Friday 11 September 2020 Letting residents and visitors know what’s happening in Devon and what they need to do to help keep everyone safe is key to preventing, identifying and controlling local outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19).
We are endeavouring to bring you the latest news, advice and guidance via this email. You can help us reach as many people as possible in our communities by sharing the information in this e-newsletter with people in your network in whichever way you think works best. You can also encourage them to sign up to receive it themselves via this link.
In this update:
- New appeal to families with those in their late teens and early twenties
- Access to testing in Devon
- More buses for busy school transport routes
- 90% of Devon children back at school
- Our Social Care Reablement Team go the extra mile
- Meeting with others safely
New appeal to families with late teens, early twenties
The number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases across England is rising. That's true of case numbers in Devon too.
The Director of Public Health Devon, Dr Virginia Pearson, has this week issued a fresh warning, urging all Devon residents - of all ages, but specifically to younger residents - to follow the public health advice at all times.
The number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Devon is still very low comparatively, but it is rising.
Not all new cases are now linked to the returning international travellers, which was the pattern we had seen previously.
Our younger residents – those in their late teens and early twenties - are a tricky audience to reach with public messages, so here is a personal appeal to parents and families with dependents around that age to remind them how important it is to protect themselves and others by:
- Keeping a safe distance (ideally 2 metres away from other people)
- Maintaining hand hygiene at all times, through handwashing and regular use of hand sanitiser
- Wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces to protect others, where recommended
This is what the Director of Public Health Devon said this week.
And here the government's guidance on social distancing for young people.
Access to testing in Devon
Last week, we reported that the government has diverted some of the testing resources from parts of the country where prevalence is lower, to other parts where prevalence of cases and demand for testing is higher.
That's meant that people are finding that access to testing locally is less available.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health Devon, said:
"There may be issues with people accessing COVID-19 testing in Devon as a result of national laboratory capacity for analysing tests being directed to areas elsewhere with a higher prevalence of cases.
"You must still follow the national guidance on getting tested, which is that if you develop any of the symptoms - a new and continuous cough; high temperature; or change in your sense of taste or smell – you should book a test via the NHS website or call 119 to if you have problems using the internet."
If you are unable to book a slot, you can email for advice on what to do:
More buses for busy school transport routes
To reduce the risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19) the preference is for people to walk, scoot or cycle to school or college, if they're close enough to do so. Being outside reduces the risk of exposure to the virus, more so than being inside.
But that's not always practical, and many young people and staff are car sharing and catching public transport to school and college.
We've been working closely with our transport providers to arrange more buses to get to school or college for journeys that we know lots of students use. We're doing that to create additional capacity so that it's easier to socially distance on public transport.
Social distancing and face coverings are required by law on public service buses and trains. We are also requesting all students on dedicated County Council school transport to wear a face covering.
This week, we've been monitoring the school transport preparations that have been made to ensure that they're working sufficiently. In some cases, working with our transport providers, we've amended plans and added more buses to the busier routes so everybody can get to their destination.
Full details of these additional services can be found on our Travel Devon website.
Schools working flexibly to keep pupils and staff safe
Schools have been welcoming back students for the new term. For some, that’s the first time back since March, and for others it’s a new start altogether.
They’ve also been working hard to establish new ways of working to enable them to re-open safely.
That’s included changes to timetables, to rooms, to class sizes, to the flow of pupils in and out and around school, to arrangements for lunch and break times.
They may need to revise their plans as term progresses, to make sure the changes they’ve made are working as best they can.
And in some cases, it’s possible that schools may need to send children home for a short time if there’s been a child in the class who develops symptoms and receives a positive test result.
Schools have got good communications in place though with parents, so if that were to be required, they’d let you know quickly and in advance.
If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to your school.
90% of Devon children back at school
More than 90 per cent of Devon pupils are already back in school as the new academic year gets under way in the county.
Most Devon schools did not open until this week with some staggering starts for different year groups over a few days.
