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Director of Public Health Devon responds to national reporting issues

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A technical issue in the national reporting process of positive cases of coronavirus was identified last Friday. It meant that thousands of cases between 25 September and 2 October were not included in the reported daily COVID-19 cases.

NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England have since resolved the issue, but it has led to a rise in the reported number of cases now across the country, Devon included.

Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health DevonDr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“Devon has seen a sharp rise in the number of reported positive cases, as the national test and trace reporting system works through its widely reported technical issue over the weekend.

“This delay in reporting of the most recent cases has not held up any local interventions.

“We expect to see confirmed cases continue to rise while the national reporting is refreshed.

“Despite the rise, the county of Devon still has fewer confirmed cases than most other local authority areas of comparable population and density.

“However, the latest data does now show a rise in Exeter, still largely within the University of Exeter student population, that requires focused attention.

“We have been working very closely with Public Health England, the University of Exeter and Exeter City Council, and already measures have been taken to reduce the wider spread of infection.

“They include restricting movement between University student households in the city, and increased testing capacity for their students and staff. Analysis to date has shown infection spreading in social settings and in and between student households and accommodation, and we are continuing to work with the University to reduce risk in that context.

“The rise in non-University student cases in Exeter mirrors similar increases across the county, suggesting little evidence so far of spread into city communities.

“We ask every Devon resident of all ages, but especially the late teen to mid-twenties, to make renewed efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“To avoid far tighter restrictions on our movements, we must all play our part:

• keep a safe distance from others, 2 metres is preferable
• wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water and use hand sanitiser where it is provided
• wear a face covering when indoors in public spaces with other people from outside your household or bubble; and when in enclosed public spaces such as on public transport

“If you have symptoms – high temperature, new and continuous cough, or change in your sense of smell or taste – you must self-isolate straight away. Do that, then arrange the test.

“If a person in your household tests positive, all members of the household must self-isolate for the full 14 days. Other members of the household do not need to be tested unless they develop symptoms.

“If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace because you have been in close contact with a confirmed case, advising you to self-isolate for 14 days, do so for the full duration. Self-isolation properly is vital to reducing the risk of infection spreading. There must not be short cuts.

“These rules require us all to pay attention and to take individual and collective responsibility. The sooner we control the spread of the infection, the sooner we can expect restrictions to loosen.

“We are monitoring the latest data very closely so that we can be quick to respond and can assess whether the restrictions currently in place are sufficient, or whether additional tighter measures are required.”