Tuesday 2 June 2020 As the strict lockdown measures introduced back in March begin to ease further, we face new challenges in trying to get life back to some sort of normal. Our schools are starting the slow process of getting some children back to the classroom to learn this week and people who were told they are clinically extremely vulnerable can enjoy some time outside their homes so long as they are careful and follow the guidance.
While these steps will bring relief to many of us and signal a step in the right direction, please remember the threat remains and we must not be complacent. We're being given some flexibility, but we still need to think twice about our visits out, our travel plans, and the impact that we have on others while we're out. Please continue to be considerate of others, stay two metres away from anyone you don't live with, and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get back home.
As we get used to the changes in restrictions, we need to remember those in our communities who still need our help and support. This week is National Volunteer Week, so we’re making a noise about the thousands of people in Devon who during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lent a hand to help other people. It’s this community spirit that’s got us through the last few months, and will continue to help us as we start on our road to recovery.
In this update:
- Children gradually returning to school in Devon
- Restrictions relaxed for people considered extremely clinically vulnerable
- Free business toolkit
- Recycling centre restrictions eased further
- New advice about accessing green spaces safely
- Getting around and travelling safely
- We celebrate National Volunteer Week
- Help is available from your local district council
- NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter update
Children gradually returning to school
Around 40 per cent of families took up the offer of classes for their children in Devon's primary schools this week.
Across the county, 185 schools offered parents wider access to classes in Reception, Year 1 or Year 6 on Tuesday.
Significantly more children were in school today, than yesterday. More schools are planning staged openings over the coming week.
Schools are also experiencing a big increase in the children of key workers attending classes since half-term - nearly a third up on last month.
"This is the start of a slow process of children going back to school," said our Cabinet Member for schools.
Restrictions relaxed for people who are shielding
This week, the 2.2 million people shielding in England - people considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable - have been told they can now safely spend time outdoors.
The strong advice is still to stay at home as much as possible and keep visits outside to a minimum - for instance once a day.
But if you are shielding and you do need to go out, then you can go outside with members of your household, so long as you all follow social distancing guidelines.
If you live alone, you can meet outside with one other person from another household, again with the same precautions. Ideally, that'd be the same person each time.
Outdoors is OK, but not in other buildings, households or enclosed spaces. Please wash your hands regularly, maintain social distance and avoid gatherings of any size.
Further information on schools and the workplace for those living in households where people are shielding is available online.
Toolkit to help Devon’s businesses reopen launches
From 15th June 'non-essential' businesses can reopen, but they will have to do so within the current guidelines.
Better Business for All is a partnership of local authorities, businesses, regulators and Trading Standards services. They've created a single and FREE resource to provide guidance and advice to businesses.
It includes information to help businesses understand what their regulatory and legal responsibilities are and what they need to do to re-start their business safely.
It answers basic questions such as 'can I reopen?' and 'how do I reopen safely' as well as providing travel advice for employees and visitors. It also contains information and guidance about personal protective equipment and hygiene.
The toolkit is available online
For the latest COVID-19 support and guidance for businesses, and information on Government schemes, please visit the Growth Hub website.
Vehicle restrictions at recycling centres eased
The next phase of reopening our Household Waste Recycling Centres starts this week.
Visitors driving van-based people carriers with seats in the back; pick-ups without trailers and cyclists including those with cycle-towed trailers, will now be able to use our recycling centres.
Cars with trailers are also allowed access, except right now in Sidmouth, Totnes and South Molton. That's because these three sites have limited capacity to accommodate trailers, and they'd cause congestion.
Our health protection measures are still in place, including a one-in one-out policy and two-metre social distancing guidelines; and our sites are still really busy. If queues become too long, you may be asked to return later.
New advice about accessing green spaces safely
The advice about being outside and accessing green spaces changed again recently. Here's a reminder of the current guidance.
In England, you can leave your home to exercise and spend time outdoors for recreation with members of your household, or in groups of up to six people from outside your household.
The Government has published a list of things you can do while out - the sorts of activities you can do, the sorts of places you can go.
There are no restrictions on how far you can travel to get to the countryside. But you can't stay overnight. Campsites and caravan parks are still closed, and you can't stay in a holiday or second home.
If you're out, (and remember the advice is still to stay home as much as possible), please:
- Remember that your actions can affect other people's lives and livelihood
- Respect the measures that local authorities and site management have put in place to help ensure social distancing
- Check if facilities such as car parks are open to visitors, before travelling
- Park responsibly - don't park on verges or block gates, or park in restricted parking places, because it blocks access for others, including emergency vehicles
Getting around and travelling safely
The government's advice is still to remain at home as much as possible and work from home if you can.
If you have to travel, to school or to work for example, and you do not have any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), there is guidance to help you travel safely during this outbreak.
It includes guidance for walking, cycling, using private vehicles and travelling by taxis and public transport.
The advice is to avoid using public transport where possible, (leave that for people who don't have options), and instead to walk, cycle or drive for the time being.
If your travel is necessary, think about the times, the routes and ways you travel that will give you more space for social distancing.
Information and advice about safer travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is available online.
Bike Month will help ‘get Devon moving again’
Part of the challenge in getting back to normal is trying to do so without automatically resuming old habits. It's an opportunity - let's put it that way.
It’s Bike Month now, so we're working with Love to Ride Devon to help as many people as possible to get on their bikes.
It's good for our daily exercise and is a great way to travel while maintaining social distancing and avoiding congestion.
Anyone over 16 can sign up, and there's chances to win prizes, track your mileages, earn badges and more.
To take part, log in or register on the Love to Ride Devon website, or by using a cycling app such as Strava.
This week is National Volunteer Week
We’re marking it by celebrating new Volunteer Champions each day on our social media channels, showing how ordinary people are doing good deeds, kind acts, and generally being lovely people helping others during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We've got 12 really good volunteering examples that we’re posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
For more information about volunteering, please visit our website.
Keep your cool while it's hot outside
The weather outside has been hot recently, which is pleasant for some, less so for others and less good still for some people for whom high temperatures can be harmful to their health.
Many people who are at risk of harm from heat are also at greater risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, and these are people currently spending lots, if not all of their time, at home.
So while it's hot outside, please try to keep the temperature inside cool.
Here is some advice about why it's important to keep your home cool, and how to do it.
Also, please think about your neighbours, family or friends who are living on their own or who are unable to care for themselves. Make sure that they are also able to keep cool when it's hot outside.
Don't worry, help is at hand
If you're feeling isolated, struggling to get help and support, or are in financial difficulty as a result of coronavirus then you can contact your local district council.
You can also call them to raise concerns about someone in your community who you think needs help.
Visit devon.cc/help for your local district council helpline. Together #WeAreDevon
Open letter from Vicky Ford MP
Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, has written an open letter to all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their parents/carers and families, and others who support them. You can read it on the Devon Children and Families Partnership website.
NHS Nightingale Exeter update
Work to build the latest NHS Nightingale hospital began in early May with the hospital expected to be able to take its first patients from the end of June.
Andy Witnall, leading the project from BAM Construction, talks about progress made as it passed Day 15 of the build.
More than 100 people have joined as “staff in waiting” in just a couple of weeks. All have been recruited to a staff bank so that if the need arises, they can be re-deployed to work at the Nightingale hospital. You can keep up to date with #TeamNightingale by following them on Twitter or visiting the NHS Nightingale Exeter website.