Keep wearing masks plea in Devon

Devon’s public health director is advising people to carry on wearing masks after the lifting of Covid restrictions as “we are not yet out of the woods”.

From the Devon Covid dashboard, which contains cases up to 20 January, case rates appear to be rising in all age groups below 60 years. See below – Owl

Edward Oldfield 

Steve Brown said it was a “sensible precaution” in crowded and indoor spaces.

He was responding to the Government announcement of the end of Plan B Covid measures.

Working from home guidance has been lifted, and from Thursday, masks were no longer required in classrooms.

From Thursday, January 27, Covid passes will no longer be needed for entry to some venues, and the requirement for masks on public transport and in shops will end. The rules on self-isolation are expected to finish on March 24.

The Prime Minister said the change was possible as the Omicron wave had passed its peak and vaccinations had kept people out of hospital.

Mr Brown’s comments came as some Devon schools decided to keep mask-wearing in place due to the number of cases among pupils.

Mr Brown said that the number of positive tests was down, but case rates were still high and had risen in younger children.

He urged caution and said that the change was to revert back to Plan A measures, warning that people should stay alert to the risks.

According to the latest seven-day figures for Devon as a whole, Covid cases rates were highest in Torbay, with 1,101 per 100,000 population.

Plymouth was on 939, and the Devon County Council area saw an overall rate of 742 cases per 100,000 people, compared to the rate for England as a whole at 967.

Mr Brown, director of public health for Devon County Council, said: “Omicron is by no means a mild virus, and the symptoms to those who are unvaccinated or who have underlying health concerns can be extremely serious if not life threatening.

“So while the Prime Minister is indicating light towards the end of the tunnel, my advice is that we are not yet out of the woods.

“We must stay vigilant and alert to risk that is still around us.

“Being fully vaccinated, and boosted, gives us best protection from this virus. It’s not too late to start vaccinations, and there are now plenty of opportunities in Devon to get your booster jabs at walk-in and vaccination centres.

“Wearing face coverings is still an effective and sensible precaution to continue in indoor and crowded spaces, especially with people you don’t know.

“Regular lateral flow device testing for people with no symptoms is still the best way to identify those carrying the virus. As is taking a PCR test by people showing symptoms.

“Keeping indoor spaces ventilated is a sensible precaution to reduce risk.

“And staying at home and avoiding others if you have symptoms of the virus or test positive for it, is still the most responsible way to avoid spreading it to others.

“Please be cautious, let’s use our common sense, and continue to follow good basic public health advice.”

Mr Brown said more than 85 per cent of eligible people in Devon had received a booster jab.

But he said that take-up was lower in some younger groups and it was “imperative” they and everyone eligible came forward “as soon as they can”.

Confirmed case by age up to 20 January from the Covid dashboard: