Be ‘adult’ about who you mix with

Torbay health boss advises caution

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter 

Torbay’s health boss wants residents to take an “adult,” risk-based approach to social activities as covid cases rise across the Bay.

Latest complete figures (the week to Sunday 5 December) show covid infection rates across Devon have risen for the fourth week in a row with all parts of the county having an infection rate higher than the UK average.

Torbay recorded 934 new cases, up 57 on the previous week. The seven per cent rise takes the infection rate in the Bay to 686 per 100,000 of the population – almost 30 per cent higher than the national average of 496.

With the rising cases and concerns over the new Omicron variant, Torbay’s director of public health Lincoln Sargeant advises residents to take precautions when meeting other people. 

He said: “I think rather than saying ‘don’t’ I think it’s a matter of people working through what kind of activity is it? How many people are involved? Are there any vulnerable people that are there? And based on those kind of questions, decide whether you should go ahead or not and if you’re going ahead [think about] how you’re going to make it as safe as possible – is there an option to meet outdoors for example? 

“As a standard, any meetings that we’re going to with people who are not in our household or general social circles that we’re already interacting with we should lateral flow tests done as a minimum, so I would say it’s more of people thinking about the measures they can take and how they can mitigate risk rather than saying ‘this’ or ‘that’ activity shouldn’t go ahead.

“Let’s be responsible and adult, and look at our activities, do the relevant risk assessments and act accordingly.”

Dr Sargeant will change his advice if infections start rising in the over sixties. He said that although this age group tends to be more prudent than younger ages, he will be keeping a careful eye on hospital admissions, especially as family groups of different generations meet up over Christmas.

He said: “The kinds of triggers to change the advice would be if we suddenly saw a spike in [hospital] admissions and if we began to see the over sixties’ rate of infection beginning to ratchet up. Then it might be a situation of saying we might want to tighten up on our advice and restrictions.”

Leader of Torbay council Steve Darling (Liberal Democrats, Barton with Watcombe) added: “The buck does stop with the government. It’s they who give the national guidance.”

More than five cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in Devon. This more transmissible form of the disease is expected to overtake Delta to become the dominant form of covid.

Health officials are encouraging eligible members of the public to take up ‘’booster’ shots when offered. Vaccination drives are expected in the Bay in the new year.

In Torbay, 85 per cent of residents aged 12 or over have received one dose of a covid vaccine, while 79 per cent have had both jabs. Forty-six per cent have had their third vaccine.

Across Devon, 1,372 people have now died within 28 days of a positive covid test. A total of 206 of these deaths were in Torbay.

People aged 30 and over can now book their booster jab two months after their second dose, a month before becoming eligible to receive the third injection.