First Devon covid death for three weeks

Virginia Pearson, Devon director of public health

And people coming home from holiday to blame for spike in cases

The first coronavirus death in Devon for three weeks has been revealed by the Office for Nartional Statistics on Wednesday. The victim, from East Devon, died in hospital

It come as Devon’s director of public health says a spike in cases in the county – which has seen the number of positive results more than triple in recent weeks – is down to returning holidaymakers.

While the number of cases in Devon remains very low compared to the rest of the country, the average number of cases being confirmed a day has risen from less than two at the start of August to six now.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Devon County Council area – which excludes Torbay and Plymouth – in the last seven days has risen to 32, with clusters of three of more having been identified in Seaton, Teignmouth North and Bradninch, Silverton and Thorverton, as well as in Mutley in Plymouth and Wellswood in Torbay.

Devon’s director of public health, Dr Virginia Pearson says the increase in numbers is largely due to Devon residents returning home from trips abroad, having contracted coronavirus infection while on holiday. They were picked up by the NHS test and trace programme on their return to the country, and all appropriate containment procedures, including self-isolation, have been followed, she added.

“These cases show how vital it is that we all remain extra vigilant when travelling at home or abroad,” says Dr Pearson. The NHS test and trace system has done its job here very well, and we’re confident that the risk of onward infection in the community is very low as a result of residents doing the right thing and taking the right actions quickly.

“What it does show is that people need to be extra careful when travelling abroad and must continue to respect social distancing, wash their hands regularly, avoid crowded areas and wear face coverings as directed. If people do fall ill with symptoms of COVID-19 while away they need to avoid contact with others as much as possible, be careful when travelling back from the airport, self-isolate immediately when back home and phone 111 for advice on testing. 

Fortunately, in this case, our international travellers have acted sensibly and followed this guidance. People should be aware of the risks associated with any travelling abroad and be careful on their return, and to be tested quickly if they feel ill.”

In the past week to August 25, there have been five cases confirmed by specimen date in East Devon, eight in Exeter, nine in Mid Devon, two in North Devon, two in the South Hams, five in Teignbridge, one in Torridge, and none in West Devon, with a further ten cases in Torbay and sixteen in Plymouth – some of the latter are linked to the BD factory in Roborough.

Other recently-confirmed cases of covid-19 in Devon are not connected, Dr Pearson, added, saying that in each case the necessary containment procedures have been quickly followed. “We must remember, while not for one moment being complacent, that the rate of confirmed cases in Devon remains very low,” she says.

“That’s how we want it to stay.  We will see numbers rise and fall, but we must all focus on what we can do to keep those numbers low.    That means wear a face covering when in enclosed spaces (to protect others), keep a safe distance – 2 metres where possible, wash your hands with soap and water often and use hand sanitiser if handwashing is not possible, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve if you cough or sneeze, and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.”

While the number of cases across Devon has risen, the number of people in hospital has not increased. Just 16 people across the whole of the South West are currently in hospital having tested positive for coronavirus – not necessarily having been admitted because of it – with the numbers having fallen in the past week.

The latest figures available by hospital trust show that as of August 13 – when there were 15 people in the South West in hospital – just one of them was in Devon, with one patient in Torbay Hospital.

Following the cancellation of the scheduled Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board that was provisionally due to be held today, which would have seen the rise in cases discussed, the Local Democracy Reporting Service had asked to speak to a member of the board, but no-one was available to speak. Devon County Council provided a statement that addressed the majority of the questions that would have been asked.

Radio Exe: Local News