But Devon’s Head of Education, Dawn Stabb, revealed earlier this week that 90 per cent of children are already in school. That compares with an average of 96 per cent in normal times.
“We’ve had a really good start in terms of children engaging with schools,” she said. “This is a really positive response.
“All schools have updated their risk assessments over the summer so they are in line with both government and health and safety guidance.”
She said 99 per cent of the pupils known to Devon’s transport team had transport in place on their first day of school. For the other one per cent, arrangements had been made with their families to get them to school.
Social Care Reablement team go the extra mile
We've been looking back and revisiting some of the records that members of our Reablement Team made during early lockdown, describing their visits to vulnerable clients at home.
Our Social Care Reablement Team perform an amazing job, providing short-term support (usually up to three weeks) for adults who need help to remain independently living in their own home.
Most referrals come directly from hospitals when patients are ready to be discharged.
These are real life stories describing real people. Some will make you smile, others less so.
New children's mental health campaign
Most families have experienced upheaval in their daily lives during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Data shows that over half of parents in the South West said that the mental wellbeing of their children has been one of their biggest worries.
After a tough year, lots of children are feeling unsettled, so Public Health England has launched a campaign to help parents and carers spot the signs that children may be struggling with their mental health, and provides tools to help.
It's been developed in partnership with leading children and young people’s mental health charities and endorsed by the NHS.
Check out the Better Health Every Mind Matters website for tips and advice.
More space for social distancing on the school run
Three schools in Devon are making more space outside their gates at pick up and drop off times by adopting 'School Streets' schemes that will restrict traffic at specific times to make more space for social distancing during the school run.
We've been working with the schools to deliver the schemes in partnership with walking and cycling charity Sustrans. They are being funded through a grant from the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.
Bradley Barton Primary in Newton Abbot is the first school to launch their School Streets this week. Two schools in Exeter will be next.
"We hope that in addition to being a great way to encourage social distancing at busy drop off and collection times, that it will also encourage more families to benefit from walking and cycling to school," said the Headteacher at Bradley Barton Primary, Julie Barton.
The rule of six
New rules come into force on Monday (14 September). People will not be able to meet socially with others from other households in groups of more than six people.
That applies indoors and outdoors, including in people's own homes.
Rules around social distancing and the use of face coverings still apply too.
There will be penalties for breaching the new rule. The police will have powers to enforce, and fines of £100 could be issued. Fines will keep doubling for further breaches, to a maximum of £3,200.
There are exemptions. COVID-19 secure venues, such as places of worship, restaurants and hospitality venues, can still host larger numbers in total, but then groups of up to six people at those venues mustn't mix or form larger groups.
If your household or bubble already has more than six people, that's fine. You can still gather because you're from the same household or bubble.
Education (schools, colleges, universities etc) and workplaces are unaffected. Weddings and funeral groups can also be larger, up to 30 people. Some organised team sports will still be able to carry on.
There's more detail about those exceptions on the government's website.
You can also find out more about COVID-19 secure guidelines for venues.
Meeting with others safely
With cooler weather on the horizon, we will no doubt soon be spending more time indoors, so it's important we all continue to follow government guidance to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
We all need to remember hands, face and space:
- HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
- FACE – Wear a face covering where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).
Following these simple steps could make a significant difference in reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) and help protect you and your friends, colleagues and family.
Venues required by law to record contact details
The government has announced that premises across England where people meet socially, such as hospitality venues, tourism and leisure venues and close contact services, must, by law, record the contact details of customers, visitors and staff to help tackle the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Many have already been collecting and sharing data, but following the recent move to ban social gatherings of more than six people, the data collection programme will now be formally mandated from 18 September.
It means that businesses like pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas will be legally required to request the contact details of every customer and visitor on their premises as well as keep a record of all staff working on a given day. They must have a system in place to record and store the information for 21 days and share it with NHS Test and Trace, if requested.
It's so the NHS Test and Trace service can effectively contact everyone who may have been exposed to the virus if an outbreak should occur and to provide the appropriate public health advice, which will help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).