COVID-19: Cases continue to fall across Devon, although Axminster sees an increase

  Posted: 28.09.21 at 10:32 by Local Democracy Reporters Ollie Hepinstall and Joe Ives

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COVID-19 figures continue to fall throughout most of Devon and remain well below the national average.

In the week up to Sunday, September 19, the average rate of infection across all of Devon’s council areas was 265 per 100,000 people, down from 295 the week before.

In the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, the most recent stats show an infection rate of 233 per 100,000 – a fall of 20 from the previous week.

In contrast, the average infection rate across the country is 313 per 100,000 of the population. However, this too has dropped from 337 the previous week.

The only council areas to report a rise in cases in the county were East Devon and West Devon.

The former recorded 356 cases, 14 or four per cent more than the previous week. The infection rate in East Devon is now 240 per 100,000 people.

West Devon’s cases spiked, with 152 new infections, 42 or 38 per cent more than the previous week. The case rate in the district is now 271 per 100,000 of the population.

Mid Devon now has the lowest infection rate in the county, with 168 per 100,000 of the population infected. Cases in the district dropped by almost a third (30 per cent) – 55 cases – in the most recent weekly data. The area recorded 152 new cases.

Plymouth registered 747 new cases, 77 or nine per cent fewer than in the previous week. The rate of infection in the city is now 284 per 100,000 of the population.

It was a similar picture in Torbay; its 392 new cases (288 per 100,000 of the population) is a nine per cent drop on the previous week. 

High infection rates in August meant both Devon and Cornwall were given extra support, called ‘enhanced status’, for five weeks. This meant extra testing and measures such as making children at secondary school or college continuing to have to wear face coverings in communal areas. 

However, it was announced this week that special measures to combat rising numbers of COVID cases in Devon are unlikely to be extended. 

Devon County Council’s director of public health Steve Brown said it was unlikely the county’s status as a coronavirus enhanced response area would continue into October.

Nevertheless, fears remain that cases could rise this winter, with the potential of some restrictions being reimposed.

Coronavirus in Devon schools

There are also concerns that the current policy on dealing with COVID in schools is “rather confusing”, according to Mr Brown.

Whereas last year classes were taught in bubbles, during the summer the government changed the policy to try to keep more children in school.

Students who test positive still need to isolate for 10 days at home, but schools no longer need to send away whole year groups because of a single case.

Recent changes also mean under 18s don’t need to self-isolate if they are a contact of anyone testing positive, but they are advised to get a PCR test.

Mr Brown told members of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board that the current policy is if there are five or more ‘linked’ cases or 10 per cent of positive cases in pupils or staff, then it will be declared as ‘higher risk’ and defined as an outbreak.

He said the policy was “probably set in the summer before we saw those significant rises in cases” and has asked for it to be reviewed”.

“It is a capacity challenge, not just for schools but also for us in local public health teams and also some confusion for their parents as well,” he added.

Close contacts are now being identified through NHS Test and Trace, meaning education settings are no longer expected to undertake contact tracing.

But in order to work out if any cases are linked, Mr Brown said a school “inevitably has to do a little bit of contact tracing”.

“There has been some confusion and some challenges in the system,” he continued.

“We’ve escalated this through to our regional colleagues which has been escalated nationally.

“I think it would be fair to say, operationally within the schools, some of the parents are finding it rather challenging because they’ve been used to a routine over the last 12 months or so, where if there’s a positive case in their daughter or son’s class, then they isolate for ten days.”

Mr Brown said there were some examples where two or three positive cases in a class had led to some concerned parents choosing to keep children at home, even though they no longer have to isolate, but others were happy for children to go to school.

The virtual meeting was told of an increase in infections in educational settings in the past seven days, which was being replicated across the country, with them accounting for bout 700 positive cases out of the near 2,000 in the Devon County Council area.

Hospitalisations

The decline in infection rates in Devon has continued to translate into a reduction in people being admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

The latest figures, up to September 21, show that there were 98 people are in hospitals across Devon as a result of COVID-19 – 30 fewer than the previous week.

Of these, 12 patients were at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, 28 at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, 16 in Torbay and 12 at North Devon District Hospital.

Ten of the patients are on mechanical ventilation beds, down from 14.

Deaths

Deaths have fallen in Devon in the most recent seven-day period, up to and including September 19.

Fifteen people died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, 14 fewer than the previous week.

Eleven people died in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay.  

In Plymouth, three people lost their lives with COVID, whilst one death was recorded in Torbay.

The total number of people in Devon who have died of coronavirus since the pandemic began is now 1,198.

Vaccinations

Eighty-seven per cent of people aged 16 and above have had their first dose of a vaccine in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, with 82 per cent receiving both doses.

In Plymouth, 84 percent have had one dose, while 77 per cent have had both.

In Torbay, 86 per cent have received one dose, while 79 per cent have had both jabs.

This means that vaccination rates in Devon are slightly behind the rest of the UK. 

Ninety per cent of people aged 16 and above have had one dose, while 82 per cent have had both jabs.

The UK’s vaccination drive will continue this autumn winter as the NHS starts rolling out booster shots to the over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers.

Coronavirus cases in the Axminster area

The decrease in coronavirus cases across Devon has not been reflected in figures for the Axminster area, with the latest date showing another increase.

In the seven-day period up until September 22, there were 26 cases in the Axminster area, an increase of 16 on the previous week.

This means the case rate per 100,000 people was 273.6 – still below the national average of 313.

The figures for neighbouring areas up until September 22 were as follows:

Seaton – 9 (decrease of 4)

Kilmington, Colyton & Uplyme – 4 (decrease of 1)

Lyme Regis, Charmouth & Marshwood Vale – 18 (decrease of 3)

Sidbury, Offwell & Beer – 7 (decrease of 6)

Sidmouth Town – 7 (no change)

Sidmouth Sidford – 11 (increase of 3)

Ottery St Mary & West Hill – 49 (increase of 16)

Honiton South & West – 16 (increase of 1)

Honiton North & East – 9 (increase of 1)

Dunkeswell, Upottery & Stockland – 6 (decrease of 4)

Chard West – 11 (decrease of 3)

Chard North & East – 9 (decrease of 5)

Tatworth & Combe St Nicholas – 17 (decrease of 1)

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