Latest week in Devon 16-22 May 2021 – 77 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Positive cases of coronavirus remain stable in Devon, with the latest rate of nine cases per 100,000 being well below the 24 cases per 100,000 seen nationally. We are experiencing isolated outbreaks in some settings but with little evidence of the virus transmitting widely within those local communities. Across Devon positive case numbers are low compared to previous months in all age groups, although rates are slightly higher in those aged under 40 years old. Case rates are currently highest in the South Hams area.
In this update:
Enjoy the bank holiday and half-term break safely
It’s a bank holiday this weekend, followed by the May half-term break next week, and we are encouraging everyone to enjoy the time safely, whether at home or away, by continuing to follow the advice and guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes the familiar social distancing, regular hand washing, wearing a face covering when required, but also making sure you know what the latest rules are for socialising and following COVID-secure guidelines if you are visiting places like shops and restaurants. We can meet with people we don’t live with indoors now, in groups of up to six from any number of households, or a group of any size from just two households, which is a big step. But remember socialising outdoors is always the safest option where possible, and we can meet outside in groups of up to 30 people. If you are having visitors or visiting others, make sure you let fresh air in.
You should also add that extra layer of safety and take a free rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test to check you don’t have coronavirus before you see more people and travel further, just in case you do and you spread it unknowingly. They are quick and easy to do and making them part of your regular weekly routine – especially when catching up with friends and family – will help to identify positive cases among people who may not be showing symptoms, so that they can self-isolate.
Secondary school pupils, college students and staff working in all education settings have been taking these tests regularly for a while now. Even though schools and colleges are closed for the half-term holiday, please continue to take your lateral flow tests twice a week and report your results and don’t forget to test the night before or morning of the first day back.
With tourism and hospitality reopening, many will be planning a holiday this bank holiday and half-term, so we’ve rounded up some commonly asked questions so you know what to expect.
Advice if planning to travel to areas of the UK where the new variant of concern is spreading
There are no known cases of the new variant of coronavirus (COVID-19) within Devon at the moment, but as people plan to visit friends and families during the half term holiday, Public Health Devon is advising people to be cautious. The new variant, which was first identified in India, spreads more easily between people. Currently cases are highest in council areas of Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, London Borough of Hounslow, and North Tyneside.
Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:
“If you must travel to any of those locations, please be extra cautious. Try to meet outside with family or friends rather than inside where possible and please keep two metres apart from people that you don’t live with, unless you have formed a support bubble with them. If you are away visiting friends and family this holiday, remember to take tests with you, and take them again on your return home. Testing and self-isolating if positive are how we stop the virus spreading.”
We also would like people to make getting tested regularly, using the rapid lateral flow device tests, a routine part of their week. So, when you know you’re going to meet up with friends, please take a few moments earlier in the day to take a test first. You’ll know the results within half an hour, and it might prevent you from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. These tests are really quick and easy to do, and they are free.
For more information about how to get a rapid, lateral flow device test in Devon, please visit our website.
Rise in COVID-19 cases in the South Hams – Fresh air is one of our best defences against COVID-19 – If you’re meeting up, outside is safest
Positive cases of coronavirus remain stable in Devon, and well below the national average in most areas. But there’s been a rise in cases in the South Hams over the last week or so, and the rate there is now 25.3 per 100,000 which is slightly above the national rate of 22.5 per 100,000.
Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon said:
“We have a low coronavirus case rate across Devon, and that is thanks to the effort everyone continues to put in to complying with the restrictions and following the guidance around regular asymptomatic testing, social distancing, hand washing and wearing a face covering when required. We need to be cautious though, because outbreaks can and do still happen and when numbers are low, even a small rise can cause a big jump the case rate. There’s a spike in cases in the South Hams at the moment because of a small outbreak in a school. It’s being well managed by the school and our public health team. Although the number of cases in the rest of the South Hams is still comparatively low and all other cases in the area are single positive cases, it highlights the importance of continuing to take care as restrictions ease to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting the virus as much as possible.”
