Devon and Cornwall set for ‘enhanced response measures’ as Covid rates soar
(But do carry on with the pub crawl Simon)
Alex Green www.devonlive.com
Enhanced response measures are set to be put in place across the South West due to high rates of Covid-19.
As the August Bank Holiday – one of the South West’s busiest times – gets underway, due to high prevalence of the virus in the area, Devon and Cornwall are to receive ‘an enhanced response package’ – subject to sign-off by Number 10.
While no extra restrictions will be put in place, from Friday, measures will be rolled out which will help with support measures for education settings and increased national communications support, clearly outlining the continued risks of Covid-19 and the need to take personal action, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
The response will last for five weeks – but a review will be conducted at week four to determine whether the automatic roll off at week five is appropriate, or if there is a case for re-escalation of further measures.
A letter written by Nadine Dorries and sent to the regions MPs states that following discussions with officials in the relevant South West local authorities they will be identifying the appropriate interventions and will start deploying the enhanced response area measures.
And it states that while the Prime Minister has said we want the whole country to move out of and remain out of these restrictions together, they are trusting people to be responsible and to act with caution and common sense, as they have done throughout this pandemic, and to make decisions about how best to protect themselves and their loved ones, informed by the risks – with a warning that if it doesn’t happen, measures could be ‘re-escalated’.
For the week ending August 22, Cornwall has the highest infection rate in England, with West Devon 3rd, Teignbridge 4th, Torbay 5th, Mid Devon 6th, Torridge 7th, East Devon 9th, Exeter 10th, South Hams 11th, North Devon 12th and Plymouth 13th. Only Sedgemoor (2nd) and Mansfield (8th) are not in Devon and Cornwall.
Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: “What this basically means is our rates are the highest in the country, and as a result they are kicking in new measures, which is basically a response to those high rates of infection.
“It also allows more communications, community testing, and a bigger push on some the advice such as wearing face masks in schools for instance.”
He added: “This affects all of the South West, but especially the peninsula, because the peninsula has the highest rates. So that’s Devon and Cornwall, Plymouth, South Hams and all the districts.
“It’s partly a reflection on the fact that we’re a tourist destination, partly a reflection on the fact that we didn’t have high levels of Covid during the main outbreak, because we had lower levels, and so there’s less natural immunity built up by people having Covid.
“We do have a good take up of people having the vaccine, so three quarters of the population are fully vaccinate, and despite there being challenges about vaccinating young people, there’s still lots of capacity for young people to come forward and have their vaccine.
“This happens at the point of Bank Holiday weekend, so one of our most important tourist seasons, and I think many tourist businesses will be concerned about this announcement. From my point of view, I want to see everyone follow the guidance and look after themselves.
“Our rate is too high at the moment, and what we mustn’t do is allow the virus to continue to spread at this level, because that puts pressure on our NHS and we’ve already seen at Derriford how we’re effectively on Black Alert.
“It might not feel like the peaks of the pandemic previously, but that doesn’t mean our NHS professionals aren’t being worked into the ground at this moment, and I think it’s a good reminder to say to people ‘please keep yourself safe, please keep others safe, please make sure you’re testing yourself twice a week, make sure you’re getting the vaccine’.”
Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay, added: “Over recent weeks cases have increased in our bay and region, although thanks to the high levels of vaccination across our region the impact is being mitigated. These latest measures are a proportionate response to the situation, including their reminders of what we can all do to help protect our neighbours.”
Full letter from Nadine Dorries
A letter written by Nadine Dorries, and seen by Reach’s titles in Devon and Cornwall, reads: “I am writing to you to inform you of plans, to be announced today, to add all the following South West local authorities to a list of areas receiving an enhanced response package due to high prevalence of COVID -19 in the area: Torbay Council, Plymouth City Council, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Mid Devon District Council, North Devon District Council, South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council, Torridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council, Cornwall Council, Council of the Isles of Scilly.
“In response to Delta now being the dominant strain and the move to Step 4 of the Roadmap, we have reviewed our approach to enhanced response areas, with simplified short-term support to areas where case rates and wider indicators suggest we will see the greatest pressure on the NHS.
“These modifications to enhanced response packages took effect from the 19 July. Guidance regarding extra support deployed in areas receiving an enhanced response to Covid-19 can be found on gov.uk.
As of 18 August, case rates for all ages in the South West were 441 per 100,000 which is above the national case rate of 324 per 100,000. Case rates are increasing across the whole of the South West region with case rates in the 11-16 and 17-21 years age ranges seeing the greatest increases.
“As of 18 August, case rates in the South West for those aged 17-21 was the highest across the country at 1,878 per 100,000 and almost double the national figure of 878 per 100,000. With regards to vaccination, 76% of the total population has been fully vaccinated, receiving two doses.
“As a region, the South West has the highest case rates nationally, with only a handful of areas below the national average. The proposed UTLAs of Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and Isles of Scilly have some of the highest case rates rises above the national average.
“The 7-day case rate per 100,000 population increases for West Devon is 157%, for South Hams it is 122% and for Isles of Scilly it is 400%.
“The enhanced response area package will help with support measures for education settings and increased national communications support, clearly outlining the continued risks of Covid-19 and the need to take personal action, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
“Additionally, prioritised access to Wastewater testing, sequencing, national contact tracing capacity and national support with messaging will also be supported. I recognise the excellent work that Local Authorities have been doing, for a sustained period of time to manage the pandemic in their area. The enhanced response package is a short-term measure.
“Areas designated as enhanced response will automatically roll off after five weeks of receiving the enhanced support, a review will be conducted at week four to determine whether the automatic roll off at week five is appropriate, or if there is a case for re-escalation.
“Following discussions with officials in the relevant South West local authorities we will be identifying the appropriate interventions and will start deploying the enhanced response area measures from Friday 27 August 2021.
“As the Prime Minister has said we want the whole country to move out of and remain out of these restrictions together. We are trusting people to be responsible and to act with caution and common sense, as they have done throughout this pandemic, and to make decisions about how best to protect themselves and their loved ones, informed by the risks.
“I’m sure you will continue to reinforce that message locally and would like to again thank you and the efforts of residents locally.
“Thank you for your support in stopping the spread of COVID-19 – including concerning variants – to protect the NHS, and save lives.”