading, please.

This year students will only be assessed on what they have been taught because of differing levels of lost learning due to COVID-19-related disruption. The arrangements follow a public consultation in January, which attracted more than 100,000 responses – mainly from students, parents, carers and teachers.

GCSEs, A levels and AS levels will be graded by teachers’ judgements using evidence from mocks, tests, coursework, or other work. They will be signed off by school, college and department heads before going to the relevant exam board no later than Friday 18 June.

Schools, colleges and exam boards will then carry out quality assurance checks so that students, their parents, employers and the wider public can have confidence in how this summer’s grades are determined. After grading, all centres will send samples of some students’ work to exam boards, which will carry out further checks at random or where there are concerns.

The new guide also outlines how students can appeal if they believe a grade is wrong. For most qualifications, students will have the option of sitting exams this autumn to improve their summer grade.

Arrangements for many vocational and technical qualifications follow similar principles, although assessments will still be needed for qualifications that require students to demonstrate occupational or professional competence or proficiency. This is explained further in the guide and Ofqual’s qualification explainer tool. The guide also contains advice for private candidates, who do not study in a school or college, such as home educated students.

COVID-19 volunteers at Home Park

Vaccination centre volunteers needed

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allowing many people to return to work, vaccination centres in Exeter and Plymouth need to recruit some more volunteers to help things run smoothly.

The stewarding role involves work inside and outside doing things like directing people as they arrive and leave and checking their appointment details.

Shifts are currently 8.00am to noon; noon to 4.00pm and 4.00pm to 8.00pm. Days and shift allocation can be arranged to suit you once applications are processed.

Applications for both sites can be made via the Our Plymouth website, and because so many people have now had at least their first jab, there is less risk faced by older age groups, which means offers of volunteering can be accepted from those aged over 69 years old.

Pupils of Woolsery Primary School in Bideford showing off their nature crowns

Devon schools encouraged to take learning outdoors

Schools across Devon are being encouraged to take lessons outside next Thursday (20 May) as part of Outdoor Classroom Day.

The pandemic has reminded us all of how important spending time in nature is for both physical and mental health.

Outdoor Classroom Day is a global movement aiming to make time outdoors part of every child’s day. Thousands of pupils in Devon have taken part since it first started in 2012.

The Devon Local Nature Partnership is encouraging schools to get involved. Their website has a map of providers that can support schools in getting their class learning outside.

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

“Many Devon schools already make outdoor learning an integral part of their curriculum with forest schools, gardening clubs and a whole range of learning experiences.

“But this past year has reminded us all how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place as Devon but, also, how important getting outdoors has been for both our physical and mental health.

“I hope more Devon schools than ever will find the time to mark Outdoor Classroom Day this year.”

Node Enterprise Centre in Barnstaple

New enterprise centre to launch in June

A new Enterprise Centre on the outskirts of Barnstaple will be opening next month.

It’s a centre designed to offer flexible office accommodation for small and medium size businesses that are looking to grow. That includes start-ups, freelancers and local workers in Barnstaple and the surrounding areas of North Devon.

It’s an exciting development for Devon’s economy, because of the devastating impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on local businesses.

The enterprise centre is called Node, and it’s been built on our Roundswell Enterprise Park development. It has space for 37 small and medium offices, a co-working space for up to 50 people, and a number of meeting rooms.

It’s being run on our behalf by TownSq, which has a proven track record in supporting the development of vibrant start-up business communities across England and Wales. They’ve recently appointed its Community Manager, Julian Dymond. He’ll be responsible for finding and supporting new members, sourcing and organising business mentors, arranging events and the general day-to-day running of the hub. He said:

“It’s not just about having somewhere different to work. We support our members with a number of different mentoring and workshop schemes, and I’d encourage anyone with an idea or a desire to start their own business to get in touch with us.”

To learn more about Node, or to see how you could get support to run your business, visit the TownSq website or email barnstaple@townsq.co.uk.

Young people cycling past Exeter cathedral

All remaining university students to return to in-person teaching

The government has confirmed that all remaining university students can return to in-person teaching from Monday 17 May.

Some students, including those doing practical courses such as science and engineering, and who need to access specialist facilities and equipment, are already back on campus.

Before returning, students are encouraged to take a free COVID-19 test either through home or community testing at least one day before they travel back to their term time accommodation. And when they arrive, they will be encouraged to take three free supervised lateral flow devices (LFD) tests, three to four days apart, at an on-campus asymptomatic testing site, and will be expected to be tested twice a week throughout the rest of the summer term. Home testing kits will be available to help those who are unable to attend the on-campus testing facilities. 

hand washing

And finally… Give yourself a big hand

It was World Hand Hygiene Day this month. 

Washing our hands regularly and properly is still a huge part of the way that we prevent the spread of coronavirus. We mustn’t forget it.

Try to make it part of your day, especially when you’ve been out and about.

To mark the day, the Community Infection Management Service in East Devon invited care home providers to take part in a short video. You can watch it on YouTube.

Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
Government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.


