New measures to contain and reduce future cases of coronavirus in Devon have been revealed.
Devon County Council has published its Local Outbreak Management Plan, which details how the county will respond to any future outbreaks of the virus and help prevent it spreading.
The plans involve close working with local organisations such as health, councils, police, school and care homes, as well as businesses and key industries such as tourism.
They also recognise there is a need for additional support for people particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, black and ethnic communities and those with learning difficulties and autism.
Devon’s director of public health, Virginia Pearson, will lead a small committee who can marshal the resources needed to provide a swift response to managing an outbreak of the virus.
Devon County Council leader John Hart will chair Team Devon, the county’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, which will monitor how the plan is implemented and liaise directly with government ministers.
Dr Pearson said containing any future outbreaks will need a ‘co-ordinated effort’ from a range of specialists.
She said: “This comprehensive plan details how we will work with the new NHS Test and Trace Service and ensures we have the necessary capacity and capability to provide a fully co-ordinated approach to contain and manage local outbreaks of COVID-19.
“The plan isn’t set in stone. It provides a blueprint for action, but it will need regular updating as new national guidance is produced or legislation changes.”
Devon has the fourth lowest rate of infection in England according to Government data, with 831 total confirmed cases.
Cllr Hart said: “The vast majority of Devon people have behaved with great sense and responsibility throughout the pandemic and that’s meant we’ve had the lowest number of outbreaks by some way throughout the crisis.
“We obviously want to keep it that way and reduce it still further. We can now build on this effort and extend the work we have done together as Team Devon to protect our residents and support the most vulnerable.
“We will now be at the forefront of responding and managing the outbreak at a local level. And if there’s a hotspot in a town or village we’ll be able to get onto it swiftly before it spreads too far.
“We’ve ensured that our plan includes a strong focus on prevention and early intervention to ensure key settings such as care homes and schools and high-risk locations and communities identify and prioritise preventative measures.
“The good sense of the people of Devon has helped protect us all so far and they continue to have a vital role in reducing the spread of the virus and preventing further outbreaks.
“I would urge them to continue to follow national guidance and advice and keep up social distancing, wash their hands regularly and, if they think they might have the virus, get a test and self-isolate if that’s necessary.”