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Explainer: Why is Exeter’s case rate among the highest in the country?

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The coronavirus case rate in Exeter is currently the second highest in the country. Why?

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health DevonDevon’s Director of Public Health, Steve Brown, explains.

“Exeter has experienced around 780 positive cases of coronavirus in the latest available week. Cases are across people of all ages, but predominantly among younger working age people and late teens – so the 16 to 44 age groups.

“The data doesn’t point to there being any particular outbreak of size in any particular location.

“Neither is there any evidence to suggest that the rise in cases is attributable to holiday makers visiting Devon, and Exeter especially.

“It’s a combination of factors. The Delta strain, which is the dominant strain across the country including Devon, is much easier to catch and spread than any of the previous variants.

“The lifting of most restrictions last month has opened up opportunities for people to mix socially.

“More people are returning to the workplace, including in hospitality and retail, which again provide opportunity for people to come into close contact with each other.

“We’re seeing evidence that people are mixing more with the rise in the number of people that our tracing team is now contacting. For each person who tests positive, our tracing team now contact considerably more people per case than they were doing earlier in the year.

“These may be some of the reasons why we’re seeing an increase in cases.

“But cities like Exeter, where there is a large younger population with many not yet vaccinated, are also experiencing similar patterns in their data.”

What can we do about it?

Although there is no legal requirement to do so, the public health advice is to continue to be cautious and to take steps to protect ourselves and others.

We can do that by:

• limiting our social contacts to stop the virus spreading
• meeting others outside, because that’s safer than meeting inside
• continuing to wear face coverings when indoors in public places, including on public transport
• washing your hands properly and regularly
• having the vaccination when you’re invited to do so, and to have both doses at the earliest opportunity
• self-isolating if told to do so by NHS Test and Trace
• self-isolating and arranging a PCR test if you show any symptoms of having the virus – the high temperature, new and continuous cough, or change of your usual sense of taste or smell

“Although case rates are high, we are not seeing that reflected in coronavirus-related hospitalisations, and that’s because of the vaccination programme,” said Steve Brown. “However, there are simple and effective steps that we can continue to take that help to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus, and I urge people to follow them.”