More on: Were we turning a corner when Boris hit the gas?

“The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed across Devon and Cornwall in the last week has reached record levels – but new infections are starting to fall.”

However, there will be a lag of a couple of weeks before we see what the impact of “July 19 Freedom Day” really is. Uncontrolled exponential growth is inherently dangerous. – Owl

Number of new Covid cases at record levels

Daniel Clark 

A total of 8,570 new cases were confirmed across the two counties for the second successive week – with the total since the start of the pandemic at 73,862– with some significant week-on-week rises.

It is the highest weekly total in terms of the number of new cases, up by around 25 per cent on last week’s total – but the number of new infections confirmed in the previous two days have both been significantly lower than the figure last week, showing early signs that the wave may have peaked.

While every single region saw a rise in the number of new cases, and infection rates are at record levels, the rise in the number of people in hospital was less steep and is significantly lower than the peak – and the number of deaths remains very low.

At the peak of the second wave, there were 403 patients in hospitals across Devon and Cornwall following a positive Covid-19 test, compared to the 72 at present.

And Plymouth hasn’t seen a death since March 1, while Devon saw one death this week on July 17, its first for two months, with three deaths in Cornwall.

Government stats show that 8,570 new cases have been confirmed across the region in the past seven days, to 6,560 new cases confirmed last week.

Since July 16, of the 8,570 new cases confirmed, 2322 were in Cornwall, 600 in East Devon, 549 in Exeter, 300 in Mid Devon, 497 in North Devon, 2192 in Plymouth, 338 in South Hams, 534 in Teignbridge, 891 in Torbay, 200 in Torridge and 147 in West Devon.

This compares to the 6560 cases confirmed between July 10-16, of which, 1589 were in Cornwall, with 491 in East Devon, 434 in Exeter, 275 in Mid Devon, 373 in North Devon, 1713 in Plymouth, 263 in South Hams, 479 in Teignbridge, 726 in Torbay, 125 in Torridge and 92 in West Devon.

Infection rates across Devon and Cornwall are highest in the 20-39s and then the 0-19s, followed by the 40-59s, 60-79s and 80+ in every region, and have risen in every region, but the infection rates for the over 80s in Devon and Torbay is lower this week than it was seven days ago, and by specimen date, no-one aged 80+ in West Devon has tested positive in the last week.

But despite the large spike in cases, and while there has been a rise of those going into hospital, the increase is not as large – although the numbers are growing.

The latest Government figures, which give the position as of Tuesday, July 20, show that across hospital trusts in the two counties, there are 72 patients currently in hospital in the two counties – up from 53.

Derriford Hospital has 23 patients – up from 15, with Exeter having 16, up from nine, Torbay 11, up from nine, and North Devon two, up from one, with seven patients in mechanical ventilation beds in Devon. In Cornwall, there were 20 patients in hospital, up one from 19 last week, with none in a mechanical ventilation bed.

The figures show how many patients are in hospital following a positive test for Covid-19, but not whether they were admitted for Covid-related reasons, whether they were infected inside the hospital, or whether their admission was entirely unrelated but they happened to have Covid at the same time.

In terms of the latest MSOA cluster maps, that cover the period of specimen dates between July 12-18, only the Isles of Scilly reported between 0-2 cases, with all 229 areas of Devon and Cornwall reporting three or more cases.

Millbay & Stonehouse, and Newquay East, both reported 120 cases, with Plymstock Hooe & Oreston seeing 117, St Budeaux 115, and Blatchcombe & Blagdon 102.

Braunton (98), Ham, Beacon Park & Pennycross (97), St Columb Minor & Porth (97), Derriford & Estover (93), Ford & Blockhouse Park (93), Cattedown & Prince Rock (92), Devonport, Mount Wise & Morice Town (91), Newquay West (91), and Chelston, Cockington & Livermead (90) also saw 90 or more cases.

Cranbrook, Broadclyst & Stoke Canon, and Exmouth Town (both 82), Pinhoe & Whipton North (72), Bradninch, Silverton & Thorverton (69), Woolwell & Lee Mill (40), Chudleigh & Bovey Tracey (56), Bideford South & East (52), and Tavistock (31) were the worst hit areas of the other districts respectively.

It comes as closing in on around 90 per cent of adults in Devon and Cornwall have had their first Covid-19 vaccine, with around seven per cent having had both doses.

Of the adult population, 85.5% in Cornwall, 89.2% in East Devon, 77.1% in Exeter, 88.1% in Mid Devon, 86.5% in North Devon, 82% in Plymouth, 87.3% in South Hams, 88.5% in Teignbridge, 84.7% in Torbay, 88.3% in Torridge, and 89% in West Devon, have had one dose.

And of the adult population, 69.6% in Cornwall, 74.2% in East Devon, 55.1% in Exeter, 71.4% in Mid Devon, 70.3% in North Devon, 62.6% in Plymouth, 72.2% in South Hams, 74.2% in Teignbridge, 71.7% in Torbay, 73.9% in Torridge and 76.6% in West Devon, have had a second dose.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon is urging residents to keep doing their bit to reduce the spread of coronavirus in Devon and to continue looking out for each other, particularly the most vulnerable, as we have done throughout the pandemic.

He said: “With most legal COVID-19 restrictions lifting this week, I want to say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone in Devon for all they have done so far to keep each other safe.

“I want us to continue to be careful because positive cases in Devon are still rising, in fact at the moment we’ve got the highest rate of COVID-19 we’ve seen during the whole pandemic.

“While most people who catch COVID aren’t becoming seriously ill, due to the vaccination programme, there are some who do need medical care and unfortunately we are seeing hospital admission rise. There are plenty of people feeling the disruption of having to self-isolate with COVID-19 or because they have been identified as a close contact of a positive case.

“Over 38,000 people in Devon were identified as being Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and asked to shield from coronavirus. Many spent several months with little if any interaction outside of their households.

“And now as restrictions lift, these vulnerable people are once again being advised by the government about extra steps they may wish to take to protect themselves, such as making sure they have both does of a COVID-19 vaccine, meeting friends and family outside if possible and visiting shops and pharmacies at quieter times of day.

“But I strongly feel that it is up to all of us to carry on doing everything we can to continue keeping each other safe.

“Many people, particularly if they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, have dreaded the day legal restrictions lift for fear of catching coronavirus. I understand that you’re in a difficult position, and you may be feeling worried about the current situation.

“Although the legal restrictions have lifted, our responsibility to members of our family, friends and society has not changed. I urge everyone in Devon to choose to do the right thing and keep doing your bit to reduce the spread of coronavirus by respecting the personal space of those around you, wearing a face covering in crowded areas, getting tested regularly, having both doses of the vaccine and washing your hands properly.

“We have been good at looking out for each other and helping those in need so we need to respect those of us who will still be feeling anxious and behave in ways that protect them and ourselves from the risk of coronavirus.”

[Detailed data in online article]