Holidaymakers urged to get Covid test before visiting Devon

A report last night pointed out that the Covid infection rates in the whole of Cornwall and in parts of Devon are now higher than some “red” list countries! – Owl

Holidaymakers visiting the English Riviera are being urged to take a lateral flow test before they arrive as ‘Covid-19 has not gone on holiday’.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

While visitors to Torbay and Devon are being welcomed by tourist boards, local authorities, and public health teams, a request has been made to make sure that anyone taking a trip doesn’t bring Covid-19 with them.

Rates in Devon are among the very highest in England, with all ten districts inside the top 14 of the 315 lower tier local authority areas, and neighbouring Cornwall at the very top of the list.

Mike Wade, Deputy Regional Director and NHS Regional Director of Public Health from Public Health England South West, told a media briefing on Wednesday that ‘Covid-19 has not gone on holiday’ and anyone with symptoms should be staying at home and getting tested.

And a spokesman to Torbay Council confirmed that they were joining other authorities who had asked anyone visiting the region to take a lateral flow test before doing so.

They said: “We welcome holidaymakers back into Torbay this summer and need everyone to play their part in keeping the area safe for us all.

“We urge everyone to get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. If potential visitors develop symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 or are a close contact of a confirmed case we advise them not to travel until they have a negative PCR test. As with Torbay residents, we recommend visitors take twice weekly lateral flow (LFD) tests and do a test before travelling.

“Everyone is urged to wear a face covering in enclosed and crowded places, and to respect requests by business owners to do so. Please make space and check in with the Covid-19 app when visiting venues.

“Visitors can find information on where to collect LFD tests while visiting or book a PCR test if they develop symptoms or are identified as a close contact of a positive case, on our website at www.torbay.gov.uk/coronavirus.”

The Cornish tourist board had already asked holidaymakers not to visit without taking a Covid test, amid a rise in cases in the county.

Chief executive of Visit Cornwall Malcolm Bell told the PA news agency: “We are asking people not to come unless they have booked ahead and request they take a lateral flow test before, during and after (their) stay so that (people) can be safe and help us to manage the current spike.”

At the briefing, Mr Wade added: “Covid-19 has not gone on holiday and with a bank holiday and day-trippers, they need to protect themselves and others from Covid-19. Visitors should take a Lateral Flow Test before setting off, and if you have symptoms, you should be staying home and not travelling and close contacts should be encouraged to get a PCR test.

“Visitors should avoid queuing and pre-booking ahead for the activities that they want to do and pre-planning is important. We want visitors to know what to do if they become ill – where to get a PCR test, where they can self-isolate, or how to get home safely if they need to – and to wear face masks in busy indoor settings and to meet people outdoors if possible.”

He added that there had been a large influx of people to the region – ‘more than we expect to see in a normal season’ – and that people were opting to come to the South West rather than going overseas, and that rates were high in popular holiday destinations as a result of the mix of susceptible population and visitors driving up the rates.

And he said that it might not be for a further few weeks and when the holiday season is over before the high rates begin to reduce back down.

He added: “There will be a lag from when we start to see the impact and move out of the seasonal swell. We will see a slow down before a plateau, but then will probably see another spike as the young people take LFTs before going back to school, as rates are high in the 15-19s at the moment.

“We will see some turbulence but hopefully come mid-September we will start to see a stronger decline, but it is so hard to predict at the moment.”

Devon County Council added that they have throughout the summer months run a targeted social media campaign aimed at visitors/holidaymakers travelling into the county.

A spokesman added: “Those messages talk about the importance of taking regular lateral flow tests if asymptomatic (and point to our website for details of how and where they’re available), as well as the importance of wearing face coverings when indoors in public places; meeting outside where possible; and washing hands regularly.

“We’ve considered the impact of our messaging, and have not gone so far as to request holiday makers to take lateral flow tests before they come to Devon.”

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, added: “We’re now seeing case rates rising again nationally. There are regional fluctuations, but the highest case rates are here in the South West.

“What we’re seeing now is not unexpected – with the removal of most restrictions and the opening up of opportunities for socialisation, positive cases are going to rise. Case rates are similarly high in other parts of the country that are popular to visit and where there’s a lot of socialisation, such as Blackpool, Isle of White, Bournemouth and Brighton.

“We should do everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission, to protect ourselves, our friends and families, but while people are not becoming as ill with the virus as they were, it’s a case of continuing to monitor the situation closely, and to be able to act quickly in response to any outbreaks of concern.”

It comes as all 10 areas of Devon have infection rates within the top 14 nationally at a lower tier authority level.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has England’s highest infection rate for the seven-day period up until August 20.

Sedgemoor sits second, with West Devon 3rd, Teignbridge 4th, Torbay 5th, South Hams 6th, Mid Devon 8th, East Devon 9th, Exeter 10th, Torridge 11th, North Devon 13th and Plymouth 14th.

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