The epidemic and care homes in East Devon

The epidemic hit some local care homes badly after developing in East Devon in March – but the lockdown stopped a wider spread. 

The epidemic hit some local care homes badly after developing in East Devon in March – but the lockdown stopped a wider spread.

 From Seaton Matters Posted on April 29, 2020

I am now in a position to report further on the Covid situation in care homes and the local community.

Outbreaks occurred in several care homes in Seaton and surrounding towns at the end of March/beginning of April, reflecting people having become infected earlier in March before the lockdown was imposed. From one home, 8 residents have died and a care worker is in hospital, after a majority of residents and many staff become infected, despite measures being taken to try to protect people and support from the Devon care system.

(The national graph above shows the drastic acceleration of deaths in care homes in the first two weeks of April; most ‘other excess deaths’ are probably Covid-related but not recorded as Covid.)

A conversation with a major local employer about the fluctuating level of absenteeism due to Covid-19 suggests that the epidemic was getting quite significant in the Axe Valley by the beginning of April, reflecting the same timescale. Today, illness-based absenteeism of those still in work is much lower, suggesting that social distancing has blocked off the spread of the virus. The care home outbreaks are more under control, and many other local homes appear to have escaped infection.

Imported from Italy in late February?

The spread of the disease in East Devon seems therefore to have come just a couple of weeks after the rapid growth of the epidemic in London. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the school half-term break in February could have been significant in starting community transmission, especially as some families and school groups returned from trips to Italy. At the time, no one was tested or asked to self-quarantine, although returnees from Wuhan had earlier been forced to undergo quarantine for 14 days.

So – the lockdown has worked, is working – but it came too late for some people in our community.


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