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CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION

Household Support Fund Launch

As part of the nationwide efforts to recover following the pandemic, Devon and District Councils have been provided with some funding from the Government’s Household Support Fund (HSF). 

Funding has been distributed to councils across England, who know their local areas best, to directly help those who need it most, including for example, through small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities.

More information about the fund and the national picture can be found in the Government Household Support Fund announcement

What is the Household Support Fund?

We know that sudden unexpected costs can create real challenges for our residents who are experiencing financial hardship. The Household Support Fund is available to provide rapid short-term financial support to meet immediate needs and help those who are struggling to afford food, energy and water bills, and other related essentials this winter.

The scheme runs until 31 March 2022 and is designed to help ease financial pressure on residents with low incomes and to support those most in need this winter whilst the economy recovers.

Due to the limited funds available, the funding will prioritise items necessary for day to day living such as food and essential household items.

We recognise that we cannot predict every challenge that residents may face, so applications will be accepted for other essential types of support which cannot be budgeted for and which deliver on the aims of this scheme. These items will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To find out more about eligibility and to apply go to https://torridge.gov.uk/article/20618/Household-Support-Fund-Grants

What other support is available?

Further information on what financial support is available for individuals and families in Devon can be found at https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/document/support-for-people-and-families/

Why are COVID-19 case rates in Devon so high?

4,687 COVID-19 cases in Devon from 7 to 13 November 2021

COVID-19 case rates in Devon are above the national average and continuing to rise. Cases are highest in Northern Devon, with Torridge in particular having one of the highest rates in the country. Most cases are in the late teen, school and college-age population.


In this update:

  • Why are COVID-19 case rates in Devon so high?
  • Schools are doing their bit to halt the spread
  • Money available to help support people during self-isolation 
  • Thank you, says NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse 
  • Protect yourself and your baby by having the flu vaccine
pedestrians crowded space

Why are COVID-19 case rates in Devon so high? 

Case rates of coronavirus in Northern Devon are among the highest in the country, with levels in Torridge in particular now reaching 849 cases per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 384 cases per 100,000.

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

“There are a few reasons why North Devon and Torridge may be seeing such high rates. 

“Both district areas have, until recently, maintained steady and comparatively low case levels, and with that, therefore relatively lower levels of infection-induced immunity within communities. 

“Secondly, testing for coronavirus here in Devon is a lot higher than the national average, so it may be that we are seeing higher levels than elsewhere because we’re identifying them. 

“We know that the dominant strain across the UK, and in Devon, is the highly transmissible Delta variant, and that too is driving case levels.” 

However, the high case levels are not translating into a significant increase in coronavirus-related hospitalisations, or deaths. People developing the virus may tend to feel unwell, but are not requiring the medical attention that was once required, and they’re getting better. 

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

school classroom

Schools are doing their bit to halt the spread

Most areas of the South West have positive coronavirus case rates above the national average for England. In Devon, it’s the high case levels particularly among the secondary school and college-age population that are driving the infection. 

Schools, however, are doing their bit to halt the spread. 

Most of our secondary schools in Devon have reached the government’s threshold – they have five or more linked cases of coronavirus – which triggers plans for additional actions, in line with the government’s guidance.  

But because case rates in the region are high, Directors of Public Health across the South West agreed last month that all secondary schools are advised to consider adopting the additional measures, even those that have not yet reached that trigger point.  

Those additional measures are to reduce risk of transmission, and include steps that encourage face covering, hand hygiene, and social mixing.  

“We must all take responsibility,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. “Follow the school’s rules when there and remain extra cautious when out of school and mixing with friends.” 

  • meet outside where you can  
  • open a window if meeting inside. A window or door open for even a short period makes a difference 
  • please wear a face covering on public transport and in crowded public spaces 
  • have the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s offered to you 

“With case levels this high, we need to be proactive in our actions to stay safe,” said Steve Brown. “Living with coronavirus in our community means that we must remember it’s there, and that we take what steps we can to keep safe.”

house and calculator

Money available to help support people during self-isolation 

With the high rate of positive coronavirus cases across Devon right now, there are growing numbers of people required to self-isolate. 

For many, with minor symptoms and people to help them, ten days self-isolating is OK. It’s workable. But for others, self-isolating can be very difficult, especially if they live alone, they’re unwell, or have other responsibilities outside the house. 

We’ve made small to medium-size grants available to local voluntary and community groups, which can help people during their self-isolation period – groups that can support with: 

  • getting food and other supplies 
  • caring responsibilities 
  • practical things, like dog walking 
  • mental health and wellbeing, including loneliness and boredom 

It’s to help people with the practical, social or emotional support they need, so that they can self-isolate properly, and so that they don’t potentially pass the virus onto others. 

You should self-isolate if you have symptoms and test positive with a PCR test; and if you’re asked to self-isolate, because you’re a known contact to someone who has tested positive and you’re not vaccinated; or ahead of a medical procedure. 

Grants typically can be up to £5,000 for small projects, and up to £20,000 for larger projects. Applications for larger projects will be considered. 

Information and eligibility for the grants is available on our website.

Or to discuss an application, contact hannah.reynolds@devon.gov.uk 

Taking a lateral flow test

Government announces new advice on when it’s necessary to take a rapid lateral flow device test

The government has made a new announcement this week about when people in England should take rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests. 

Previously, the advice has been to take LFD tests regularly twice a week. But the new advice is that people in England should be taking a LFD test on days when they are more likely to catch or spread COVID-19. For example:

  • when they will be in a high risk situation that day, such as mixing with other people in crowded indoor spaces where there is limited fresh air
  • before they visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness, if they were to get COVID-19 

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

“Testing continues to be a key element of Devon’s local outbreak response.

“Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, but may still be infectious and able to give the virus to others.

“Rapid lateral flow tests help identify people with the virus, so that they can self-isolate and arrange a confirmatory PCR test.”

Research shows LFD tests are a reliable test for COVID-19. They give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab.

Even if you’re vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on. Doing LFD tests regularly helps to protect yourself and others.

LFD tests are available from Devon’s Community Testing Service at a range of locations across Devon, your local pharmacy or they can be ordered online for home delivery.

If you test positive for COVID-19 using an LFD test, you should self-isolate immediately and request a follow-up PCR test.

COVID-19 vaccine

Change to guidance on vaccination for under 18s 

The government has revised the guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations for under 18 year olds who are not in clinical risk groups. 

Previously, the advice had been that under 18s should not have their vaccination for four weeks following a positive PCR test. That’s now changed, with under 18s now asked to not have their vaccine until 12 weeks following a positive PCR test. 

For those who have recently had their vaccine, after four weeks but within 12 weeks of a positive PCR test, that’s OK – the vaccines are safe.  But for those under 18s who are yet to take up the vaccine, you will not be given the vaccine until 12 weeks following a PCR test. 

16-17 year olds will be offered a second dose

16 and 17 year olds to receive vaccine second dose 

16 and 17 year olds, who are not in an at-risk group are to be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is advising.

The second vaccine dose should be given 12 weeks or more following the first vaccine dose. 

For those who have had COVID-19, the second dose should be given 12 weeks or more following their positive PCR test result. 

Visit the NHS website for more information about booking vaccination appointments.

vaccine booster offer over 90% protection

Thank you, says NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse 

NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse, Darryn Allcorn has thanked everyone who has booked or had their booster.   

“You are helping to protect yourselves and your loved ones and to reduce pressure on our busy NHS services this winter,” he said. 

Walk-in clinics have been very busy and extra appointments are being offered where possible to meet demand. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation has previously advised booster vaccinations for all adults aged 50 years and over and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group. The offer has now been extended to include those aged 40 to 49 years. 

The advice comes as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) publishes the first data on booster vaccine effectiveness in the UK. The analysis shows that people who take up the offer of a booster vaccine increase their protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection to over 90%. Protection against more severe disease is expected to be even higher. 

People can book their COVID-19 booster appointment five months (152 days) after their second dose, meaning they could receive their top up vaccine on the day they become eligible at six months (182 days). 

Booster vaccines can still only be given after a six-month interval (at least six months after your second vaccine dose), but allowing appointments to be booked at five months means people can get their jabs booked in ahead. 

Those who are eligible can book their COVID-19 booster appointment by visiting the national booking system website or calling 119 and find a walk-in site online

pregnant

Chief Medical Officer says hospital admissions are preventable 

England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chris Whitty, has urged all women who are pregnant, or hoping to become pregnant, to get a coronavirus vaccine. 

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference this week, Mr Whitty referred to data regarding the number of pregnant women being admitted to hospital with coronavirus. 

“From February 1 to September 30, 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98 per cent, had not been vaccinated,” he said. 

“And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98 per cent – had not been vaccinated.” 

The CMO is reported as describing the hospital admissions as ‘preventable’, and that that the view among experts is that the benefits of the vaccine ‘outweigh the risks in every area’. 

Find out more about booking your vaccination on the NHS website.

