Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health (Designate) has issued a new plea.
“There’s so much to distract us at the moment with one thing or another, and a lot of it positive.
“We have Christmas approaching and talk of families being able to come together.
“We have new rapid test pilots happening across the country, Devon included, enabling people to see their loved ones in care homes and to hold hands for the first time in a very long time.
“We hear optimistic news about not one but several vaccines coming fast down the track, and the NHS mobilising plans to roll out a vaccination programme across the country.
“All this, while approaching the final weeks of our current national lockdown restrictions, subject to what the government decides.
“It’s positive news, and we may be feeling like we are in the final chapter of this pandemic.
“However I would not be doing my job as Director of Public Health if I were not to inject a strong measure of caution, with a dose of cold facts.
“Case numbers in Devon are still rising, especially in the working age population.
“There, we’re seeing spread continuing to grow. A closer look shows us that contacts are spreading in social or communal settings within the workplace. We’re talking staff rooms, kitchens, corridors, car parks – the bits of our day to day life where we’re more easily distracted, and our attention slips.
“It’s the kettle, the fridge, the door handles, the face to face chats too close to each other, the sharing of space often indoors with poor natural ventilation. We have to stay aware and alert to those risks.
“There is cause for optimism, without doubt. The challenge to us all – my plea to you – is that we do not let our enthusiasm to return to normal actually set us further back.
“Our case numbers are rising. It will be some time yet before we see the impact of these last few weeks of national restrictions. Our rising cases in Devon have to stop. To do that we must focus on the here and the now.
“It’s old and unwelcome news I know, but we must continue with every effort to follow the rules:
• Keep your distance, at least 2 metres is best
• Wear a mask when indoors in public places, and when in enclosed spaces such as public transport
• It really is important to wash your hands with soap or sanitizer properly for 20 seconds, and regularly
“These are the basics we all still need to remember.
“If you are advised self-isolate, do so properly – that means stay at home and do not meet up with people outside of your household – and for the entire duration.
“If you or someone in your household is confirmed as having coronavirus, you must all stay at home. Do not go to work or school. Do not allow visitors to your house.
“If you have symptoms, please do self-isolate and immediately arrange a test. Our local testing capacity in Devon is doing well, and we are not seeing those earlier difficulties for people to get local tests quickly.
“While we can be somewhat optimistic about the future we are by no means not out of this pandemic yet. There is a lot of work yet to do on those vaccines, and it’s likely that our basic rules – hands, face, space – plus local testing and tracing and self-isolating, will all need to remain part of our daily lives for some time yet, even alongside a vaccine.
“So we must keep our wits about us. Make every effort, in every situation. That’s how we beat this virus.”