Drive to combat children’s holiday hunger in Devon gets £250,000 boost
Almost 17,000 food vouchers worth over a quarter of a million pounds are being distributed to families this half-term as we continue to combat holiday hunger in Devon. Families of children currently receiving free school meals have automatically been sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food over the holiday to replace the meals their children would normally have in school. The vouchers – worth £15 a week for each child – can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon and arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket. If your child currently receives free schools meals you should have your vouchers for the upcoming May half-term holiday already – please get in touch with us as soon as possible if you don’t yet have them. Also, don’t forget to redeem your Easter vouchers before they expire.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a real strain on many family budgets and many have seen their financial circumstances change suddenly. We’ve seen a big increase in the number of families claiming free school meals over this last year. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has reduced or stopped, please apply online through our website to check if you are eligible for this support as soon as possible. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, you can call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.
More information about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme is available on our website.
30 year olds now invited to book COVID-19 vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and gives you the best protection against coronavirus, and nearly three-quarters of adults in Devon have now had one dose. If you’re aged 30 years old or over, or if you turn 30 before Thursday 1 July 2021, you can now book your COVID-19 vaccine. As the vaccination rollout reaches younger age groups, more women of childbearing age are becoming eligible for their first jab. The government has offered reassurance that the vaccines are safe for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.
Two doses are needed for strong protection, particularly with the new variant of concern first identified in India now circulating in some regions of the UK, so don’t delay getting your second jab when it’s offered. Over-50s, frontline health and social care workers and people who are considered most vulnerable if they catch coronavirus (vaccination priority groups one to nine) are having their second doses brought forward to eight weeks after their first – rather than 12 – to help ensure they have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity following concerns about the variant.
Text invitations appear as an alert from ‘NHSvaccine’, with a weblink to the NHS website. There are currently plenty of appointments available and new appointments are being added regularly, so please keep checking and if you cannot go online you can call 119 to book. You cannot catch coronavirus from the COVID-19 vaccine. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so make sure you’re getting it from a trusted source. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the NHS website.
The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine helps to provide longer-term protection. Don’t delay in getting yours when it is offered to you. Vaccines highly effective against B.1.617.2 variant after two doses.
A new study by Public Health England shows that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India. The results after two doses are similar to the B.1.1.7 (Kent) variant which is dominant in the UK. The study found that, for the period from 5 April to 16 May:
The difference in effectiveness between the vaccines after two doses may be explained by the fact that the rollout of second doses of AstraZeneca was later than for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and other data on antibody profiles show it takes longer to reach maximum effectiveness with the AstraZeneca vaccine. As with other variants, even higher levels of effectiveness are expected against hospitalisation and death.
Sewage testing ramped up to help tackle COVID-19 outbreaks
Exeter is the home of one of the biggest wastewater processing labs in the world, and it’s at the forefront of pioneering research. The government has ramped up testing of wastewater for traces of COVID-19, to help detect outbreaks of variants of concern. Testing sewage for coronavirus now covers more than two thirds of England’s population, and is helping identify where variants of concern may be circulating undetected in communities. Exeter’s lab opened last month and is dedicated to analysing waste water as part of the government’s programme.
Insights from the programme have already been used in Bristol and Luton to provide timely understanding of the spread of variants in their communities and help to provide reassurance that local outbreak control measures are working.
Which COVID-19 test do I need to take, and when?
Regular testing for coronavirus is the cornerstone of our transition back to normal life. It’s a vital part of keeping the spread of coronavirus under control, especially as about one in three people who catch it don’t develop any symptoms so could be spreading it unknowingly. That’s why it’s so important you take the right test when you need to, and know the different sorts of tests available and how to access them. A COVID-19 test usually involves taking a sample from the back of your throat (where your tonsils are) and from the nose, using a long cotton bud. You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 years old or over) or someone can do it for you. There are two main types of test to check if you have coronavirus now:
polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are mainly used for people who have symptoms. It checks for the genetic material of coronavirus in the sample and is sent to a lab for processing. Most people get their results via text or email the next day, but it can take up to three days.
rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests are only for people who do not have symptoms. It uses a device similar to a pregnancy test to give a quick result, usually within 30 minutes of taking the test. It detect proteins called ‘antigens’ produced by the virus and recent research has found them to be very accurate and reliable with extremely low false positive results.