Do you look after someone

Do you look after someone who could not manage without your help?

The number of unpaid carers in the UK has nearly doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 130,000 now providing care in Devon.

An unpaid carer is someone who gives their time to support a family member, friend, or neighbour. This may be due to an illness, condition, frailty, disability, COVID-19, or post hospital care. It could be on a regular basis or occasionally.

National research estimates that over 50,000 carers in Devon are at risk of breakdown at any one time, 96,200 feel exhausted and over 45,000 say they feel unable to manage their caring role. There’s no question that unpaid carers play a vital role, the value of their work in Devon has been estimated at £1.6 billion per year, that’s over £20,000 per carer.

Early identification and support of unpaid carers not only improves the lives and situations of the carer as well as the person they look after, but it can also help avoid unsustainable pressure on public services and finances.

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

Visit the Devon Carers website or call 01392 307720.

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Post expires at 9:54am on Tuesday November 23rd, 2021

Test and Trace still plays an essential part in reducing COVID-19 outbreaks; there’s still time to have your lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine and farmers invited to a free wellbeing and mental health support webinar

3,531 cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 31 Oct to 6 Nov 2021

COVID-19 case rates in Devon continue to be above the national average.

The highest rates are in the zero to 19 year old and 40 to 59 year old age groups, although rates for both groups have continued to reduce.


In this edition:

  • Test and Trace still plays an essential part in reducing COVID-19 transmission and outbreaks
  • COVID-19 vaccination to be a condition of employment for health and social care staff
  • There’s still time to have your lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine
  • Farmers invited to a free wellbeing and mental health support webinar
  • Stop COVID-19 hanging around
  • Devon Remembers
man on phone in office

Test and Trace still plays an essential part in reducing COVID-19 transmission and outbreaks

The NHS Test and Trace programme is continuing to identify people who are known to have been in close proximity to anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus via a PCR test.

In Devon, our team is helping to trace those close contacts and advise them on further steps to reduce risk to themselves and others.

Known contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 no longer have to self-isolate if they’re fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and six months. But people can still catch coronavirus even if they are fully vaccinated, and spread it to others even before they show any symptoms. 

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

“Contact tracing continues to be an essential part of reducing coronavirus transmission and containing outbreaks. 

“If you are contacted by the tracing team, or you receive a message from the Test and Trace app to tell you that you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please be extra cautious.   

“If you are fully vaccinated or under 18 years and six months, take a PCR test to see if you have also caught the virus and self-isolate if you test positive. If the PCR test result is negative please look out for symptoms, continue to test regularly with lateral flow device tests, and follow the public health guidance around wearing face coverings, fresh air and good hand hygiene. 

“If you’re traced as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you’re not fully vaccinated, you are required to self-isolate because you are at greater risk of catching and passing on the virus.”

You can find out more about NHS Test and Trace on the NHS website.

COVID-19 vaccination regulations for health care workers

COVID-19 vaccination to be a condition of employment for health and social care staff

From April 2022, health and social care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus, unless they are exempt.

The requirement will apply to workers who have direct face-to-face contact with people while providing care, including doctors, nurses, dentists, and domiciliary care workers.

Volunteers and support staff, such as receptionists who have social contact with patients, will also be required to be fully vaccinated.

The aim is to help protect the most vulnerable patients, as well as protection for  workers to help prevent them from becoming ill and absent from work.

Most of Devon’s health care workers are already vaccinated. Published statistics show that in the south-west region over 95 per cent of all staff employed by NHS trusts have had at least one dose and almost 93 per cent are fully vaccinated. This is higher than the national average for England.

Many of those staff are now having their booster vaccinations and there are plenty of walk-in clinics and bookable appointments available.

Don't delay, vaccinate today!

There’s still time to have your lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine

Figures produced by the Office for National Statistics show that between January and September this year, fully vaccinated people were 32 times less likely to die with COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated.

It’s not too late to get have your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

We know people are looking forward to spending time with their families and loved ones at Christmas and having the vaccine will not only protect you but those around you from COVID-19 and the potential long term effects.

Anybody who received their first dose before the end of October will be able to receive a second dose before the new year. After the second dose your chances of developing Long-COVID halve; according to a study by King’s College London. It also significantly reduces your chances of needing treatment in hospital and the severity of symptoms.

Some people may not have managed to have the COVID-19 vaccine yet or were initially unsure about whether to have it at all, but there’s still time to join millions of people who have had their first and second dose. 

Everyone aged 12 years old and over can book an appointment for their first dose through the National Booking Service or can call 119.

A walk-in finder on the NHS website allows anyone who is eligible to enter their postcode and find their nearest centre to ‘grab-a-jab’ without an appointment at walk-in centres.

farming tractor

Farmers invited to a free wellbeing and mental health support webinar

The coronavirus pandemic and Brexit have added to the huge pressure on many of the region’s farmers.

Our Trading Standards service is holding the next in a series of free webinars to promote Mental Health and Wellbeing in the farming community on Thursday 18 November from 6.00pm to 8.00pm.

The aim of it is to help farmers understand where they can get support for their mental health and wellbeing if and when if they need it and will also talk about available financial support.

Speakers include:

  • Nina Parnell from charity Westbank
  • Tim Dudgeon from Farmerados
  • Annie Winn from the Addington Fund
  • Katherine Williams from Exmoor Hill Farming Network
  • Kim Wright from AccEPT Service
  • The Samaritans talking about their ‘Real People/Real Stories’ campaign

There will also be an opportunity to ask the speakers and Trading Standards Officers questions during and after the meeting. The format of the meeting will allow you to do this anonymously if you prefer.

You can book your free place on the Eventbrite website.

If you’re unable to attend the webinar, please still register if you would like to receive a recording of the event to watch at your leisure. Alternatively the video will be posted on the Trading Standards website afterwards.

COVID-19 booster vaccine timeline

COVID-19 booster jab boom as system opens up for pre-bookings a month early

The National Booking Service has been changed to make it even easier for people to get their booster jab six-months after their second COVID-19 vaccine dose and ensure their vital protection is maintained over the winter months.

Everyone aged over 50 years old and all those most at risk from COVID-19 can now pre-book their booster jab appointment a month before they are eligible. This means that someone could pre-book their jab for the day they reach the 6-month milestone, rather than waiting days or weeks for a convenient appointment.

The colder weather traditionally leads to increased transmission of viruses and will be challenging for the NHS. Vaccines give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups, so it is vital that vulnerable people come forward to get their COVID-19 booster vaccine to top up their defences and protect themselves this winter.

People can also book via the National Booking Service or by calling 119 or get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country, six months after their second COVID-19 vaccine dose without an appointment. 

Stop COVID hanging around

Stop COVID-19 hanging around

During winter we all naturally spend more time indoors, welcoming family and friends into our homes as the weather gets colder. But with this comes an increase in the potential for breathing in infectious COVID-19 particles, particularly as around one in three people with the virus show no symptoms so could pass it onto each other without knowing, even to those who have been fully vaccinated. 

With fewer restrictions in place this winter, following the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, making sure inside spaces are well ventilated is even more important for everyone to help keep infection rates down. It’s because in an enclosed space, infectious COVID-19 particles can linger and build up over time, like smoke. They remain suspended in the air, increasing the risk of other people in the room breathing them in, especially if there is no ventilation to refresh the air and blow the particles away. 

But new research shows that nearly two-thirds of people aren’t aware that ventilation is an effective way to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the home. Just one in three people are ventilating their home when visitors come over, and only three per cent of people surveyed for the research continued to ventilate their homes for a period after their guests have left.

The government has worked with scientists from the universities of Cambridge and Leeds to produce a film to show how opening a window for just 10 minutes every hour when socialising with others can reduce COVID-19 levels indoors. You can watch it on the government Department for Health and Social Care’s YouTube channel.

Book an appointment or attend a walk-in clinic if you have not yet had your COVID-19 vaccine

Where can I get my vaccination?

One of the big differences with COVID-19 vaccinations now, compared to much earlier in the year, is where people can get them.

Where once they were only available through your GP or at your nearest mass vaccination centre, the options now are wider. In fact, there are more places delivering vaccines now than at any other point in the programme, including through pharmacies, GPs, schools and other community and pop-up sites, meaning almost every person lives within 10 miles of a vaccination clinic.

Appointments can be booked online or by calling 119, and walk-in vaccinations are also available at vaccination centres and at pop up sites.

Alongside that, many people are being invited to come forward for their annual flu jab as well, and they’re available by appointment at pharmacies and health centres. Some health centres are coordinating COVID-19 booster vaccinations and flu jabs together, for eligible people to get them both done at the same time.

However you choose, and whether you walk-in or book an appointment, the important thing is to take up your vaccinations when they are offered to you.

And please look out for family members and friends who may not have transport, or require help in getting to their vaccination.

