Friday 5 June 2020 Among all the goodwill and neighbourliness in our communities, there was a stark reminder this week that there are always some people who will try to take advantage of other's vulnerability. Warnings from the Police and Trading Standards of a scam followed reports of people receiving telephone calls from someone pretending to be from the NHS Test and Trace team, wanting to fool them into paying money for a test kit. We feature that story below. We’ve announced today new steps to make it easier and quicker for hospitality businesses to re-open in coming weeks as the lockdown restrictions ease, and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership has launched a 'Route Map to Recovery' outlining measures to help stimulate our local economy.
As restrictions ease, we’re reminded of the R value and with it a call for us all to remain vigilant. Devon has done comparatively well, appearing in the last five of 150 local authorities for the number of recorded cases. That’s in part because we’ve all been careful.
Continue to stay home as much as possible and if you do go out this weekend, keep to social distancing guidelines and the restrictions on the numbers of people we meet and remember to wash your hands regularly. We want you to stay safe and consider who you are with and those around you. Please continue to follow the precautions, and stay alert to risk.
In this update:
- Warning about test and trace scams
- What is the R value?
- Improvements for walkers and cyclists
- A route map for local economic recovery
- Face coverings to be worn on public transport
- Antibody testing begins in Devon
- Celebrate carers week at home
- Hold on to your library books
Watch out for coronavirus ‘test and trace’ scam
Our Trading Standards team is warning everyone to be aware of scammers looking to exploit the new NHS Test and Trace service.
They are concerned that some people, particularly the vulnerable or elderly, could be susceptible to fake calls or messages from criminals looking to get access to personal information or trick them into handing over money.
Remember, the NHS Test and Trace service is completely free, so they will never ask you for any form of payment or financial information or to provide any passwords, bank account details or PIN numbers.
It's a good idea to familiarise yourself with how the system works and know what you will and won’t be asked by the contact tracers so you can spot these scams.
The R value - what is it?
You may hear over the next day or so that the R value in England has risen, including in the South West.
By way of context, the South West has the lowest number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases across regions in England. Devon in particular has the fifth lowest number of recorded cases of all 150 upper tier local authorities.
This is what the Director of Public Health for Public Health Devon, Dr Virginia Pearson has said about the rise in R value, announced today.
“The R value is an important regional barometer based on modelling data, but while it provides an estimate of ongoing transmission, it alone cannot determine the rate of growth of coronavirus and does not accurately reflect Devon’s local data on the ground. As such it should be treated with a little caution.
“The South West R value spans from Isles of Scilly to Bristol, and while there have been hotspots in other parts of the region that increase the R value, Devon’s figures have remained low.
“We have the fifth lowest number of recorded cases when comparing Devon to all 150 upper tier local authorities and the consistency of the numbers suggest that levels have plateaued recently. That’s in part due to our residents adhering to lockdown, and heeding national guidance around staying home and social distancing. We have done well in that regard and need to keep that up.
“We continue to work closely with our Public Health and NHS colleagues to ensure the safety of our Devon residents, and we wait to hear the government’s response to this latest R rate announcement.”
Public Health England have some useful information on their website to help you understand more about the R value.
Active Travel Fund improvements
You'll start to see changes on some of our roads over the coming weeks, as we introduce 'pop-up' measures for walkers and cyclists, which will support social distancing and encourage more people to take up active travel.
We're receiving an initial £338,000 from the government's Emergency Active Travel Funding to help us create 'quiet routes' to improve journeys for walkers and cyclists.
Schemes will roll-out in Exeter, Barnstaple, Bideford and Newton Abbot, but other market and coastal towns will also have the opportunity to benefit from a share of this initial funding.
We will also have chance to submit a bid for a potential £1,351,000 later this summer for more permanent schemes.
'Route Map to Recovery' for our local economy
Evidence shows that the economic impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the 'Heart of the South West' area - Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay - is expected to be deeper and longer than in other parts of the UK.
That's because we have specific challenges here, and a reliance on sectors that are hardest hit by the lockdown, such as tourism and hospitality and the food, farming and fishing sectors.
So the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership has launched a 'Route Map to Recovery' this week, outlining measures to help stimulate our local economy in three phases:
- Restart - supporting businesses to re-open
- Revitalise - providing local training and growth support
- Grow - create better, cleaner,
Face coverings to be worn on public transport
From 15th June face coverings will be required when using public transport in England.
