Temperatures are set to soar this weekend, so please make sure you take extra care and stay safe in the sunshine.
During the coronavirus pandemic a heatwave is potentially even more dangerous, especially to those who are already vulnerable to the virus or are having to self-isolate at home.
Hot weather means our bodies work harder to maintain an inner core temperature, putting extra strain on the heart and lungs. That extra strain, coupled with fluid and salt loss through sweating, can lead to specific heat-related health effects and illness such as dehydration and heatstroke. Overheating can also make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing.
Everyone's susceptible, but people who are more at risk during a heatwave are the same people who are at more risk of serious illness should they contract coronavirus - older people, and those with chronic and severe illness including heart or lung conditions and diabetes, for example.
It's important to keep hydrated by drinking lots fluids (avoiding excess alcohol) and stay cool indoors by slowing down and avoiding the sunshine during the hottest time of the day (typically 11.00am to 3.00pm). If you are out, make sure you wear a hat and protect your skin with sunscreen. There are lots more tips for coping in hot weather on the NHS website.
So, while it's hot, please keep an eye on elderly and vulnerable friends and relatives. If you visit someone, keep your distance and make sure you wash your hands when you arrive and when you leave. And most importantly, if you're feeling unwell with symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and make alternative plans for anyone you're caring for.
It's still the school summer holidays, but teachers and staff have been working hard to implement the necessary steps so they can welcome all pupils back safely in the autumn term, in line with government advice.
It is important to note that not everyone may be asked to return on the first day of term. Some schools might ask pupils to return one year group or a class at a time so that they can get used to any new arrangements. All children should have been given a return date within the first two weeks of term, though there may be a few exceptional cases.
Your school will have told you about the plans they have made for pupils to return, either by contacting you directly or publishing the information on their website.
If you have concerns about your child returning to school or college, because you consider they may have other risk factors, please do not hesitate to discuss with your school or college.
'Getting Building' fund welcomed
To help kickstart the economy, the government has announced a 'Getting Building' fund, which will fast-track a number of schemes in Devon, to be delivered by January 2022.
In fact, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, which we're part of, has been allocated the biggest share in the region.
The schemes that will benefit will deliver jobs, regeneration, skills, innovation and clean energy. They'll include the Exeter Science Park 'Grow Out' building, and Devon Work Hubs.
Exam results, what next?
A-level and GCSE exam results are out very soon – Thursday 13 August for A-levels, and Thursday 20 August for GCSEs.
The exams and assessments were cancelled this year due to coronavirus (COVID-19) but most students will still receive grades in time to progress to further study or employment.
Here’s how the results will be calculated, plus information about options available if students don't get the grades they wanted.
More places require face coverings from Saturday
From Saturday (8 August) the list of places where you're required by law to wear face coverings will increase to include venues such as cinemas, theatres, museums, places of worship, public areas in hotels, libraries, community centres and many more. A full list is available on the government's website, so make sure you take a look.
It's really important to cover up your nose and mouth when you're in enclosed public spaces because you come into contact with people you do not normally meet and social distancing may be more difficult, so the risk of transmission is much higher.
However, young children under 11 years old don't have to wear one, and children under 3 years old should not wear face coverings because they could cause choking or suffocation.
People not able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability are also exempt from wearing one.
The government has produced 'exception cards' that you can download from their website to print or save to your smartphone. They're designed to make you feel more comfortable but it's up to you; you don't have to carry one and you shouldn't be routinely asked to provide any written evidence of your exemption.
New social distancing badges available
We all understand how important it is to maintain social distancing because that helps reduce the risk of transmission. But some people have, for good reason, difficulties doing so.
Now there are badges that people can use to show that they may have difficulties or concerns in maintaining social distancing. The badges signal to others around them that they need to pay attention and be given space.
They say, 'Please give me space'. Thank you for understanding', and are available to download in different formats: for mobile phones, and to print out from the government website
Museums and Heritage Centres reopen this week
The Devon Heritage Centre and North Devon Record Office, along with the Museum of Somerset, Somerset Rural Life Museum and Somerset Heritage Centre, all reopened at the start of August.
The museums and heritage centres are run by the South West Heritage Trust, on behalf of Devon County and Somerset County Councils.
The Trust has made some changes to the way its sites operate, in line with government guidance, including revised opening hours and a requirement to pre-book visits.
- Devon Heritage Centre and Somerset Heritage Centre: now open Tuesday to Thursday with two bookable sessions each day, 10.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00pm to 4.30pm
- North Devon Record Office: now open Wednesday to Friday with two bookable sessions each day, 10.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00pm to 4.30pm
- Museum of Somerset and Somerset Rural Life Museum: open Wednesday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm from Wednesday 12 August. Admission by advance booking only.