COVID-19 virus

Study shows vaccine immunity is stronger than natural immunity

The ZOE COVID Study, last month, found that vaccines offer greater protection against COVID-19 than natural antibodies. 

It found that an unvaccinated person with a previous COVID-19 infection has around 65 per cent protection against catching it again. But that two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine gave 71 per cent protection against infection, and two doses of the Pfizer vaccine gave 87 per cent protection. 

This week, they’ve published further data. Between April and August 2021, they invited thousands of people who had logged a positive COVID-19 test to do an antibody test at home.  

Of the 8,193 contributors who tested positive, 80.67 per cent had ‘anti-N’ antibodies. But that meant that one in five people didn’t have the antibodies, and could therefore be at greater risk of getting infected again. 

Their conclusion is that while being infected with coronavirus can provide some level of antibody protection, it’s not guaranteed for everyone, and that the level of protection it gives is lower than the protection that the vaccines provide. 

You can read about the ZOE COVID Study online.

Cllr Jeff Trail MBE with Devon's wreath

Devon Remembers

Yesterday we commemorated Armistice Day with a flag raising ceremony at County Hall in Exeter to honour the sacrifices made by our Armed Service personnel in conflicts around the world, past and present.

The ceremony broadcast live on Facebook so that others could attend remotely. If you missed the event, you can watch it on our Facebook page.

Earlier in the day, our Chairman, Councillor Jeff Trail BEM, presented a wreath on behalf of Devon County Council to be displayed at The Cenotaph at Whitehall, but because of the coronavirus pandemic didn’t attend in person. Instead it was delivered to London courtesy of GWR. 

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Post expires at 3:57pm on Monday November 15th, 2021

COVID-19 infections reach their highest level; the difference between COVID-19 booster jabs and third doses and get NHS advice quickly ahead of ‘winter like no other’

3,907 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon from 24 to 30 October 2021

Coronavirus case rates in Devon continue to be above the national average, as they are across the whole south-west region, but over the past couple of weeks they have reduced and appear to be plateauing.

Cases continue to be highest in the school age and working age population.


In this edition:

  • COVID-19 infections reach their highest level
  • Third dose versus booster – what’s the difference? 
  • Invitation for church and faith groups to talk about support in local communities
  • Carers eligible for free flu vaccine
COVID-19 virus

COVID-19 infections reach their highest level

The latest findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show prevalence of COVID-19 infections are the highest recorded since the study began in May 2020, and the highest prevalence is in the south-west.

The REACT-1 study is one of the largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England involving data from 67,000 volunteers.   

Infections, it shows, have grown fastest among those of school age, and rates among people aged 65 years old and over have doubled since their last report. 

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said the latest data needs to be a wake-up call. 

“These latest figures show that we can’t be complacent. These are the highest rates of infection since this study began, and they need to be a wake-up call to all of us. 

“Coronavirus is very much still in our communities, and while the vaccine is great, we must not rely solely on it to keep us safe. 

“We need everyone who is eligible for a third dose or a booster jab to come forward without delay. 

“And we need everyone to take steps to mitigate risk to themselves and others.”

Visit the government website to find out more about what you can do to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

COVID-19 vaccine

Third dose versus booster – what’s the difference? 

We’re familiar with hearing the terms ‘booster jab’ and ‘third dose’, but what’s the difference? They’re not the same, and both are really important in protecting us against coronavirus. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced in September that people with severely weakened immune systems at the time of their first and/or second COVID-19 vaccination, would receive a third dose as part of the standard vaccination schedule.   

Its purpose is to increase their level of protection against the virus, because they will not have reached the same levels of immunity as others after their two primary doses. Then, around six months later, that person should receive a booster jab. 

Booster jabs help maintain and extend the length of protection received from first and second vaccinations. They’re being rolled out to eligible people starting by invitation to those most at risk. That roll out will extend to all people aged 50 years old and over, and this week the government has said that anyone eligible can now get their booster jab from their nearest walk-in vaccination centre, so long as it’s been six months since their second jab. You can also book an appointment online via the National Booking System.

The invitation people receive to come forward for their third dose or booster jab will have taken into account their health at the time of their first or second vaccinations. But if you’re concerned about whether you’ve been invited for the right one at this stage, please contact your GP. 

positive covid-19 test result

COVID-19 testing confusion

We’re hearing that some people are taking a second test at the end of their 10 day isolation period (following a positive PCR test), to see if they are still infectious and then are continuing to isolate because that second test is positive.

You do not need to take a PCR test at the end of your isolation period. Once you have completed 10 days isolation, and providing you are feeling well, or if the only symptoms you have are a cough or loss of smell (which can last for several weeks), you are then able to return to normal activity, while continuing to take the usual precautions such as using face coverings, good hand hygiene and making sure rooms are well ventilated.

The reason being, if you’ve just finished self-isolating, you’re likely to test positive for a while because the virus is still present. But by then, it’s much less likely to transmit to others. 

The public health advice is to not take a PCR or lateral flow test for 90 days after testing positive with a PCR test, unless you develop new symptoms during that time. If you develop symptoms during that time, re-test using PCR. Similarly, the advice is to wait 28 days after testing positive with a PCR test to have your COVID-19 vaccination.

volunteer hand

Invitation for church and faith groups to talk about support in local communities 

Devon has some very real challenges right now within the adult care sector, largely around the acute shortage of care workers and personal assistants. 

We’re doing a lot to encourage more people to work in social care roles through free training and one-to-one support. 

But it’s more than that. There’s also a distinct need for people to have a role in looking out for friends, neighbours, and even strangers within their own communities. 

Next week, we’ve arranged a Zoom call with church and faith groups in particular to talk about the challenges in Devon, what’s being done about them, and what role communities can have in supporting local people. 

It’s stemmed from our experience of people who are alone and feeling isolated. Coronavirus and anxieties about the virus, have perhaps made loneliness more commonplace. And it begs the question, what we can do for others less able or alone in our communities?

Church or faith groups, of any faith, are invited to join the Zoom call, and to be part of that conversation. To request the Zoom invite to join the discussion, email mandm@exeter.anglican.org.

meet outdoors this bonfire night

Be safe this bonfire night

Tonight (Friday 5 November) is Bonfire Night, and again many people may be out in the hope of a dry, clear evening to enjoy fireworks.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue has published a helpful guide to a safer bonfire night.

But please remember the coronavirus context, especially with infection levels so high in the school and working age population.

So whether you’re off to friends to wave a sparkler, or to an organised bonfire event, we’ve published a few tips to help you enjoy the weekend safely.

young man vaccination

Below average COVID-19 vaccine uptake prompts renewed approach to 16 and 17 year olds 

Parents and carers are being reminded of the importance for their 16 and 17 year olds to take up the coronavirus vaccine. 

Case rates among the zero to 19 year age group in Devon are still very high, and uptake of the vaccine by 16 and 17 year olds in the county is below average. 

“Many have taken up the vaccine, and we’re continuing to see 16 and 17 year olds coming through,” says Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.   

“But take up is roughly around 66 per cent, so there are still around one in three 16 and 17 year olds who haven’t come forward. 

“It’s not too late. You’ve not missed the boat, there’s still time to come forward. But we’d like you to do so as soon as possible.  

“The more protection there is in our community, the better it is for us all, especially as we move towards winter, and the very likely presence of other viruses such as flu.”

You can book your appointment at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.

NHS 111

Get NHS advice quickly ahead of ‘winter like no other’

The NHS is encouraging people to use their 111 online service to get urgent medical advice quickly – in addition to existing services – ahead of what England’s top doctor says will be a ‘winter like no other’.

NHS 111 online provides advice and support to those with urgent but not life-threatening medical issues, and can be used for a range of reasons, including to check symptoms and if an injury or illness requires further investigation, to get information on mental health support services available, or to seek advice on how to take a medication.

The online tool can also advise whether you should contact your GP, direct you to urgent treatment centres and walk in clinics and emergency dental services, visit a pharmacist or call 999, and if needed, can arrange a call from a healthcare professional.

With more people predicted to suffer from flu this year and hospitals already treating an increased number of COVID-19 patients, NHS 111 online offers an alternative way to get immediate medical advice.

Test Centre Entrance

PCR test sites nationally now close at 6.00pm 

This week, coronavirus testing centres, where people take the PCR tests, have reduced their opening hours in the evenings, closing at 6.00pm, rather than 8.00pm.

The government says that there’s limited demand for PCR tests between 6.00pm and 8.00pm, and that their decision provides value for taxpayers’ money.

And that anyone unable to attend a PCR appointment before 6.00pm can have the test kits posted to them at home.

flu vaccine

Carers eligible for free flu vaccine 

All children and adults with learning disabilities and their family members or paid supporters are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine. 

Preventing flu is particularly important for people with learning disabilities. It can lead to pneumonia and sepsis, which many people with a learning disability are much more vulnerable to than the general population. 

People with learning disabilities are less likely to get the flu if people around them have also been vaccinated. Family carers can get the flu vaccination for free if they’re the main carer, as can support workers. 