If you have coronavirus symptoms (high temperature; new, continuous cough; loss or change to sense of smell or taste) then you should use the government’s website to arrange a PCR test that is provided by the NHS test as soon as possible. You can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site. You and everyone you live with must immediately self-isolate. Do not leave home until you get your test results, except to post a test kit or for a PCR test appointment.
If you do not have symptoms then you are encouraged to take a simple rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test twice a week to check if you have coronavirus. The tests are free and can be done at one of our walk-in test sites or picked up from community testing sites, pharmacies or sent through the post for you to do yourself at home.
For more information about coronavirus testing in Devon, please visit our website.
Getting the help you need this bank holiday weekend
The NHS in Devon is reminding people how to access health services and get the care they need this bank holiday. The long weekend traditionally puts extra pressure on health services when most GP practices are closed and more people are outdoors enjoying everything Devon has to offer. Most GP practices will be closed over the three-day weekend with normal opening hours resuming on Tuesday 1 June. For urgent advice over the long weekend people are encouraged to ‘Think 111 First’ and contact NHS 111 from anywhere, either by phone or online, any time of day or night. If you need further care or medication, NHS 111 advisors will direct you to the most appropriate service. They can book you in for an appointment at your nearest Minor Injury Unit or Urgent Care Centre. If you need emergency care, they will arrange for you to be seen at a local Emergency Department and will ensure that staff in the department are expecting you and will see you as quickly as possible.
Local pharmacies can provide expert advice and a fast route to medication for minor ailments like aches and pains, sore throat, coughs, colds, flu-like symptoms, runny noses, earache and skin rashes. They are open until late and at weekends with no need for an appointment, and most have a confidential consulting area for privacy. Visit the NHS website to find your nearest pharmacy and check opening times, or call the free helpline NHS 111.
How to self-isolate – Don’t go to work, don’t go shopping, don’t go out for exercise
New pilots launched to help people self-isolate
The government announced nine pilots to test new ways to help ensure that people abide by the self-isolation rules. It’s working with local councils in areas in the country with high prevalence of infection, and the pilots will include a range of initiatives such as providing alternative accommodation for people living in overcrowded households. There’ll be additional social care support for vulnerable people, and language and communications support for people where English isn’t their first language. The pilots are to encourage people most at risk of catching and spreading coronavirus to come forward for testing and to self-isolate properly if they test positive.
We have information and guidance on our website about self-isolating – when to do it; how to prepare for it; how long you need to do it for; and what help and support is available to you if you are self-isolating.
COVID-19 Lets take this next step, safely – Hands, Face, space, fresh air
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.
Please note that all of our sites and offices are closed to the public, except for necessary prearranged visits, but you can still contact us if you need to.
This 4th March 2021 Bulletin is a ‘bumper issue’ with information on:
You can continue to access various resources and advice from our website or for further detailed guidance, please call our Covid-19 Helpline (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) 0808 196 3390.
Covid 19 Community Testing Service
Following the successful launch of the COVID-19 Community Testing Service in February in Exeter, more sites are opening over the next few weeks.
We are keen to encourage people who have to leave home to work or volunteer, or who are in contact with vulnerable people, to get tested regularly – helping to keep them and the wider community safe. More information about the DCC Community Testing Service is available from devon.cc/testing.
Test site locations
Tests are available seven days a week from these locations, with early and late opening on Mondays and Thursdays:
– Exeter: County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter, EX2 4QD
– Barnstaple: North Walk Car Park, Taw View, Civic Centre, Barnstaple, EX31 1EE
– Tiverton: Exe Valley Leisure Centre, Bolham Road, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 6SG
Tests are available twice a week from these locations:
– Axminster (Wednesday and Sunday): West Street Short Stay Car Park, West Street, Axminster, EX13 5NX
– Exmouth (Tuesday and Saturday): Foxholes Car Park, Queen’s Drive, Exmouth, EX8 2DB
– Honiton (Monday and Thursday): Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ
– From 6th March – Ivybridge (Wednesday and Saturday): Leanoard’s Road Car Park, Ivybridge, PL21 0RU
– From 5th March – Okehampton (Tuesday and Friday): Mill Road Car Park, Okehampton, EX20 1PS
– From 4th March – Tavistock (Monday and Thursday): Riverside Car Park, Tavistock, PL19 9A
The vaccine roll-out is happening at pace – we know that many of you will be thinking about your own vaccination as well as that of family members and the wider community. The Government has asked that those of us who work with communities, and particularly with groups who are ‘vaccine hesitant’, help the national effort by providing reassuring and factual information about the COVID vaccine to counter concerns and misinformation. It is particularly keen to reach the most vulnerable within disproportionately impacted communities – in particular Muslim, Black/African and Orthodox Jewish within BAME communities – as research suggests these are among the least likely to accept the offer of a vaccine. Trusted groups such as your own may be in a position to support communities to engage with the vaccination effort. As such, we wanted to share with you a useful toolkit of case studies and other communication assets the Government has supplied/created. This is to support you in your vital work.
Your school needs Volunteers – Can you help
As the schools are getting set to return on March 8th, we’re working with the sector to recruit volunteers to help with a Covid-19 testing programme for returning children. Volunteers are needed in the following areas: Braunton, Chulmleigh, Cullompton, Dawlish, Exeter, Exmouth, Great Torrington, Newton Abbot, Crediton, Sidmouth, South Molton, Teignmouth, Ilfracombe, Tiverton and Uffculme. There are a couple of different roles available that will be assigned to volunteers at the schools on the day. Volunteers will be supervised throughout. A more detailed role description, a short training guide and application form can be accessed by clicking on the following link: https://ourplymouth.co.uk/volunteer-opportunity/school-testing-volunteers/.
The application form allows you to choose the school nearest to you.
For Employers and Businesses
Help us shape a tool due to be used with over 1,000 young people in Devon, to help them prepare for applying to the world of work. You’re Invited to the Employers’ Explore Focus Group.
To contribute to the development of Explore. Explore is a tool that will help young people in Devon who are looking for work but are facing challenging personal circumstances. These challenges may include prejudice against disability or neurodiversity (such as autism), difficult home lives, mental health issues, or low levels of education and work experience. The Explore tool has been designed to draw out young people’s traditional skills (gained through education, for example), but also help them to reflect and showcase the skills they’ve gained by pursuing interests and overcoming challenges in their life. Explore is intended to be accessible and unintimidating for young people, whilst strengthening their employability, application and interview skills.
During the session we will:
– Share the Explore tool with you and invite you to give feedback on its value from your perspective as an employer.
– Seek to understand your expectations and perceptions of young people in the workplace.
– Seek to understand how we can support and up skill you to better engage with young people who are seeking work. We plan to deliver free sessions in the future which aim to create workplace cultures that are more comfortable recruiting, employing and unlocking the potential of young people who are facing barriers into work.
When – Wednesday 24th March, 13.00-14.30
Where – On Zoom, of course! Please register here. You will receive a Zoom link via email prior to the event.
More information – Explore is being developed by and for Experience Works (through Devon Communities Together). Experience Works is a project delivered by a partnership of nine of Devon’s leading youth organisations, and managed by Petroc. It seeks to support young people aged 15-24 in Devon who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) towards a positive future. The project is funded by the European Social Fund through the Department for Work and Pensions. Experience Works will support over 1,000 young people in Devon over the next 2.5 years. Through the course of the project we will also be seeking to build strong relationships with employers who can offer work experience, placements, trainings or full-term employment, and of course will keep you informed as the project develops. Your attendance at this focus group does not commit you to any further involvement.
Do You And Your Business Need a Listening Ear? A Webinar
The Listening Ear project continues to support business owners in Devon, providing a friendly, impartial listening ear. Alongside our one to one service we also have a new webinar coming up. This Webinar brings together four speakers from Devon’s Hospitality and Tourism sector to reflect on the pandemic. However it is not just about reflecting on survival through the ups and downs, but also on growth, diversification, taking time for well-being, and finding hope for the future. Designed for Devon’s Hospitality and Tourism sector, this event will also be of interest to all within its supply chain or who rely upon Devon’s tourism.
Please share details of the event with those in your community for whom this is relevant.
Book your free place at the event.
And for further details about the Listening Ear Pilot Project or to book a 121 session – https://www.devoncommunities.org.uk/projects/listening-ear.
Devon Communities Together
Unit 73 & 74 Basepoint Business Centre,
Exeter EX2 8LB
As many of us hit lockdown fatigue, with the stress of a global pandemic and the many restrictions it has placed on our lives, it is more important than ever to remember to take care of ourselves – and our communities.
A key element of helping our communities is supporting our local businesses, many of whom have faced in incredible pressures over the last 11 months. Local businesses make up over 90 percent of the UK’s private business sector, so it’s vital that we continue to consider them in the choices we are still free to make. We will need our local shops and high streets once the pandemic is over – and so we need to give them our custom and loyalty, even when we aren’t able to visit them in person.
Thank you to each and every person who has given their support to a North Devon business during lockdown. By continuing to Live Love Local throughout lockdown, we will make it through to the other side together.
To help our businesses show what they have on offer – and help our residents continue to shop locally at this difficult time – we are reminding you use our Local Shopping Directory.
Please think local before buying from big online corporates; use the directory and see what a North Devon business can offer you before paying a multinational company to give you the same (or a less special) product!
Many of our local businesses have online shops and click and collect services, so you can continue to shop locally while you’re staying safe at home.
We recently relaunched our #LocalBusinessHero campaign, which celebrates the efforts of some of the district’s business owners who have transformed or adapted their business in order to keep operating and help residents through the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the businesses we have featured so far include:
If you know of a #LocalBusinessHero that deserves a shout out on the North Devon Council and Live Love Local social media pages, nominate them by dropping us a private message through social media, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calling local businesses – give us a tag and get a share! If you have a special offer, a new product, or you’d just like help in getting the word out about your business, use #livelovelocalnorthdevon or tag us @livelovelocalnorthdevon on your post on Facebook or Instagram. We would love to help you promote your business at this difficult time.
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, is currently undertaking a survey in the Devon area to find out survivors experiences of Domestic Abuse services. The confidential survey is being run by Natcen and closes on Friday 25 February: https://survey.natcen.ac.uk/DASU.
Please click here for PDF
Please click here for PDF
COVID-19 grants have opened again for the third wave. Guidance is slightly amended and can be found on this link along with the online application form.
The biggest difference to the first two waves is that we are working in partnership with Devon Community Foundation to fund food projects. So any project that is for food provision needs to apply here.
Getting outdoors for exercise can be difficult in winter, but pretty much all experts agree that it’s a great way to boost your mood. “Our minds and bodies are completely inseparable”, says Dr Brendon Stubbs, of King’s College London.
Exercise triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream, relieving pain and producing a feeling of well-being. Research by Dr Stubbs has also shown that exercise also increases electrical activity in the emotional processing areas of the brain, particularly the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex.
“It’s vital to keep active to improve your mental health and stimulate your brain including those areas”, he says. “If you don’t exercise, the activity drops.” That’s one of the reasons why a lack of exercise increases your risk of anxiety and depression.
Exercise can also boost the production of a protein, BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is crucial for brain health. “You can think of it as a kind of brain fertiliser – it helps parts of your brain regenerate,” says Dr Stubbs. Even short periods of exercise – just 10 minutes – can help. “Anything that leaves you slightly out of breath, like a brisk walk, or something like gardening, or a cycle ride, will do.”
How to exercise safely in the winter.
Adopting helpful habits to stop you over-thinking is one of the best things you can do, says psychologist Prof Jennifer Wild of Oxford University. She calls it “getting out of your head.” People often dwell on problems, going over and over the same negative thoughts, and Prof Wild has some simple suggestions to stop that happening.
“If you’ve been worrying about a problem for 30 minutes or more without coming up with a plan of action, or you’ve been going over questions with no answers, it’s time to stop”, she says. The main thing is to shift your focus from worries to practical problem-solving. So stop and ask yourself what steps you can take to address the problem. It’s not easy, of course, to stop yourself dwelling on problems.
Some recommend physical activity to help you shift mental gears. In any case, it takes some training. It’s perfectly normal to worry, but many of our worries never materialise. One study of patients with anxiety found only around one in 10 worries ever turn out to be real problems. One explanation is the way we have evolved. It has made us highly tuned to negativity and danger, as a defence against threats which led to death or serious injury. Danger is “over-encoded in our brains”, says Prof Wild. “You can make yourself feel much calmer if you recognise that you’re over-thinking, stop and focus on facts.”
How can I overcome my anxiety?
Set a new target
“Setting a new goal or target, can really help pull you through,” says Cardiff neuroscientist, Dr Dean Burnett. That could be a big project like learning a language or something as small as trying out a new recipe. If big ideas are too much, start small.
The point is that if it’s outside your comfort zone, and it’s pushing you forward, it gives you a focus and a sense of control. For many people that’s hugely helpful for their mental state. “Novelty is fundamentally rewarding,” says Dr Burnett. “Learning to do new things is frequently how we acquire self-worth”, he adds. “Goal-motivated behaviour is one of the most fundamental ways that we operate.”
Talk it over
Covid-19 has made it a lot harder to be with others in person, and winter can make it harder still. That’s a big issue for millions of people and the mental health consequences for some will be serious. So it’s a good idea to maximise the little social contact that is available.
“We’re not really designed to be on our own,” says Prof Emerita Elizabeth Kuipers, of King’s College London. “We’re socially-oriented. We feel better with social contact.” Talking problems over when you can is a good idea, but the key thing is how it’s done, she says.
“Going over problems again and again, just rehearsing how terrible you feel, may not help at all. Talking things through with someone who can help you reframe your problems, and help you move through them can be much more helpful.”
Isolated people are more likely to focus on themselves, says Prof Kuipers, and that can make things worse. So reach out when you can, and if Covid-19 means you can’t do that in person, make that phone call to a friend, or arrange to talk online.
‘Do it badly’
Optimists live longer, have better relationships and better immune systems, says Olivia Remes of Cambridge University. And the good news is you can cultivate optimism: an inner sense that you can make a difference to your life, and that it’s not all down to things outside your control. How? Her number one tip is the principle of “do it badly“.
In other words don’t wait to do things perfectly at the right time on the right day. That’s even more important in winter when gloomy weather might make you think twice about doing something.
“Our inner voice of criticism continually stops us from doing worthwhile things”, she says. “Jump straight into action. Do things and accept that they might initially be done badly. When you do that, most of the time the results are actually not that bad – and they’re almost always better than doing nothing.”
Olivia’s other tips include writing down three things each day that you’re grateful about, to force yourself to focus on what’s gone well and why. It’ll fire up the left hand side of your brain which is associated with positivity.
“Emotions are contagious”, she says, so “if you can, gently steer away from negative, miserable people who are constantly complaining”, (including all the ones on Facebook) because you’ll find yourself becoming one of those people too.