Covid ‘clusters’ in every part of East Devon & Exeter – but new cases drop

The number of new Covid-19 cases across East Devon and Exeter has dropped in a week – but ‘clusters’ of the virus remain in every ward of both areas.

Evidence now indicates that during the first Tier system, introduced on 14 October, infections continued to rise in many Tier 1 regions. Infections in these regions, including ours, only turned around under the harder restrictions of Lockdown 2. Under the new Tier system, Tiers 2 and 3 have been beefed up but Tier 1 has been left unchanged. – Owl

[Previous post gives latest on National picture]

East Devon Reporter 

Government figures show a further 180 infections have been confirmed across the district in the last seven days, and 141 in the city.

The new cases recorded in East Devon represent a decrease of 64 when compared to the previous week.

Exeter’s number is a decrease of 79.

All 20 wards in East Devon – spanning Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, and Cranbrook – currently have three or more coronavirus infections.

The district’s highest numbers are currently in Budleigh Salterton (22 cases), Ottery and West Hill (20), and Exmouth Town (18).

And the same can be said for Exeter’s 15 wards – with the biggest ‘clusters’ in Wonford and St Loye’s (20 cases), Heavitree West and Polsloe (18), and Middlemoor and Sowton (17).

Week-on-week, the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases across Devon and Cornwall has nearly halved – with figures falling everywhere.

As of yesterday afternoon (Friday, November 27), government statistics showed that 1,266 new Covid cases had been confirmed in the last week across Devon and Cornwall.

That is compared to compared to 2,367 cases in the previous seven days.

Clusters across district and city

Twenty ‘clusters’ – where three or more Covid cases have been confirmed – have been identified in East Devon:

  • Budleigh Salterton (22 cases);
  • Ottery St Mary and West Hill (20);
  • Exmouth Town (18);
  • Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh (16);
  • Sidmouth Sidford (14);
  • Exmouth Halsdon (13);
  • Cranbrook, Broadclyst and Stoke Canon (12);
  • Honiton South and West (nine);
  • Exmouth Brixington (nine);
  • Clyst, Exton and Lympstone (eight);
  • Exmouth Littleham (six);
  • Axminster (six);
  • Newton Poppleford, Otterton and Woodbury (six);
  • Sidbury, Offwell and Beer (six);
  • Honiton North and East (five);
  • Seaton (five);
  • Feniton and Whimple (four);
  • Dunkeswell, Upottery and Stockland (four);
  • Kilmington, Colyton and Uplyme (four);
  • Sidmouth Town (three).

The ‘clusters’ data, last updated this afternoon (Saturday, November 28), is based on a rolling rate of new cases by specimen date ending on November 23.

‘Clusters’ remain in all of Exeter’s 15 wards:

  • Wonford and St Loye’s (20 cases);
  • Heavitree West and Polsloe (18);
  • Middlemoor and Sowton (17);
  • Mincinglake and Beacon Heath (12);
  • Pennsylvania and University (11);
  • Exwick and Foxhayes (ten);
  • St Leonard’s (nine);
  • Alphington and Marsh Barton (nine);
  • Countess Wear and Topsham (nine);
  • Heavitree East and Whipton South (nine);
  • Pinhoe and Whipton North (eight);
  • St Thomas West (seven);
  • St James Park and Hoopern (six);
  • St Thomas East (six);
  • Central Exeter (six).

New cases across Devon and specimen dates

Of the 1,266 new cases confirmed in Devon and Cornwall since November 20 up to yesterday afternoon (Friday, November 27), 141 were in East Devon and 220 in Exeter.

There were 59 cases in Mid Devon, 104 in North Devon, 231 in Plymouth, 33 in the South Hams, 73 in Teignbridge, 119 in Torbay, 51 in Torridge and 43 in West Devon.

Cornwall recorded 232 cases.

Of the 1,266 new cases, 970 had a specimen date between November 20 – 26, with 152 of these in East Devon and 101 in Exeter.

There were 40 in Mid Devon, 84 in North Devon, 179 in Plymouth, 25 in South Hams, 62 in Teignbridge, 86 in Torbay, 42 in Torridge and 28 in West Devon.

Cornwall had 171 cases.

Hospital admissions

The number of people in hospital in the South West has in the last seven days has fallen from 942 to 938.

There are currently 67 patients in mechanical ventilation beds, up from 65 last Friday.

The number of patients in hospital across Devon and Cornwall following a positive Covid-19 test has risen since last week – but only just.

NHS England figures show that, as of Tuesday morning (November 24), there 272 patients across both counties compared to 265 on November 17.

There were 128 people in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (up from 106), 53 in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth (down from 90), and 35 in Torbay Hospital (down from 39), 29 in North Devon District Hospital (up from 18).

There were 16 patients in mechanical ventilation beds (down from 19); five at the RD&E, five at North Devon District Hospital, one in Torbay Hospital, and ten at Derriford Hospital.

In the last week, there 21 deaths within hospitals in Devon and Cornwall within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 death.

Nine of these were in Exeter, two in Torbay, six in Plymouth, three in North Devon, and one in Cornwall.

Tier 2 is ‘best chance’

Devon’s director of public health Steve Brown said this week that Tier 2 restriction will give the county ‘the best chance’ to see cases continue to fall.

He added: “When we were in Tier 1, prior to the current national restrictions, we saw continued rising cases.

“It’s only been recently, as a result of the national lockdown, that we have seen those cases plateau and ultimately start to fall.