Flu jabs are available from your pharmacist or GP. 

Mencap has some helpful information on their website, and there’s a link to this NHS video.  

stars on backgroud

Devon Together newspaper wins national praise

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve endeavoured to keep you informed of the latest local and national news, information, advice and guidance via our website, social media channels and email updates.

We teamed up with NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office to produce two editions of the Devon Together newspaper. 

Over 600,000 copies were printed to provide essential information to local people who might not access their news or information digitally, particularly in rural or isolated communities where internet connection is poor.

The innovative partnership newspaper was recently awarded Best Publication at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Pride Awards for the South of England.

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

“The Devon Together newspaper is an excellent example of that collaboration, working together to reach people who did not necessarily have access to the latest online news and information about the pandemic. I am delighted that it has achieved national recognition, and pleased more so of the positive feedback I have heard from local residents.”

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

How to do your bit to help the NHS this winter; 12 to 15 year olds invited for vaccinations; Prevention is multi-layered and we need all its layers to be effective

Coronavirus cases in graph - 4238 this week

We are continuing to see an increase in COVID-19 case rates across Devon, but the rate has slowed. 

The highest rates continue to be in the 0 to 19 age groups, most predominantly within those aged 10 to 14 years. 

Devon’s case rate is above the national average, but is one of the lowest rates across the South West.

West Devon has the highest district rate in Devon currently, although case rates here have reduced.

Stay safe this Halloween

In this update:

NHS do you bit this winter

How to do your bit to help the NHS this winter

The NHS and Devon Public Health are urging people to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 and flu viruses by following a few simple steps.

It follows an almost doubling in the number of patients in Devon hospitals with coronavirus since the beginning of October. And the NHS expect those numbers to rise. 

This, on top of existing pressures on the local health and care system, is why the public are now being reminded that they can play a key role in keeping case numbers down. 

Here’s what you can do: 

  • ensure that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including having a booster dose if you are eligible 
  • have the seasonal flu vaccination 
  • continue to follow social distancing measures, wear a mask where appropriate and wash your hands frequently 
  • avoid visiting people in hospital if you have sickness or diarrhoea 
  • self-isolate and take a PCR test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 
  • carry out regular lateral flow tests 
young person getting jab

12 to 15 year olds invited for vaccinations

The NHS is writing to parents and guardians of 12 to 15 year olds, inviting them to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment on the National Booking System or by calling 119. 

You can choose where your child receives the vaccine – either at a vaccination centre, or at their school. 

Parents or guardians can attend the appointment to a vaccination centre with their child, and consent will be sought on the day. 

If your child prefers to have their vaccination at school, they should wait for the school vaccination team or school to contact them. 

The Devon vaccination centres are at: 

  • Home Park, Plymouth, PL2 3DQ 
  • Greendale Vaccination Centre, Woodbury Salterton, Exeter, EX5 1EW 
  • English Riviera Centre, Chestnut Avenue, Torquay, TQ2 5LZ 
  • Barnstaple Leisure Centre, Seven Brethren Bank, Sticklepath, Barnstaple EX31 2AP 

More information on our website.

Young person wearing face covering outdoors

Prevention is multi-layered and we need all its layers to be effective

We’ve drawn inspiration from Swiss cheese this week, and shared an analogy used by the BBC to describe the importance of all prevention measures, in the fight against coronavirus. 

Case rates are rising. The vaccination programme is going well, with booster jabs among our older and eligible population, and vaccinations now available for 12 to 15 year olds. 

But as effective as the vaccine is, it can’t be used in isolation as a measure to combat coronavirus. 

The Swiss Cheese analogy describes prevention as a range of different Swiss cheese slices. On their own, they’re less effective, but combined, they offer much more protection against viruses. 

It argues that alongside the vaccine, we need face coverings, regular hand washing, testing, socialising outdoors, distancing – all of these measures add up to a more effective level of protection and prevention than just one on its own. 

We like the analogy, and thought it was worth sharing. 

Young person looking at text messages

COVID-19 test scam alert!

A scam text message has been doing the rounds this week, saying: 

‘NHS: You have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. You must self-isolate for 7 days and order a PCR Testing Kit.’ 

It then directs you to a link designed to look genuine at first glance, but take a closer look and you’ll see that it doesn’t link to the real NHS website. And if you click on the link, it could then ask you to pay for a testing kit. 

This is a scam. If you receive a text like this, please delete it. Do not click on the link or respond to the message. 

You can find out how you would be genuinely be contacted by NHS Test and Trace online.

Nasal spray for flu

All you need to know about flu

We published a special vaccine-themed Connect Me update this week with all you need to know about flu. You can read it here. 

It’s especially important that eligible children aged two or three years old (on the 31 August) are offered the flu vaccine this year.

For most children, the vaccine will be given as a spray in each nostril, which is very quick and painless. And it can be given at your GP surgery, usually by the Practice Nurse.

All pregnant women are also eligible for the free flu vaccine. There’s evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of complications if they get flu, particularly in later stages of pregnancy.

Find out more about the flu jab in pregnancy.

Node Hub: Picture By Jim Wileman – The opening of the new Node Cowork facility in Barnstaple
Picture By Jim Wileman – The opening of the new Node co-working facility in Barnstaple

Node launches to support businesses and grow local economy

We’ve opened a new enterprise centre in Barnstaple, that aims to create jobs and boost the local economy. 

It’s called Node. It’s the flagship development at our Roundswell Enterprise Park, and it’s really important for the county’s economic recovery and growth as we emerge from the pandemic.

It will support Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), start-up companies, freelancers and local workers in the Barnstaple and surrounding areas of North Devon and Torridge. 

It’s got 37 small and medium offices, co-working space for up to 50 people, meeting rooms and an on-site coffee shop. 

It’s also been designed and built to be energy efficient, achieving a 25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions compared to Building Regulations standards. 

With 64 per cent of its office space let within just eight months, it’s already ahead of its two-year target. 

But it’s not just office space. Node provides a range of expert-led support, from access to investors and one-to-one mentorship, through to after-hours start up clubs. 

And with a planned second phase expansion that we’re investing in – aiming to open by 2023 – the centre will support even more SMEs and start-ups in North Devon and Torridge as we look to build back an even stronger and more resilient local economy.  

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

Taking a lateral flow test

Lateral flow reminder before heading back to school or college

Secondary school and college pupils are reminded to take their lateral flow tests the evening before they return to the classroom. 

Pupils not showing any symptoms of coronavirus should take the test prior to return. But anyone who has developed symptoms over the half-term holiday must self-isolate and arrange a PCR test. 

Lateral flow tests can be collected for free from your local pharmacy, but remember that pharmacies now ask for a collection code. 

Registering for a collection code is very easy and instant, so don’t let it put you off.

Arriving at airport

COVID-19 test rules change for passengers

Travel rules changed this week.

The remaining seven countries on the UK government’s COVID-19 travel red list will be removed from Monday 1 November.

Fully-vaccinated arrivals from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, Panama, Haiti and Venezuela will no longer have to quarantine in a hotel.

But the red list system will be kept in place and a country could be added back on it if cases rise there.

Eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in England from countries not on the UK’s red list can now take a cheaper lateral flow test, instead of a PCR test. 

Lateral flow tests must be taken as soon as possible on the day of arrival in England, or at the latest before the end of a passenger’s second day. 

But the tests must be purchased from a list of private providers on the GOV.UK website. 

That’s because NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel. 

Any passengers who have already bought a PCR test to use for travel can still use it. 

For more information, visit the government’s website. 

pumpkins

And finally, enjoy the season’s festivities safely

With Halloween upon us, and Bonfire Night quick on its heels, many people may be out this weekend to celebrate the occasion.

With coronavirus case rates in Devon still above the national average, we’re reminding people to remain alert, and to do all you can to protect yourselves and your families from catching or spreading coronavirus.

We want people to enjoy themselves – that’s a given – but as coronavirus is an airborne virus, any gathering of people, especially indoors, increases the risk of transmission.

So enjoy the weekend, but wrap up warm and celebrate outside.

If meeting indoors with people you don’t live with, make sure it’s well ventilated – leave the window or door open to let fresh air in.

We’ve published a few tips to help celebrate the season safely on our website.

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Community Testing

Did you know that one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms?
That’s why Devon County Council is encouraging people in Devon to take twice-weekly rapid lateral flow tests, helping identify those who may unknowingly have the virus and breaking the chain of transmission. Even those who have been vaccinated could catch and spread coronavirus, so regular testing for people without symptoms will pick up cases to stop it spreading in the community.

One of our mobile testing vans will be at the Pannier Market, South Street, Great Torrington from Thursday 21st October between 0900 and 1230 and every week thereafter (with the exception of the 28th October as we will be at the Sydney House Car Park for that particular day).