For more information and to book, please visit the South West Heritage Trust website.
New tests are providing much quicker results
From next week, new tests that detect COVID-19 and other winter viruses such as flu, with the results back in just 90 minutes, will be available.
The two new tests will be rolled out to hospitals, care homes and labs across the UK, to increase testing capacity ahead of winter.
Neither test requires a trained health professional to do them, so they can be used in more non-clinical settings as well.
There are also new ways of analysing tests to detect COVID-19 that provide results in about an hour to an hour and half, which means NHS Test and Trace can quickly advise on the best course of action to stop the spread of the virus.
Help with shopping and other necessities
Until this week, people whose health or circumstance identified them as being clinically extremely vulnerable, have been able to receive free essential food parcel deliveries from the government.
With shielding now paused, those government food parcel deliveries have ended.
If you are on the supermarket priority list for food delivery slots, you will remain on that list and your deliveries will be given priority.
But if you are having difficulty shopping because you're vulnerable or self-isolating, the government has published guidance on how you can get essential food and supplies.
They suggest asking friends or family to help get your shopping or asking a local community group to help. Many local shops are also taking orders on the phone and delivering them to people's homes.
We have contact details for lots of community groups in Devon that have been helping people during this pandemic, and we're in the process of refreshing this list to keep it current.
Alternatively, NHS Volunteer Responders are still here to help. There's more about that in the story below.
NHS Volunteer Responders are still here to help
NHS Volunteer Responders have been supporting tens of thousands of people across England during COVID-19, with tasks including; collecting shopping, delivering prescribed medicines and making ‘check in and chat’ calls.
Restrictions may be easing but NHS Volunteer Responders are still here to help those self-isolating, including people with long-term health conditions or who have been advised to shield at any point.
If you or someone you know needs helps with essential tasks, NHS Volunteer Responders are here to help - please call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). People with caring responsibilities and frontline health and care staff can also request support.
Health and care professionals, as well as a range of public and voluntary sector professionals, can continue to refer vulnerable people into the scheme. Referrals can be made online at or by calling 0808 196 3382.NHS Volunteer Responders will be available to provide support until at least December 2020.
Further information is available at on the NHS Volunteer Responder website.
Returning to work, after shielding
If you are in employment and have until recently been shielding due to your health or circumstance, you are now able to return to work.
From this week, clinically extremely vulnerable people can go back to work so long as it is 'COVID-secure'. The advice however is to work from home wherever possible, so talk to your employer to consider whether you can do that.
Depending upon what job you do, there's guidance about returning to it on the government's website.
Love our local parks
More than half of the country's parks have had to bring in extra resources to deal with issues such as litter and antisocial behaviour, since lockdown was eased.
Local authorities own a lot of parkland, and more than 100, responding to a survey by Keep Britain Tidy, said they'd spent thousands extra, managing them in recent months.
So, Keep Britain Tidy has launched a new campaign called 'Love Parks'.
It features real parks staff and park users, talking about how anti-social behaviour, for example, makes them feel.
It's funded as part of the government's Coronavirus response, and a further campaign this summer will go on to highlight the impact of littering, including non-medical Personal Protective Equipment such as disposable face coverings.
Our parks are there for everyone to enjoy. Please be kind to our parks this summer by not littering and taking your rubbish home with you. #LoveParks #KeepItBinIt #KeepBritainTidy
Be a lifesaver
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the RNLI to reduce the number of lifeguards on beaches over the summer, but by following their safety advice and letting others know about it, we can all help protect more people by the water.
On average 175 people lose their lives in tragic accidents around the coast of the UK and Ireland each year. The RNLI is committed to keeping the coast a place for safe and happy memories by the water, so they're encouraging local businesses to display safety posters in their windows and share advice on their social media channels.
The resources are available through their website, where you can sign up to be a RNLI local ambassador.
If you're visiting the coast, make sure you follow the RNLI beach safe advice and don't presume there's a lifeguard on duty.
Chamber of Commerce membership offered to help aid recovery
Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce is inviting businesses to join them for free for three months.
"The last few months have been incredibly difficult for everyone and we've helped countless businesses survive this challenging period," says Stuart Elford, Chief Executive of Devon & Plymouth Chamber.
"We want to help as many businesses as possible succeed as we start to recover and grow again. We feel this offer can give businesses the best chance of not just surviving, but thriving in this new world."
Remote hospital appointments are miles better, say Devon patients
Northern Devon Healthcare Trust has surveyed patients about their outpatient appointments carried out by telephone or video.
- The vast majority say telephone appointments were positive experiences
- Face-to-face appointments were well managed, including the use of PPE
- 490 people asked about video appointments wanted them again - they'd saved a total of 9,000 miles in travel!
Doctors and clinicians also say it's working well.