“Devon going into Tier 2 is the best chance for us to continue to see those cases fall.”

Covid infections in England fall by 30% over lockdown – React study

Coronavirus infections in England have fallen by about a third over lockdown, according to a major study.

[Next post gives latest information on local infections – Owl]

By Rachel Schraer 

Some of the worst-hit areas saw the biggest improvements – but, despite this progress, cases remained high across England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the data showed the country could not “take our foot off the pedal just yet”.

The findings by Imperial College London were based on swabbing more than 100,000 people between 13-24 November.

The React-1 study is highly respected and gives us the most up-to-date picture of Covid-19 in the country.

Its researchers estimated the virus’s reproduction (R) rate had fallen to 0.88. That means on average every infection translated to less than one other new infection, so the epidemic is shrinking.

Run alongside pollster Ipsos MORI, the Imperial study involved testing a random sample of people for coronavirus, whether or not they had symptoms.

The results of these tests suggested a 30% fall in infections between the last study and the period of 13-24 November.

Before that, cases were accelerating – doubling every nine days when the study last reported at the end of October.

Now cases are coming down, but more slowly than they shot up – halving roughly every 37 days.

In the North West and North East, though – regions with some of the highest numbers of cases – infections fell by more than half.

The findings suggest cases are now highest in the East Midlands and West Midlands.

Lockdown came into force across England on 5 November but national data, based on people with symptoms, suggests there was a spike in cases in the week after.

This was put down to pre-lockdown socialising, since it takes five days on average after catching the infection for it to be detectable by a test.

R was last below 1 on the 14 August

R was last below 1 on the 14 August

Despite clear improvements, overall cases remain high.

An estimated one in 100 people have coronavirus – double the rate in September when infections began to rise.

The study also found certain groups had a higher chance of testing positive over this period:

  • People of Asian ethnicity
  • People living in the most deprived neighbourhoods
  • People living in the largest households
  • Roughly 96 people in every 10,000 had coronavirus, down from 132 per 10,000 just before lockdown
  • There were about 72,000 new infections a day, compared with 100,000 at the end of October

Prof Paul Elliott, who leads the study, said the data offered “encouraging signs” for England’s epidemic.

“These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in [the worst-affected areas] and that lockdown has added to this effect.

But he said: “As we approach a challenging time of year, it’s even more vital that through our actions and behaviours we all play our part in helping to keep the virus at bay.”

‘Moving in the right direction’

Prof Kevin McConway, a statistics professor at the Open University, urged caution over the figures.

He said: “Things have started moving in the right direction again, but we’re by no means in the position we were at the end of the summer, or even the start of the summer. We can’t stop taking great care yet by any means.”

The government suggested England’s new tier system, coming into force on Wednesday, would be “crucial” to keeping infections falling.

The three-tier system is tougher than the similar one in place before 5 November, under which cases continued to rise.

It will see regions placed in one of three tiers: medium, high and very high.

In total, 99% of England will enter the highest two tiers, with tight restrictions on bars and restaurants and a ban on households mixing indoors. Only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly will be in the lowest tier.

Elsewhere in the UK, Northern Ireland has begun a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown, while in Scotland each area has been placed in one of five tiers.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said pubs, restaurants and bars will be subject to stricter restrictions – which are not yet finalised – in the run-up to Christmas. They will come into force from Friday, 4 December.

These findings of the React-1 study are interim, meaning they still need to be reviewed.

Call for govt help to cover East Devon recycling contractor’s extra costs

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is to ask central government for help meeting the extra costs its recycling contractor has incurred during the coronavirus crisis.

Daniel Clark 

The authority’s cabinet was informed that Suez had been impacted by lockdown and residents having to stay at home, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

A meeting on Wednesday heard that a big increase in the volume of rubbish left for kerbside collections was compounded by the loss of key frontline staff through shielding and self-isolation.

“None of this had been planned or budgeted for and the service was working outside of normal contract arrangements,” councillors were told.

Members agreed to consider an extraordinary additional claim submitted by Suez for costs incurred in responding to the pandemic conditions.

A further report will detail the exact amount the contractor is asking for.

But councillors also resolved to lobby MPs for support from central government to help cover the costs.

EDDC’s strategic lead for finance Simon Davey said that the cabinet would need to know the amount of money involved and that officers are currently seeking legal advice around contracts

Councillor Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, said: “This is a large amount of money, but they have had to do far beyond their own contract to cover what they have been having to do since March.”

Cllr John Loudoun added: “If there are extra costs identified, then we should ask our MPs to lobby for some or preferably all of the extra costs identified.”

Cllr Philip Skinner said this was a very sensible suggestion and one his Conservative opposition group would support.

He said: “We need to put party politics to one side as this is something never come across before, so we need to make sure the financial position we are in is as sound as can be.”

Cabinet heard that Suez had submitted a claim for reimbursement of additional costs that had arisen through operating in pandemic conditions.

These included itemised details of additional labour, vehicles and fuel during the peak lockdown period.

As the costs had arisen through a response to ‘extraordinary and unforeseeable’ circumstances, they were not budgeted for, the meeting heard.

Councillors were told route changes that had also taken place had also ‘blurred the lines’ between operational costs and Covid costs.

It was added that there was likely to be an additional increase in cardboard with more people online shopping for Christmas.

‘Tipping point’ negotiations are now set to begin with Suez over collection tonnages to establish what are and are not Covid 19 costs.