Even though test kits are readily available and it’s easy for people to do the tests themselves at home, we are finding a lot of people are still preferring to have assistance from us to take the test. Our mobile testing units and staff are ready and happy to help. No booking is required and we’ll get the results to you within half an hour, allowing you to get on with your day. Last week, our mobile sites helped people with 516 lateral flow tests. They also handed out 18,000 tests for people to do themselves at home.

You can find out more on our website: https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/rapid-testing-devon/

Act sensibly now to keep you and your family safe; how 12 to 15 year old can get the COVID-19 vaccine and how to stay safe this half-term

3,780 COVID-19 cases in Devon from 10 to 16 October 2021

COVID-19 rates in Devon are continuing to rise and are now 466 per 100,000 of the population, which is a little higher than the national average (455/100,000).

Cases are still highest among the school age population, particularly 10 to 15 year olds. We are also seeing that reflected in the rise in cases among their parents’/carers’ age group, 35 to 54 year olds.

Cases have risen in most of our district areas, but rates are highest in Mid Devon (633/100,000).


In this update:

  • Act sensibly now to keep you and your family safe
  • How 12 to 15 year olds can get the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Devon offers a warm welcome to visitors this half term 
  • National award for supporting farmers during pandemic 
  • Support schemes offered through Devon’s economic recovery programme
Meet friends and family outdoors

Act sensibly now to keep you and your family safe

It’s been a while, but this week the government’s evening briefings were back, with Health Secretary, Sajid Javid talking about COVID-19 over the winter months.

He said that new COVID-19 infections could reach 100,000 cases per day and urged people to have their vaccination as soon as possible, not just to save lives but to protect our freedoms too.

He also warned that if people don’t continue with the precautions we are now so familiar with – wearing a mask when in busy indoor spaces, meeting outside where possible, getting tested when required and vaccinated when offered – then we are more likely to face restrictions. He said:

“If we all play our part, we can give ourselves the best possible chance, get through winter and enjoy Christmas with our loved ones.”

You can watch the full press conference via 10 Downing Street’s YouTube channel.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon said:

“Case rates in Devon are rising, and are now slightly higher than the national average. The highest number of cases are among the 10 to 15 year old age group, but we’re seeing a rise too in their parents and carers ages, 35 to 54 year olds.

“I am asking people to act sensibly now, to follow the public health advice and take up your vaccinations when it’s offered to you, to keep you and your family safe, and to help the NHS this winter.”

young person getting jab

How 12 to 15 year olds can get the COVID-19 vaccine

This week the government announced that local vaccination sites would play a part, alongside schools, in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination programme to young people aged 12 to 15 years old. 

It means that young people aged 12 to 15 years old will be able to have their jab either at school or at a local vaccination site. 

If the vaccine is given at school, they will be unaccompanied. But if it’s given at a local vaccination site, a parent or carer can go with them. 

The NHS will send a letter explaining this, and detailing the different process for consent if booking an appointment at a vaccination centre or receiving the vaccination at school. It will also explain how to book an appointment at a local vaccination centre. 

Once schools know when the immunisation team (Virgin Care) will be visiting them, they will write to parents to let them know and send information about the consent needed and the deadline for that consent to be given. 

Trained and experienced healthcare staff will administer the vaccinations in schools in a designated area with a team to check the required consent. Once your child has had their jab, they will be asked to rest for a short while in an observation area. 

If your child is absent on the day of the vaccination, or unable to be vaccinated but consent has been given, or if you would like to accompany your child during their vaccination, then you can book your child a vaccination appointment at a local vaccination centre via the National Booking System, with appointments often available as soon as the following day.

The government has produced guidance for parents, children and young people to explain the COVID-19 vaccination programme and answer frequently asked questions. We’ve listed them on our website.


It's half term but not time for half measures

Devon offers a warm welcome to visitors this half- term 

A warm welcome awaits visitors to Devon and Cornwall this half-term, but we’re reminding tourists that coronavirus is still with us.

The South West is still very much open and welcoming visitors, and the October half-term holidays are expected to be busy, as crowds make the most of the last break before winter. But with case rates in Devon rising, we’re asking everyone not be complacent about coronavirus. 

Adverts are being used in areas of the country, from where many visitors to the south west travel, politely reminding them of precautions to take ahead of their half-term break. 

“We want visitors to come, but just as we are encouraging Devon residents to take precautions, the same is true of visitors to our county,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

“We just need to look at the rising case rates to see that coronavirus is still with us, and therefore it’s important that we stay alert and do what we can to prevent its spread.”


How to stay safe this half-term

Here are our top tips for how to stay safe this half-term:

  • if you have coronavirus or flu-type symptoms that may be COVID-19, please don’t travel. Take a PCR test and self-isolate pending the result
  • if you are travelling, and planning to be away for a while, remember to take some lateral flow device tests with you to use
  • remember to take face coverings – although they’re not mandatory, the advice is still to wear them when in crowded areas, or indoors with others, including public transport
  • if you’re meeting friends, try to make the most of the season by being outdoors, or ventilating your indoor space
  • and if you’ve not yet had your vaccinations, please do so as soon as you’re invited to

Farmer in field

National award for supporting farmers during pandemic 

We’ve heard this week that a Devon-grown initiative to support farmers’ mental health has won national praise.

Coronavirus has impacted all of us, but over the last two years farmers have been under more pressure than ever before, and that’s had dramatic effect on their mental health. According to the Farming Community Network, nearly half of all calls made to their helpline between July and October last year were related to mental health. 

So our Trading Standards service launched a project that brought together rural organisations and support services so those who were struggling knew that they weren’t on their own and could access support.

It had to be remotely delivered, so online webinars provided the opportunity for farmers to hear from speakers about a range of topics and issues.    

And this week, the scheme was awarded the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s Hero Award.


National award for supporting farmers during pandemic 

We’ve heard this week that a Devon-grown initiative to support farmers’ mental health has won national praise.

Coronavirus has impacted all of us, but over the last two years farmers have been under more pressure than ever before, and that’s had dramatic effect on their mental health. According to the Farming Community Network, nearly half of all calls made to their helpline between July and October last year were related to mental health. 

So our Trading Standards service launched a project that brought together rural organisations and support services so those who were struggling knew that they weren’t on their own and could access support.

It had to be remotely delivered, so online webinars provided the opportunity for farmers to hear from speakers about a range of topics and issues.    

And this week, the scheme was awarded the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s Hero Award.


conference call

Support schemes offered through Devon’s economic recovery programme

We are offering three new support schemes as part of our economic recovery programme.

Digital Advantage Devon helps businesses use digital technology to reach new customers, increase sales and customer satisfaction and to save time and money. It provides up to 12 hours of free digital training and advice, with expert trainers delivering a combination of interactive digital workshops and tailored one-to-one support for individual businesses.

The Taking Business Digital pilot project aims to support every aspect of business in a digital world, delivering events, seminars, training and one-to-one support. It explores everything from digital marketing and local procurement to supply chains, importing and exporting, and customs procedures.

Get Set Adapt Devon supports businesses to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and grow by offering a diagnostic review to determine recovery strategy and tactics, and any further support a business may need. One-to-one sessions with a specialist business advisor will provide a bespoke action plan for recovery and growth. There are also tailored workshops and masterclasses based around business resilience, business models and other key areas. It also includes online learning with 24/7 access to interactive learning modules and a resource library.

All of the programmes are offered free of charge to businesses based in the Devon County Council area, supported through our recovery funding.

boost your immunity this winter - get the flu vaccincation

Have you had your flu jab yet?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all more aware of viruses and how poorly they can make us. So the NHS in Devon is reminding people to get their flu vaccination to give themselves the best possible protection against illness this winter.

An average of 11,000 people in England die from flu annually, and this year the government has warned that there could be a significant flu surge coinciding with continuing or rising COVID-19 cases due to colder weather and increased social contact indoors. 

Research shows that if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, you’re more likely to be seriously ill. It’s also thought that more people are likely to get flu this winter as there won’t be as much natural immunity due to lower levels of circulation last year during the national lockdowns. 

The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against flu so it is vital to have both your coronavirus and flu jab to reduce your chances of becoming unwell and needing hospital treatment. Getting vaccinated helps you and the NHS, which is already facing extreme pressures in the run up to the very busy winter season. 

Some people are eligible to get the flu jab free on the NHS because of their age or circumstances, and can book their flu vaccination appointment at their GP practice or local pharmacy. If you are not eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine, you can still pay for one privately at a local pharmacy.

The people who brought us the ZOE COVID Study app have published a handy guide about flu, its symptoms, and how to keep safe this winter. It also describes the difference between flu and COVID-19. 

house and calculator

Devon households to get £5m to help with food, energy and water bills this winter

The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact on family budgets, and many people are finding it especially difficult now as we move into colder winter months. 

The government has announced a new Household Support Fund to help those most in need this winter. It will be available until Thursday 31 March 2022, and Devon’s allocation of it will be just over £5 million.  

The fund is designed to support households in most need with food, energy and water bills, and other associated essential costs. 

