Nov 262021
 

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COVID-19 case rates in Devon have continued to rise, with Torridge in particular exceeding 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population. Overall, Devon’s case rate remains above the national average.

Cases are highest in those aged 0 to 19 years old, especially among those of secondary school and college ages. Schools and colleges are following the latest public health advice to control the spread of the virus.

Vaccine take-up in the county is good, but people are encouraged to come forward and have their vaccination as soon as they become eligible to do so.

Case rates in Devon have continued to rise, with Torridge now reaching more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population – one of the highest case rates in the country.

Elsewhere in the county there are local pockets where case rates are rising significantly, with Devon’s average rate overall still higher than the England average.

“I urge everyone who is eligible for a booster or third vaccine, who hasn’t yet had it, to take it up as soon as they can,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

“The latest Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study shows how effective the vaccine is at preventing people from becoming seriously ill from the virus.”

Meanwhile, the number of patients in Devon hospitals with coronavirus has risen, with NHS Devon reporting 168 COVID-19 inpatients earlier this week, up from 111 in early November.

They say the increase in community infections is impacting on staff, as almost 600 NHS staff in the county are off work due to coronavirus – accounting for nearly one in four NHS staff absences.

Dr Paul Johnson, Chair of the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:

“There has been high demand for booster doses and I want to thank the tens of thousands of people in Devon who are attending our vaccine clinics for the jab each week. We are continuing to open up thousands more appointments, in addition to pop-up clinics.

“However, as the temperature drops and we are more likely to mix with people inside, it is important to remember that Devon currently has some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the UK.

“Please continue to socially distance, wear a mask when mixing with people inside and open a window where possible.”

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.

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.

Devon county Council has 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 the DCC website.

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

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.

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 You can find the latest information, advice and guidance about coronavirus in Devon on the County Council’s website.

Government COVID-19 Winter Plan

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, outlined the government’s COVID-19 autumn and winter plan.

In it:

  • coronavirus booster jabs to be offered to adults over 50 years old, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and social care workers
  • coronavirus vaccines are to be offered to young people aged 12 to 15
  • NHS Test and Trace will continue their work to identify contacts of people who test positive
  • free PCR tests will continue
  • flu vaccine take-up will be encouraged for all over 50s
  • and public health messages including the expectation to wear face coverings in crowded places, remain all important

But the Prime Minster also revealed a Plan B – additional measures that could be introduced if circumstances warrant it.

Those circumstances, built on data, would include the number of hospitalisations; how quickly any surge in case numbers happens; and the overall condition of the NHS, and its ability to cope, at that time. The Plan B toolbox includes:

  • compulsory face coverings in some settings
  • people asked to work from home
  • vaccine passports could be introduced, requiring proof of vaccine take-up before being allowed entry to some venues.

You can read the government’s COVID-19 autumn and winter plan in full on their website.

Knowing the risks helps us make better decisions

Four short videos from Devon County Council are being used to remind us to ‘know the risks’ as we go about our day to day lives. View the videos here>

From socialising indoors or out, the messages are simple:

  • if you need to meet indoors, let fresh air inside
  • when you’re out and about, keep your distance
  • reducing contact is still a key way to prevent catching or passing on the virus
  • given the choice, try to meet outdoors as much as possible

Knowing the risks, helps us make better decisions. We can all make small changes that make a big difference.