Coronavirus update May 2020

Tuesday 12 May 2020

No doubt you will all have seen the Prime Minister’s plans for the next phase of tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, aiming to reopen society a little and kick-start the economy. It signals a change, but it doesn’t herald the end. The changes to the lockdown are limited, it has not been lifted and we still have a long way to go. While this next phase feels significant, it is certainly not a return to normality. We should all still be staying at home as much as possible, but from tomorrow, (Wednesday 13 May), people in England can spend more leisure time outdoors, which is important for our mental and physical health. However, if you do go out, please remember to make sure you observe social distancing and good hand hygiene. After all, the reason why Devon has relatively fewer cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) is because we have all done well to comply with the government guidance so far – let’s keep it up.

We celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day at the weekend, and it was fantastic to see such community spirit as we marked the day at home in our own ways. It’s that community spirit and personal resolve that we need to hold on tight to still. Although it’s encouraging to see the gradual opening back up of the things we once took for granted, let’s make sure we give deliberate thought and care to what we do next and not undo the enormous effort that we have made so far by letting down our guard now.

In this update:

  • Vulnerable residents should remain at home
  • New government guidance
  • Emergency financial help available for those struggling
  • HM Coastguard ask you to respect the coastline
  • Increased concern about online grooming
  • Additional cash to boost active travel

Vulnerable residents urged to still stay at home

We’re urging vulnerable residents to remain at home despite changes to the lockdown restrictions. Around 34,000 people in Devon have been identified as having an underlying health condition that puts them at very high risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus.

The NHS has advised them to not to leave their homes until at least the end of June, even for essential supplies and exercise, in order to minimise face-to-face contact and prevent being exposed to the virus. There is no change to this guidance, and the rigorous ‘shielding’ measures introduced to help keep those who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable safe are still in place.

New government guidance

The government has set out the plans for moving to the next phase of its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

Changes to the lockdown restrictions will start tomorrow (Wednesday 13 May) so there’s new guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and staying safe outside your home.

The government has also put together some information about what you can and can’t do and advised people to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces. There’s a guide on how to make and wear one on their website.

Our Leader’s response to the lockdown changes

Our Leader, Councillor John Hart, has welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement as providing some hope but said he wanted to see the details of how re-starting the economy could be achieved safely. He said:

“We will have to be particularly careful in the South West that we don’t see a spike in infections. Thanks to the common sense and cooperation of the vast majority of our citizens, we have remained the lowest region in the country for infections throughout this pandemic. That must continue as we begin to see the economy start to rev up again – safely – whilst our residents can have some idea of how we can begin to move slowly out of lockdown.”

£1m available to help struggling Devon residents

Help is available for Devon residents struggling with their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve allocated one million pounds in grant funding to support people who need short-term emergency assistance to afford basic living essentials.

It’s been split across Devon’s eight district councils, with each one responsible for considering applications and administering grants in their locality.

Respect our coastline

We’re lucky to have not just one but two beautiful coastlines in Devon, and now more than ever they need to be respected – that’s the message from HM Coastguard.

If you’re planning a trip to the beach, please take extra care and observe social distancing. Whether you know the area, are experienced on the water or not, the sea can still catch you out, and remember that beaches may not be lifeguarded. If you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Remember your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk. Take extra care in these extraordinary times and stay alert to control the virus and save lives.

Increased concern about online grooming

Devon’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (the MASH) has seen an increase in the number of calls reporting inappropriate online activity.

With schools temporarily closed to many young people and social distancing measures in place, children may be at increased risk of sexual exploitation, while having limited access to friends and school support.

“Perpetrators are using technology to groom children, young people and adults now, through social media, chat apps and online gaming, intending to meet up with their victims later,” said a safeguarding professional.

More information and advice is available on the Safer Devon Partnership website or via the NSPCC, Childline and the UK Safer Internet Centre.

To report a concern to the Devon MASH, telephone 0345 155 1071 or email mashsecure@devon.gov.uk and give as much information as you can.

Government announces additional cash to boost active travel

The Government has announced a £250 million emergency active travel fund to encourage walking and cycling.

Any additional funding will be used to promote active travel and help ensure that people can walk or cycle in a safe way as government restrictions on movement are eased.

We don’t yet know how much of that we might receive, but we’ve started looking at the pressure points and how we can help people practice social distancing, particularly in urban centres where narrow footways could restrict pedestrian movement.

We are also looking at how we can use any additional funding to fill gaps in our existing urban walking and cycling network plans.

We will be talking to local councils and businesses to help us better understand how we can support any local aspirations for improvements.

Learn Devon continues supporting vulnerable learners during lockdown

Vulnerable learners have been receiving the support they need during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic thanks to Learn Devon tutors going the extra mile.

Learn Devon is our adult education service provider, and it offers courses for, and works with, some of the most vulnerable people in our local communities.

Tutors have been supporting learners with everything from remote on-line classes to dropping off shopping with homework to ensure no-one is left feeling isolated or lonely.

Learn Devon recently launched over 100 free tutor-led online courses to support people who may have been made redundant or are seeking work, for vulnerable people currently self-isolating, volunteers supporting our pandemic response, as well as local businesses.

#MyRedThumb Day still provides a vital reminder despite fewer vehicles on our roads

The current pandemic lockdown measures have meant that our local roads have been a lot quieter recently, but it’s still been essential for us to mark #MyRedThumb Day today.

#MyRedThumb Day is an important road safety initiative that we support with our partner authorities and emergency services to remind us all not to use mobile devices when driving.

No matter how little traffic is on the roads, it’s vital to drive safely and avoid distractions behind the wheel at all times. Please take extra care, put your phone away before starting your journey so you don’t put your safety and the safety of others at risk, which could potentially put unnecessary pressure on the NHS.