We’re working with the eight district councils in Devon, and other partners, to make the funding available as quickly as possible. Details for how households can access the funding will be available as soon as it is confirmed.

Free school meals holiday vouchers for October Half Term

Free school meal holiday vouchers all sent

If your child currently receives free school meals, we have sent you supermarket vouchers worth £15 per child per week for the October half-term to help you buy food during the holiday. 

The letter or email containing information about how to access the vouchers was sent this week to the main contact details we have on record, which is usually the parent that made the original application for free school meals.

If you haven’t received it, please check your junk mailbox and get in touch with our free school meals team. You can email them at freeschoolmeals@devon.gov.uk or call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has reduced or stopped, the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through our website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

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

Read more at devon.gov.uk/news

Extra £8.5 million to help Devon deal with COVID-19 over winter; an appeal for help as care worker shortage gets worse and don’t forget to redeem your holiday vouchers for half term

3,005 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Devon from 2 to 9 October 2021

Cases of coronavirus in Devon have increased over the last week, and are now similar to the national average rate of 376 cases per 100,000 people. They’re currently highest in the 10 to 14 year old age groups. Torridge district has the highest weekly case rates, at 493 cases per 100,000 people.


In this update:

  • Extra £8.5 million to help Devon deal with COVID-19 over winter 
  • An appeal for help as care worker shortage gets worse 
  • Don’t forget to redeem your holiday vouchers for half term
  • Communities benefit from £200k funding to help them reconnect rebuild and recover
  • Stop smoking and start moving this Stoptober
  • It’s not too late to have your first or second COVID-19 vaccine dose
college classroom with facecoverings

Extra £8.5 million to help Devon deal with COVID-19 over winter 

We’ve agreed a further £8.5 million package of support for local communities to deal with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 over the winter and beyond. 

It includes over £5 million of extra support for schools, colleges and the University of Exeter, £1.5 million additional support for outbreak management in care settings, a £1 million fund for voluntary sector groups to support local community projects aimed at supporting vulnerable people, as well as schemes aimed at young people and rough sleepers. 

It’s part of our £20 million share of a national Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF), which all local authorities access, to help manage the pandemic and its impact on local communities. 

So far, that funding has been spent on vital elements of our response, such as local community testing facilities and contact tracing; infection prevention and control in care homes and other settings; vaccination outreach assistance; support for youth services, early years and care settings; public mental health support; and rough sleeper support. 

Read the full story on the news pages of our website.

care worker

An appeal for help as care worker shortage gets worse 

The shortage of care workers in England now is greater than it was pre-pandemic, according to national charity, Skills for Care. Care providers everywhere are struggling to find enough staff. Many are turning down new requests for help, and juggling rotas and home visits while doing the best they can to care for vulnerable clients. 

In Devon, around 2,000 additional care workers are needed to fill growing numbers of vacancies, and demand for care is rising. People needing care are finding it very difficult to source; and people already getting help are seeing changes to their visits while their care providers respond to higher demand without having the staff numbers they need. But it’s not just social care.

There are more people in Devon today who quite simply need help, than there are people to provide it,” said our Cabinet Member responsible for adult care and health, Cllr James McInnes. 

“I’m talking about help with shopping, picking up prescriptions, preparing a meal, or company because they’re lonely.” 

If you have experience of caring for someone and are keen to work in the care sector, we want to hear from you. There’s one to one support to help you, and free training. If you can be a Personal Assistant, we can help with advice and guidance. If you have time to volunteer to help people in your local community, we can help put you in touch.

Free school meal holiday voucher for October Half Term

Don’t forget to redeem your holiday vouchers for half term

If your child currently receives free school meals, we’re sending supermarket vouchers worth £15 per child per week of the October half term to help you buy food during the holiday. 

The letter or email containing information about how to access the vouchers will be sent to the main contact details we have on record, which is usually the parent that made the original application for free school meals.

You should receive it by Friday 22 October, so please get in touch with our free school meals team after then if you were expecting to receive one but didn’t. You can email them at freeschoolmeals@devon.gov.uk or call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has reduced or stopped, the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through our website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

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

elderly lady in village hall

Communities benefit from £200k funding to help them reconnect rebuild and recover

Community-led facilities and activities, like many things, were quickly suspended during the onset of the national coronavirus lockdown.

When life slowly started returning to some degree of normality we were keen to help local communities get back to doing the things they love safely and confidently, so we created a special fund to support them.

Over the last three months our Reconnect Rebuild Recover Community Fund has provided over £217,000 grant funding to 131 organisations across Devon to help local people to reconnect, rebuild and recover their community-led facilities and/or social activities.

The money is being used to support people to participate in activities that improve their physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing; provide safe community-led transportation links and services which encourage and help people to re-connect and re-socialise safely within their communities and encourage people to develop skills and learning through volunteering their time, knowledge and expertise to help and support the facilities and/or social activity and the people using them.

Applications for funding will close at midday on Wednesday 27 October. You can find out more, including how to apply, on our website.

pregnant woman holding bump

NHS encourages pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine

New data shows that nearly 20 per cent of the most critically ill coronavirus patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.

Thirty-three year old mum-to-be, Claire, who spent nearly a month in an NHS hospital’s critical care unit after catching coronavirus during her pregnancy has joined the NHS in urging pregnant women to get the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. She said:

“I completely understand the hesitation not to get vaccinated when you are growing a child inside you, and after experiencing two miscarriages before the pandemic, the fear of being pregnant again with the worry of COVID-19 was sending my anxiety through the roof. But after what happened, I can honestly say that the risk of not having the COVID-19 vaccine far outweighs any doubts about having it.”

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, said:

“You can receive vaccination at any time in pregnancy, but the risks that unvaccinated pregnant women face of becoming severely unwell if they catch COVID-19 show exactly why we advise you to do so as soon as possible.”

Having the COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy is considered safe and is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians, Royal College of Midwives and the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation as one of the best defences for pregnant women against severe COVID-19 infection.

Visit the government’s website to out more about having the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Stop smoking, start moving this Stoptober

Stop smoking and start moving this Stoptober

The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the importance of taking care of ourselves, and giving up smoking is one of the best things you’ll ever do for your health.

Smoking damages the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infections, so our Public Health team is keen to help people take the first step towards quitting for good.

As part of the national ‘Stoptober’ campaign, which runs throughout October, we’re encouraging all smokers in Devon to stop smoking and start moving this winter. 

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health, said:

“When you stop smoking, you give your lungs the chance to repair and you’ll notice immediate improvements to your health, no matter how long you’ve been a smoker.

“Quitting takes willpower, determination and the right level of support, so don’t feel like you have to go it alone – there’s plenty of advice, guidance and available to help you.

“If you can make it to 28 days smoke-free, you’re five times more likely to quit for good, so if you have been considering it, Stoptober is a great opportunity to join millions of others in the challenge.”

If you think you could benefit from some free support and tailored advice to stop smoking get in touch with our healthy lifestyle service, One Small Step today. One of their dedicated practitioners will work with you to put a personalised plan together on the most effective way for you to quit smoking and provide you with free nicotine replacement products. 

You can also visit the NHS website for a range of free digital services including the Stoptober app, a free personal quit plan, access to online support communities and daily emails. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Booster jabs for health and social care staff

If you work in health and social care and had your second COVID-19 vaccination at least six months ago, you can now go to the Greendale vaccination site in Exeter without an appointment to get your booster jab.

It’s open from 8.30am until 7.00pm, seven days a week until Sunday 24 October.

You will need to take your work identity badge and proof of employment such as a current payslip or letter from your employer. 

If you would prefer an appointment, you can complete a form for either the English Riviera Centre in Torquay or Newton Abbot Racecourse and the vaccination site will send you a text message with a booking link allowing you to choose a date and time to attend. 

Or you can book online via the National Booking Service or by calling 119.

We can stay safe by being fully jabbed

It’s not too late to have your first or second COVID-19 vaccine dose

People in Devon are being reminded it’s not too late to get their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

You might just not have got round to having it yet, or maybe you were initially unsure about whether to have it at all, but there’s still time to get it done.

Having both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus and the potential long term effects.

According to a study by King’s College London, your chances of developing Long Covid halve after the second vaccine dose, and it also significantly reduces the severity of symptoms and your chances of needing treatment in hospital. 

Ross Bright from Devon is fit and healthy and in his 20s. He caught coronavirus shortly after his first jab and was surprised how unwell he was: He said

“My initial perception of coronavirus was that it was like a bad cold, but I was bedridden for a week with a chesty cough, incredibly sore eyes and a migraine. I still have a chesty cough. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the first jab. My friend who hadn’t had either dose ended up in hospital.”

Leigh Mansfield, Operational Lead for Exeter Greendale COVID-19 Vaccination Centre said:

“As the autumn weather gets colder and wetter it’s harder to meet friends and family outside. It’s really important to have both jabs so that if you do catch COVID-19 you reduce the chances of passing on the virus and you’re less likely to be as poorly.”