Routine testing identifying asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in Devon, a plea to take up the vaccine to help protect others and we need families for brothers and sisters

There has been a slight rise in COVID-19 case numbers in Devon over the latest recorded week, although overall rates are still well below the national average. Case numbers are currently highest in the Exeter area, and case rates highest within the school age and working age population, with some household transmission. There have been very few outbreaks across the county, but where they have happened, case numbers have been small.

In this update:

  • Routine testing is identifying asymptomatic cases in Devon
  • Take up the vaccine to help protect others
  • Exeter’s COVID-19 vaccination centre moves to Greendale Business Park
  • We need families for brothers and sisters
  • Study shows drop in COVID-19 infections in schools
  • An invitation to get involved!

Routine testing is identifying asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in Devon

Coronavirus case numbers in Devon have risen slightly again this week. That’s to be expected though, because of the increase in regular testing of people without symptoms identifying cases that otherwise would have gone undetected.

These cases are picked up through routine rapid, lateral flow device (LFD) testing, either at our assisted mobile testing sites, or by people self-testing at home. 

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said: 

“Overall, coronavirus case numbers in Devon are still very low, which is good. But with restrictions continuing to gradually ease, it’s vital that everyone steps up their regular asymptomatic testing. 

“These rapid lateral flow device tests are important because they are identifying people without symptoms of coronavirus who otherwise wouldn’t know they’ve got it. It means they can then self-isolate, rather than unknowingly spreading the virus to others, particularly those more vulnerable.

“Please make twice-weekly COVID-19 testing, either at home or at a testing site, part of your regular routine. It doesn’t take long, and the results are usually back within the hour.”

We are working hard to make sure it is convenient to access symptom-free testing at a range of locations across Devon. You can:

To find out the days, times and locations of a testing centre near you, visit our website. It is regularly updated with any changes to the community testing service schedule so please check before you set off.

Take up the vaccine to help protect others

Evidence is building that suggests having the COVID-19 vaccine not only protects you from becoming seriously ill should you catch coronavirus, but it also reduces the likelihood of you transmitting it to others.

There’s been a lot of studies on the impact that the vaccine is having on our population. Analysis has found that infections reduced by 65 per cent after a single dose of the vaccine, and that people who have been vaccinated but still caught the virus, tend to have much milder symptoms.

But a study by Public Health England has also found that people who have been vaccinated and who go on to catch the virus, infect fewer people than those who have not had the vaccine.

It supports the principle that COVID-19 vaccines weaken the virus’s transmission, and therefore by getting vaccinated, you are helping to protect those around you too.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“We are learning more and more about the vaccines and their impact, not just on protecting the individuals who have had their jab, but also on the transmission of the virus.

“I know that younger people may think that they’re less likely to be seriously ill if they catch coronavirus because of their age and general good health, compared say to older and more vulnerable people. And that may be true.

“But don’t let that persuade you not to have the vaccine. You might still catch coronavirus, and studies are now suggesting that those who have been vaccinated are less likely to transmit the virus to other people. 

“Please take up the vaccine when it’s offered to you, if not just to protect you, but to also help protect others.”

Everyone aged 40 years old and over (or will turn 40 before 1 July 2021) is now being invited to book a life-saving COVID-19 jab. You can book your vaccination at the click of a button through the national booking service or by calling 119 if you can’t get online.

Exeter’s COVID-19 vaccination centre moves to Greendale Business Park

The large NHS COVID-19 vaccination centre at Westpoint in Exeter is moving to nearby Greendale Business Park tomorrow (Friday 7 May).

It comes as the vaccination programme enters its next phase and Westpoint starts to return to its commercial events calendar following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Greendale is just over two miles from the existing site, and clear signage will be in place to guide people.

The dates and times of all existing first and second vaccine dose appointments booked for Westpoint will remain the same, just the venue will change. So if you have a vaccination appointment that you originally booked for Westpoint anytime from tomorrow (Friday 7 May) onward, please make sure that you go to the new site at Greendale Business Park on the date and time of your appointment. There is no need to contact the NHS.

Business at Greendale will remain open as normal while the vaccination centre is there and the site has been designed to ensure as little disruption as possible to customers over the coming months.

When you’re invited to, please book your vaccination through the national booking service or by calling 119 if you can’t get online.

Ofqual confirms autumn assessment arrangements

Students who receive a teacher assessed grade this summer will be eligible to take GCSE, AS or A level exams in the same subject in autumn 2021, Ofqual has confirmed.

This also applies to those students who exam boards believe would have sat exams in summer 2021 had they not been cancelled.

Following a consultation on the arrangements for this autumn’s GCSE, AS and A level exams, Ofqual has also decided that:

  • exam boards will have to offer exams in all GCSE and A level subjects and AS exams in biology, chemistry, further maths, maths and physics; exam boards will be able to offer AS exams in other subjects if they wish
  • exams will be in their normal format, with no adaptations made
  • grades will be determined by a student’s performance in an exam for all subjects, except for art and design qualifications
  • AS and A level exams will be held in October, while GCSE exams will take place in November and December.