The government has said that wherever possible we should all continue to avoid public transport and walk, cycle or drive, but for some people this may not be an option.
If you have to use public transport, you're more likely to be in enclosed spaces for longer periods of time so there's a greater risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) and social distancing is likely to be difficult to follow consistently.
So using face coverings can provide some small additional protection to fellow passengers and can help you to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus if you are suffering from coronavirus (COVID-19), but not showing symptoms.
Find out more about wearing a face covering and how to make your own on the government's website.
June is LGBT+ Pride Month. Lines are still open
This month is LGBT+ Pride Month - a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ people across the world, campaign for equal opportunities, and highlight the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.
We've reported this before but will say it again. Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the lockdown have brought with them new levels of isolation, domestic abuse and family tensions and is having a significant impact on lots of people.
Switchboard, the LGBT+helpline (0300 330 0630) is asking local authorities to raise awareness that their helpline is still open, and that they're continuing to support those in need during this time
They've also produced a support pack to help people feel comforted and less alone during this pandemic, with tips to help manage anxiety, and suggestions on what to do when you are feeling low.
Celebrate 'Carers Week' with activities from home
It’s 'Carers Week' next week; a week to mark the amazing work that unpaid carers are doing every day to help loved ones and friends.
Usually we’d be organising events and activities that bring us all together, but this year we’re celebrating the week with a impressive range of activities that carers and their families can enjoy from the comforts of their own homes.
They include: virtual gardens tour; carers cook book; sports quiz; cuppa with a copper; pins and needles; wellbeing and relaxation; on your bike; carers art gallery; poetic corner; a mile with a smile; yoga for all; creative carers workshop; and mindfulness.
Details about these activities and how to get involved are available online.
If you’re a carer, providing unpaid care to a family member or friend, please get involved. Visit the Devon Carers website at or call 03456 434 435.
COVID-19 antibody testing begins in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Healthcare staff in Devon and Cornwall will be among the first in the peninsula to be tested to see if they have had COVID-19 in the past, by analysing a blood sample.
This is different to the current swab testing programme, which confirms whether or not someone currently has the virus.
The science is still uncertain, and although a positive test result for antibodies will show that a person has had the virus, there's no evidence to show that this offers that person protective immunity. Therefore, they will still need to socially distance and maintain infection control measures.
Testing for a limited number of patients has also begun. It's hoped that up to 4,000 tests will take place each day across the peninsula by the end of this month.
Temporary street cafe licences introduced
We're introducing temporary 'street cafe' licences to help hospitality businesses re-open in the coming weeks.
Tables and chairs on paved or pedestrianised areas that are public highway are among the ways cafes and pubs can help customers to maintain social distancing guidelines.
There's usually a 12 week formal process before a licence is granted, but these new temporary licences will speed up the process by enabling businesses to provide outdoor seating while the application is being considered.
The Big Lunch is going virtual this weekend
Social contact is good for our mental health, and coming together and eating is a great way for everyone to feel connected.
But as the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions continue, many of us are missing out on important time spent socialising with family, friends and neighbours.
That's why this weekend's 'The Big Lunch', run by The Eden Project and The National Lottery, is such an important event.
Now more than ever communities need to support each other to combat loneliness and isolation, so this year rather than cancel the event, the organisers have thought of new and exciting ways to help everyone celebrate virtually.
There's lots of ideas and a range of free online resources you can access on The Big Lunch website.
Craft project combats loneliness during lockdown
The South Molton Scrapstore is another great example of a project that has been supported by our COVID-19 Prompt Action Fund.
They have used their £500 grant to send out free craft packs to members of the community to help improve mental health and wellbeing during lockdown.
An amazing 511 packs have been sent out with additional bulk packs of supplies being sent to group homes and dementia care units.
The packs are largely local sourced to support traders and as environmentally friendly as possible!
Hold on to your library books!
Don't worry everyone. We’ve automatically extended your loans for outstanding library books, CDs and DVDs. We don't want you to make a special visit to your library to drop them back, so we’ve extended the loan period to the 31st August. You’ve got plenty of time to return them. There will be no fines.
Our libraries are planning a phased return from week commencing 6 July. Look out on your library's website for details about re-opening.
In the meantime, there's still lots you can access of the service online.