You can find your nearest walk-in clinic on the NHS website or book via the National Booking System online or by calling 119.

 

NHS app COVID-19 pass

 

NHS COVID Pass for 16 and 17 year olds

Some 16 and 17 year olds have asked how they can get an NHS COVID Pass, as they are only eligible for one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Children under 18 years old do not have to demonstrate their COVID-19 status for entry to domestic events or venues in England.

Children aged 16 years old or over can get an NHS COVID Pass for international travel but should follow the entry requirements of the country they are travelling to. 

Visit the government’s website to find out more about the NHS COVID Pass.

Aeroplane wing

Simplified new travel system

The government has introduced a new simplified travel system, with countries and territories categorised as either red or the rest of the world.

It means that eligible fully vaccinated passengers and eligible under-18 year olds returning from over 50 countries and territories, not on the red list, can do so without needing to complete a pre-departure test (PDT), a day eight test or enter a 10-day self-isolation period, making it easier for those travelling – whether that’s to see friends and family, or on business trips.

And from Sunday 24 October fully vaccinated passengers and most under 18 year olds arriving in England from countries not on the red list can take a cheaper lateral flow device (LFD) test, instead of a PCR test, on or before day two of their arrival into the UK. These can be booked from Friday 22 October when the list of approved private providers will go live on government’s website. 

Passengers will need to take a photo of their LFD test and booking reference supplied by the private provider and send it back to them to verify the result. Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test as soon as possible.

All arrivals will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel, and people should continue to check the government website for the latest travel advice before, during and after travel to keep up to date with entry requirements and ensure compliance with the latest COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 regulations for the country being visited.

Let's keep life moving

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.

Queues form for pop-up COVID-19 test and vaccinations site as coronavirus continues to circulate in Devon

graph of coronavirus stats in Devon this week

Following the decline in case rates some weeks ago, we are now seeing a continued, slow and steady increase across the county. Most notably, cases are highest in the school-age and the 40-59 year old population. Rates for Devon overall continue to remain below the national average.


In this update:

  • New plans to boost bus services and cut fares in Devon
  • Families to receive free school meal holiday vouchers for October half term
  • Improving opportunities for Devon communities
  • Queues form for pop-up COVID-19 test and vaccinations site
  • Half of adults say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health
bus

New plans to boost bus services and cut fares in Devon

Our Cabinet is set to approve a £34 million bid to the government under its post-COVID-19 improvement programme, Bus Back Better.

This plan will upgrade bus services and cut fares across Devon.

The improvement plan forms part of a major public consultation exercise to be launched in Devon in November.

They aim to make buses cheaper to use, greener, more frequent, more reliable and they are being developed in partnership with Devon’s bus companies.

An additional £7.5 million could be spent on bus priority measures to speed up journey times in main urban areas like Exeter, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Newton Abbot and improving bus stops and other infrastructure in the rest of the county.

Read the full story on the news pages of our website
children eating

Families to receive free school meal holiday vouchers for October half term

The financial challenges faced by some people have been intensified during the coronavirus pandemic and for those already on low incomes the impact has been profound.

The school holidays can be a real struggle for some families because of increased costs such as food and reduced incomes due to childcare. 

So this October half term we’re supporting the families of nearly 18,000 children in Devon, who currently receive free school meals, in the form of supermarket vouchers to help ease the strain of buying extra food over the half term break and replace the meals their children would receive at school.

We are seeing applications for free school meals continuing to rise as families struggle with their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the number of children in the county now eligible for this support is at a record high, having increased by 3,300 over the last year to a total of nearly 18,000 during the last term – that’s close to 18 per cent of all school children in Devon.

If your income has recently reduced or stopped, your child could qualify for free school meals. The quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through our website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

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

Read the full story on the news pages of our website
Holsworthy Community Centre

Improving opportunities for Devon communities

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone’s lives and, for some people, has made them re-evaluate what they want achieve in the future.

Learning and developing new skills is an integral part of Devon’s economic recovery, and it can help present new opportunities for people looking to take a different career path or progress in their current line of work.

With that in mind, we’ve been working with our adult education service, Learn Devon, to set up a network of ‘wellbeing hubs’ to enable people who want to return to learning, explore new interests, re-train and upskill to access a range of free face to face courses locally. 

Each hub will offer a safe, supportive space to learn new skills and gain qualifications that will improve the wellbeing of the local community. There will be a range of free courses on offer, including English and maths, digital skills, art and craft, wellbeing and much more.

The first of the three hubs recently opened its doors at the Holsworthy Skill Centre, working in collaboration with the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust via Holsworthy Community College. Hubs in Tavistock and Okehampton are planned to open in spring 2022.

Read the full story on the news pages of our website
queues at pop up COVID-19 testing and vaccination van

Queues form for pop-up COVID-19 test and vaccination site

Exeter city centre was busy again this week as our pop-up COVID-19 testing and vaccination van stopped outside Exeter Central train station on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Joining us and NHD Devon CCG was a team of people from the government who were visiting to help us promote public health messages in Devon. They went door-to-door in parts of the city, talking to people about testing and vaccinations, and handing out helpful public health advice. 

COVID-19 case rates have fallen from their high point, but are now rising, and it’s clear that the virus is still with us, especially in our younger school-age population. 

Charlotte Pavitt, who is part of our Public Health team and helped organise the pop-up testing and vaccination van, said: 

“We’ve had loads of young people stopping by to grab their vaccination, and our teams have been talking to hundreds of people on their doorsteps and in the city centre.   

“Lots of people have just been going about their day with little thought to coronavirus, but with us being about and visible, it’s really helping to remind people that we’re still in a pandemic!  

“It’s so important everyone continues to play their part by getting fully vaccinated and continuing to get tested regularly.”

Pop-up test and vaccination sites will also be in Ilfracombe on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 October, with more planned across Devon over the coming weeks. Look out for updates in future editions of this newsletter or on our social media channels. 

Read the full story on the news pages of our website
Duncan

Duncan’s got sound advice in this video message 

Duncan is a carer. He lives in Devon. He’s a carer for his wife and daughter and he’s been double vaccinated against coronavirus. He’s a superb care ambassador for Devon Carers, and a brilliant talker. 

“I’m double jabbed, and the reason I’m double jabbed is because, as a carer, I’m the linchpin when it comes to looking after my family. Without me, it all falls apart. 

“As somebody who’s looking after someone else, if you’re not there, they’re going to suffer. That’s why something like COVID-19 can have such a dramatic effect. 

“People are sometimes concerned about adverse reactions or side effects of the vaccine, but the reality is there’s so much more risk not having the jab than there is having it. 

“I think that’s what gets forgotten. You’re important, you really, really matter. 

“Now there’s freedom, but also the knowledge that we’re not going to get knocked out by this virus in the same way if we weren’t vaccinated. 

“It’s so important, so please go out if you haven’t done so already, get your jabs. If you haven’t got your second one yet, go get it. Book it. Let’s beat this together.”

You can listen to Duncan’s advice in full on our YouTube channel
Winter flu vaccine

Does my toddler need a flu vaccination?

Flu can be an unpleasant illness for children. In serious cases it can lead to complications like ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia. It’s especially important for young children to have the flu vaccine as it not only prevents them from catching flu, it also protects others who are vulnerable to flu such as babies and older people.

The flu vaccine for the majority of children is actually a nasal spray rather than an injection so it’s painless and easy to have. The vaccine is free on the NHS for children aged 2 or 3 years old on 31 August 2021 – born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019, so don’t forget to book your child’s flu vaccine appointment with your GP surgery.

Find out more about the flu vaccination for your child
NHS collect code

New collect code needed for rapid lateral flow device COVID-19 tests from pharmacies

With coronavirus still with us in our communities, testing remains very much a thing that we all need to do regularly. 

It’s the only way to identify people who may be carrying the virus and spreading it to others, but who are not showing any symptoms of having it. 

Free rapid, lateral flow tests are quick and easy to do, and they’re widely available from lots of places, including your pharmacy. 

But from this week, the way you collect your free box of lateral flow tests from your pharmacy has changed

Now you need a ‘collect code’, to give to the pharmacist in exchange for the tests. 

The collect codes are simple and instant to get, either online or by calling 119. 

Take that code with you, and you can collect a box of tests like normal – they’ll just ask you for your code. 

Don’t forget to record your test result once you’ve done it. A reminder about how to do that will be sent to you with the collect code.

Find out more about rapid lateral flow testing in Devon on our website
World Mental Health Day 2021

Half of adults say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health

This Sunday, 10 October, marks World Mental Health Day – an event celebrated globally that aims to bring people together to discuss the importance of taking care of our mental health.

This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, bringing to light the inequalities many people face in their experience of mental ill health and mental healthcare.

Here in Devon, we’re keen to use the day to highlight the importance of getting support when you need it.

On top of the usual demands of everyday life, over the last 18 months we’ve also been dealing with the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on us, such as changing coronavirus restrictions; a huge change in family life and living arrangements; financial strains; increased anxiety; family illness and bereavement. Many of us may be struggling more with our mental health and wellbeing as a result.

Recent government research has revealed that half of adults in England say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, and more than a third of people said they did not know what to do to help improve it. 

There are lots of resources available to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing. Just find what works for you. 

elderly man getting vacination

NHS delivers more than 850,000 top up jabs to most at risk

The NHS has reported that its COVID-19 booster programme is continuing successfully, with those currently eligible deciding to have their top up jab by the thousands when invited. 

They include people who are clinically vulnerable, health and social care workers and people aged 50 years old and over who had their second COVID-19 jab at least six months ago.

Also eligible for the jab are those living in residential care homes for older adults, all those aged 16 to 49 years old with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

Appointments can be quickly and conveniently booked via the NHS website or by phoning 119.

If you’ve received a text message from ‘NHSvaccine’ you can just click on the web link to the NHS website to make a booking.

Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS website
Let's keep life moving

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.

We need to keep COVID-19 case rates as low as possible to enable as many children as possible to stay in school, says Devon’s Director of Public Health

COVID-19 case rates in Devon have increased over the last week and are now 276 per 100,000 of the population, which is below the national average (333). 

The highest rates are currently in the 10 to 14 year old age group and in the South Hams.

In this update:

  • Public Health Devon advice to parents of school-age pupils 
  • “We need to keep COVID-19 case rates as low as possible to enable as many children as possible to stay in school”
  • Free business support for Devon businesses
  • COVID Pass medical exemptions: proving you are unable to get vaccinated or tested
  • COVID-19 booster jabs for health and social care workers
  • Arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2022

Public Health Devon advice to parents of school-age pupils 

With children and young people back in the classroom, and more mixing now possible with a change to the guidance around things like bubbles, we’re seeing a rise in coronavirus cases among the school-age population, and it’s likely that this will continue. 

In almost all of the cases the young person has shown no sign of having the virus, or only very mild symptoms. 

It’s important that we all work together and continue to take precautions to help stop the spread of coronavirus in our schools.

If your child has symptoms of coronavirus, they should not go to school. They should take a PCR test – not a lateral flow device (LFD) test – and they should self-isolate pending the result of that test. LFD tests are only for people who show no symptoms of having the virus. 

If your child is identified as a close contact, including if someone in your household tests positive, they should take a PCR test. However, unless they have symptoms of coronavirus, they are not required to stay off school while they wait for the test results. 

If your child tests positive with a routine LFD test, they should stay at home and arrange a PCR test. They should isolate while they wait for the result. If the PCR test is positive, they should continue self-isolating. If the PCR test is negative, they can return to school, but they should continue to routinely take the LFD tests twice a week. 

All secondary school age pupils and their teachers, should be taking LFD tests twice a week. 

“We need to keep COVID-19 case rates as low as possible to enable as many children as possible to stay in school”

Like elsewhere in the country, Devon is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases among the school-age population, and it’s likely that this will continue. 

We know that parents are concerned about the rising cases of coronavirus among school-age children.

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health, offers some reassurance. He said:

“We all know how much learning has been disrupted these last 18 months.

“What’s important now, while we are all living with coronavirus, is that we try to keep case rates low, to enable as many children as possible to stay in school.  

“Where we see large outbreaks in schools, we and those schools work closely together to agree any additional control measures to put in place to help control the spread of the virus. 

“However, with the national change in guidance around close contacts and self-isolation, schools will only ask classes or year groups to stay at home, to be taught remotely, as a very last resort. 

“There is also a lot of seasonal illness among young people at the moment. If your child has symptoms such as fever, diarrhoea and/or vomiting – even if they test negative with a PCR test for coronavirus – please keep your child off school or nursery to avoid spreading other infections.”

Free business support for Devon businesses 

Research by Devon and Plymouth’s Chamber of Commerce suggests that businesses that are members of the Chamber are three times more likely to survive than those that are not. 

“We want to help more businesses not just survive but thrive as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Stuart Elford, Chief Executive of the Devon and Plymouth Chamber, announcing a new drive to support Devon firms. 

Last year, more than 100 businesses took up the Chamber’s offer of a fully-funded membership. And now the Chamber is inviting thousands more businesses in Devon to do the same. 

For the next few months, the Chamber is offering a fully funded three-month introductory scheme, giving businesses the opportunity to be part of the Chamber network, with access to events, support, international trade advice and networking opportunities, at no cost. 

“The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for everyone and we have helped countless businesses survive this challenging period,” he said.

“We want to again do something tangible that would help as many businesses as possible succeed as we start to recover and grow again.” 

Find out more about the free membership period on Devon and Plymouth’s Chamber of Commerce website

Booster jabs begin for most vulnerable

COVID-19 booster vaccinations have begun in Devon for those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus.

The programme is being rolled out to the same priority groups as previously. This means care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged over 50 years old, those aged 16 to 49 years old with underlying health conditions, adult carers and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals will be prioritised.

Eligible people will be offered a booster dose at least 26 weeks (six months) after they had their second COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The majority of people who are currently eligible will receive their invite within the next three weeks. Please wait to be contacted via letter, text or email before trying to book and don’t contact the NHS until you are invited for your booster.

Once you have received an invitation, you can book your appointment using the National Booking Service via the NHS website or by calling 119.

Coronavirus verses regular cold symptoms 

There’s recognition now of a crossover of current symptoms between coronavirus and having a cold. 

We’ve all known about the main three symptoms – the high temperature, the continuous cough and the loss of your usual sense of taste or smell. But studies have shown there to be more symptoms of coronavirus, including headache, runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. 

So with those symptoms similar to having a regular cold, it’s difficult to know what’s making us unwell. 

The people who brought you the ZOE COVID Study app, have now published their tips for how to tell the difference between the viruses, and when you should get tested. 

Please visit our website for guidance about how to get a test to check if you have coronavirus – whether you have symptoms or not.

COVID-19 vaccination National Booking Service opens for 16 and 17 year olds

Young people aged 16 and 17 years old are now able to book their COVID-19 jabs through the National Booking Service.

Thousands of text messages from ‘NHSvaccine’ have been sent to teenagers in Devon that include a web link to the NHS website to make a booking.

Almost three quarters of a million young people in England – around 60% – have already received their vaccine thanks to the NHS ‘Grab a Jab’ campaign, where the NHS online site finder helps people find their nearest walk-in vaccine clinic.

The online booking service now offers an additional way for people aged 16 and 17 years old to get a single shot of Pfizer in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

COVID Pass medical exemptions: proving you are unable to get vaccinated or tested

The government has published guidance on how people can apply for official proof that, for medical reasons, they are unable to be vaccinated and/or tested for COVID-19.

The possible reasons for exemptions are limited, and include:

  • people receiving end of life care where vaccination is not in the person’s best interests
  • people with learning disabilities or autistic individuals, or people with a combination of impairments where vaccination cannot be provided through reasonable adjustments
  • a person with severe allergies to all currently available vaccines
  • those who have had an adverse reaction to the first dose (for example, myocarditis)

Short-term exemptions will also be available for those with short-term medical conditions.

All exemptions will be confirmed by a doctor, specialist clinician or midwife and if approved, your NHS COVID Pass can then be used wherever you need to prove your COVID-19 status within England.

The domestic NHS COVID Pass will look and work the same for people with medical exemptions as it will for people who are fully vaccinated. The pass will not show that you have a medical exemption.

To apply for a COVID Pass medical exemption, you need to phone 119 and ask for an application form. If you’re eligible to apply, you’ll get an application form by post.You can find out more about COVID Pass medical exemptions on the government’s website.

COVID-19 booster jabs for health and social care workers

Frontline health and social care workers can now book their COVID-19 booster vaccinations through the NHS website or by contacting 119.

There are also two special walk-in clinics for health and social care workers, with no need to book. The first is at Newton Abbot Racecourse on Saturday 2 October from 8.30am to 12.50pm, and the second is at the English Riviera Centre in Torquay on Friday 8 October from 1.30pm to 5.30pm.

You’ll need to make sure that six months have passed since you had your second vaccination.

When you arrive at your appointment you’ll need to show proof of your employment, such as a workplace photo ID, a letter from your employer from the past three months, or a payslip from the past three months which shows your employer.

Arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2022

For the past two years, summer exams haven’t been able to take place due to the coronavirus pandemic, and instead students have been awarded grades by their teachers.

Now exam regulator Ofqual has put in place arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels due to take place in summer 2022 to support students and make exams fairer for them because they’ve had their education disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The government has introduced a choice of topics or content in some GCSE exams and exam boards will give advance information about the focus of the content of exams, designed to provide guidance for revision for students ahead of summer exams, and study aids will be allowed in some exams.

You can find out more about Ofqual’s approach to grading exams and assessments due to take place in autumn 2021 and summer 2022 on the government 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.