We need families for brothers and sisters

We’ve all had time over the past year to think more about life, and to reflect on what is important. Many people have used this time to seize the opportunity and make that next step to adopting a child.

During lockdown Adopt South West, our regional adoption agency, received lots of enquiries from prospective parents, but now restrictions are easing and people’s focus is possibly elsewhere, the enquiries have dropped.

But there are still children in Devon waiting to be adopted, and just under half of them are in family groups of two or more siblings. Right now there are 20 sibling groups waiting to be adopted in Devon. On average siblings wait 17 months for their adoptive families, which is 36 per cent longer (or 135 days more) than individual children. 

Many potential adopters are concerned about the financial affordability of adopting brothers and sisters as well as not having enough space at home or that it would be too challenging. But there’s an irreplaceable bond between siblings, and most understandably want to stay together. While adopting a family group of children may be a daunting prospect, the benefits and rewards for both parents and children are huge.

There is a significant amount of support available to potential adopters and the vast majority of parents that adopted family groups say challenges are far outweighed by the positives. Many go as far to say that adopting brothers or sisters has been the most beneficial factor in their children’s adoption journey because together the siblings feel more reassured, have companionship and comfort and settle into family life more quickly.

If you can provide a safe, stable, and loving home for a child or children, and have a spare bedroom, we would be keen to hear from you. For more information, please visit the Adopt South West website or call 0345 155 1076.

Care homes residents allowed more out-of-home visits

All care home residents can participate in more out-of-home visits without having to isolate on their return.

Since Tuesday 4 May, residents have been able to leave their care homes to visit a friend or family member’s garden, or go on walks in places such as parks, public gardens and beaches without needing to self-isolate when they return.

Residents must be accompanied by either a care worker, or nominated visitor, and follow the government guidelines of washing hands regularly, keeping social distance, and remaining outside, in line with step two of the government’s roadmap.

The changes come as the data shows COVID-19 cases nationally continuing to fall, meaning it is now much safer for care home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to severe illness from coronavirus, to leave their homes. Keeping visits outdoors will ensure any risk is minimised as much as possible.

Each care home is unique and will have developed suitable plans and processes to protect residents, visitors and staff, so please speak to them directly to find out more about out-of-home visits for your loved one.

Study shows drop in COVID-19 infections in schools

The latest round of the government’s Schools Infection Survey (SIS) suggests a significant reduction in the percentage of secondary school pupils and staff testing positive for COVID-19 since schools reopened compared to last November.

The research is jointly led by Public Health England, the Office for National Statistics and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. They tested 7,271 secondary school pupils and 2,744 staff at schools from across 14 participating local authorities for COVID-19 between 15 and 31 March, just after schools in England fully reopened for all pupils.

The results found that 0.34% of secondary school pupils and 0.19% of secondary school staff tested positive for current coronavirus infection. 

The findings are reassuring and show the risk of transmission in schools is low. It also indicates the importance of public health measures in schools for reducing transmission, so lets keep up with the twice-weekly symptom free testing, regular hand washing, social distancing and wearing a face covering when required.

Schools in Devon are doing all they can, following government COVID-secure guidelines to minimise transmission of the virus. But we have seen some positive coronavirus cases among school-age children recently, so continued personal efforts are crucial to limit infections entering schools and preventing transmission within the school site.

Limit on mourners at funerals to be removed

Families and friends will shortly be able to gather to pay their respects to loved ones in greater numbers.

Under current restrictions funerals can go ahead with up to 30 people attending, but the government has announced that this legal limit on the number of mourners will be removed as part of step three of the roadmap, to take place from 17 May at the earliest. 

Instead, the number of people who can attend a funeral will be determined by how many people the venue, such as the relevant place of worship or funeral home, can safely accommodate with social distancing. This includes both indoor and outdoor venues. Capacities of venues will vary, but many will allow significantly more than 30 people to attend.

Limits for other life or commemorative events, such as weddings and wakes, are expected to remain at step three as set out in the government’s roadmap.

Get involved!

We’re always looking for volunteers to help make sure our online services are easy to use.

This can range from answering surveys to trying out a website before it launches and having a chat with us to share your thoughts.

We’ll only get in touch every few months, and it’s totally optional whether you’d like to be involved each time.

So if you’re interested in helping to shape the future of our websites and online services, please fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
Government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

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

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

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

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

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon: Mobile test

Roadmap out of lockdown met with cautious welcome

COVID-19 Roadmap Spring 2021

Roadmap met with cautious welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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


What’s the plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step one, part one – Monday 8 March

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

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

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

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

Everyone should still stay at home as much as possible. 

two women meeting sat on benches

Step one, part two – Monday 29 March

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

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

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

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

hair cut

Step two – no earlier than Monday 12 April

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

Step three – no earlier than Monday 17 May

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

Step four – no earlier than Monday 21 June

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

For now…

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

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

For now…we must:

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

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

stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Statement for Mayfair and Carnival 2021

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

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

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

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

Keeley Allin – Chair of the Mayfair and Carnival Committee