Caution advised to those when travelling
Those of you who follow the numbers will have seen a rise in cases of coronavirus in Devon in the last two to three weeks.
The numbers though are still comparatively very low compared to elsewhere in the country, and the risk of spread within communities in Devon is also still very low.
The story this week is largely the same as last. During August, groups of people travelled abroad on holiday, and a some of them returned with coronavirus.
They were picked up immediately by NHS Test and Trace on their return and they and their contacts advised to self-isolate.
The numbers currently stand at around 30 cases in Devon, about the same last week. As those earlier returns come out of self-isolation, we’ve got equal numbers going in.
With August behind us, we expect the numbers will start to fall again.
We’ll continue to monitor the data really closely, so we’re able to respond immediately to any significant rise. But it’s a reminder that we’ve all still got to play our part and take care when travelling abroad and at home. Remember the precautions and continue to heed the advice.
For local data on cases in Devon, visit our website.
Study finds very low numbers of coronavirus in schools
A report published just in the last few weeks shows that coronavirus infections in schools are rare.
Public Health England detected just 67 single cases in schools across England in June, with just 30 examples in which two or more cases were linked.
They found that there were more likely to be situations of two or more linked cases in areas that also had a high coronavirus incidence, suggesting transmission in the community was driving the spread in schools.
"This demonstrates the continued need to control the spread of infection in the community to help keep schools open, with all playing their part by washing their hands, wearing face coverings, keeping distance and getting a test if they have symptoms," they said.
The research has been submitted to the Lancet.
Chief Medical Officers consensus on schools reopening
So, we’re in the final few days of the school summer holidays, and families will be preparing for school or college returns, or new starts.
It’s perfectly normal for many parents to be feeling some level of trepidation on their child's behalf. We had some tips for parents in our special bulletin last week. But schools are well-prepared and have plans and good experience in managing risk to keep children and staff safe.
The Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have all looked at the current evidence of risk and benefits to health from schools and childcare settings, and jointly released a statement. This is what they've said.
Travel reminders for getting to school and college
Here are some last-minute reminders about getting to school and college, taking into account the current coronavirus restrictions.
If you live close to school or college, and it's safe to do so, please walk, cycle or scoot where possible.
If you need to get public transport, please allow more time, because your journey may change. Social distancing rules apply on buses and those aged 11 and over must wear a face covering unless they are exempt.
If you normally drive and car share with others to school or college, please ensure that windows are open; that everyone aged 11 and over wear face coverings unless they are exempt; and that some seats are left free to socially distance.
All possible measures to be taken before any future restrictions on schools
The government has published guidance that sets out what possible measures should be taken before any restrictions are imposed on schools.
In Devon, our confirmed case numbers are comparatively low, but in other parts of the country, they are seeing heightened levels of restriction to control their local spread of the virus.
The government wants schools to maintain consistent education for children and young people, so any local restrictions to impose on schools should be as a last resort.
Decisions would be taken locally by local authority leaders and Directors of Public Health, alongside national government, and they would take all other possible measures including implementing restrictions on other sectors, before considering restricting attendance in education.
Schools have plans in place to ensure that high quality remote education that mirrors in-school education can continue for pupils who are required to self-isolate, or if local restrictions were needed.
Last week, schools and colleges began receiving home testing kits, with more available to order, to use in exceptional circumstances, such as if an individual with symptoms can't access a test elsewhere.
NHS Test and Trace successfully reaches more than 80 percent of close contacts
The latest figures from the NHS Test and Trace service shows that there has been a 52 per cent rise in the number of people using the service since mid-June.
Where tests have proven positive, the ‘tracing’ service has now reached more than 272,000 people - around 81 per cent of the positive cases’ close contacts.
Almost 4 million people have been tested overall in the UK, mostly at in-person test sites, with results delivered the following day.
The highest case rates continue to be seen in the 15 to 44 year olds, and in the North and central regions of England.
Additional teams are now set up in those areas of high prevalence, and as a consequence Devon (which has a low rate of infection), is seeing some testing resource diverted to where there is higher demand.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health Devon, said:
“We are experiencing some problems with 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. This is a national issue. As a result, we are working hard to put additional local arrangements in place to boost our local testing availability until national testing capacity can be increased.
“If people have symptoms we urge them to continue to book a test as normal via the government website. If they are unable to book a slot then they can email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be contacted by someone who will help direct them to the nearest testing centre.
“People can check their symptoms via 111 online or calling 111.”
Community groups are still supporting people who need them
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. We’re very lucky in Devon to have so many local community groups and individuals who have stepped up to help people in their communities. People, especially those who were ‘shielding’ for weeks unable to leave the house, who otherwise would have struggled even more with things like shopping and picking up prescriptions.
In many towns and villages, those community groups are still there and working away to help local people. We’ve been in touch with a lot of them recently to check. They’re still doing amazing work.
So we still want to signpost people to them. Now, we’re adding them to our community directory site, called Pinpoint. That’s an online directory that includes all sorts of local groups you might be interested in, and you can use it to find any that are near you.
Here’s the link, with a filter added to help you find community groups near you.
Don’t forget, NHS Volunteer Responders will carry on delivering the groceries you buy and prescriptions if you need it. You can call them on 0808 196 3646 (8.00am to 8.00pm).
Most Devon libraries are now open to the public
Nearly all 50 of our libraries in Devon are now open for public access.
Almost all of the few that are not yet open are operating a choose and collect service to enable customers to choose their item(s) online and arrange to collect (them) at a specified time.
Our library service wish to thank you all for your patience and understanding. Staff are working hard in front and behind the scenes to get services running safely and efficiently.
For the full list of libraries that are open, visit our website.
Opening times will vary for each library and may change over future weeks, so do check opening times for your local library before you make your journey.
Convalescent plasma collected for major coronavirus treatment trial
The NHS (NHS Blood and Transplant) is asking people who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating their plasma, as it may contain vital antibodies which could help patients suffering from the virus.
Men are especially needed as donors because they are, according to experts, more likely to have the antibody rich plasma which can save lives.
It doesn't take long to donate, and your body usually replaces the plasma you've donated within a day or two. Your body also quickly replaces the antibodies.
If you have recovered from coronavirus and would like to know more about donating plasma, visit the website. You can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or by completing the online form to register your interest.
Three new UK-wide studies that bring together scientists from 17 research institutions will receive funding to understand immune responses to coronavirus.
It will include leading immunologists investigating:
- How long does immunity from coronavirus last?
- Why are some people's immune systems better able to fight off the virus?
- and does immunity to previous infection with seasonal coronaviruses (which cause the common cold) alter a person's response to this strain?
Better understanding could provide targets for new therapies to treat COVID-19 and inform the development of a vaccine.
New action cards available for business settings
There are new 'action cards' available to people who own, manage or are responsible for specific businesses.
The cards are designed to quickly help businesses to identify outbreaks within their organisation; know how to report it to their local health protection team; and work with the local health protection team to respond to it.
The action cards are designed to be printed or downloadable.
They're now available for the following work settings:
- Commercial workplaces
- Industrial workplaces
- Food and Drink
- Small and Large Gatherings
A recap on what we can and can’t do right now
For the latest list of the things we can and can't do right now, visit the Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions online.