More than 100 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the last seven days across Devon and Cornwall.
Government statistics show that 102 new cases have been confirmed across the region in the past seven days in both pillar 1 data from tests carried out by the NHS and pillar 2 data from commercial partners, compared to 42 new cases confirmed last week.
It is the highest number of new cases confirmed since the end of May, and follows an outbreak of 11 cases in Plymouth following teenagers returning from Zante.
But the number of people in hospital in the whole of the South West has fallen to just 13 – the lowest number since figures began to be recorded in April.
Of the 102 new cases, 19 were in Cornwall, with nine in East Devon, nine in Exeter, nine in Mid Devon, six in North Devon, 21 in Plymouth, seven in the South Hams, seven in Teignbridge, 14 in Torbay, and one in West Devon. Torridge saw no new cases confirmed.
However, not all of the 102 cases related to specimen dates from the last week, with the sole case in West Devon having occurred back on August 1 but was only confirmed this week. Only 70 of the cases had a specimen date of between August 21-27, with 11 of Cornwall cases occurred in that period, with six in East Devon, five in Exeter, seven in Mid Devon, four in North Devon, seven in the South Hams, four in Teignbridge, 17 in Plymouth, and nine in Torbay.
The remaining cases dated back to earlier in August, with the majority falling in the week of August 14-20, but some having occurred as far back as August 1.
By specimen date, the most recent case in Cornwall, Plymouth, East Devon, Exeter, North Devon and Teignbridge is from August 26, from August 25 in Torbay and the South Hams, August 24 in Mid Devon, August 19 in Torridge, and August 10 in West Devon.
Of the cases with a specimen date of between August 18 and 25, there are currently six clusters in Devon and none in Plymouth where three of more cases have been confirmed in a Middle Super Output Areas (MSOA).
There is a cluster of five cases in Mutley in Plymouth, three in Peverell in Plymouth, four in Wellswood in Torbay, four in Teignmouth North in Teignbridge, three in Bradninch, Silverton and Thorverton in Mid Devon, and three in Cullompton. Every other MSOA region of Devon and Cornwall – small patches of around 7,200 average population – have had two or fewer cases in that time period.
Two MSOA clusters from last week – Honicknowle & Manadon in Plymouth and Seaton in East Devon – have dropped off the daily updated map due to the cases having occurred more than 10 days ago.
The rise in cases has been put down to Devon residents returning home from trips abroad, having contracted coronavirus infection while away on holiday.
Devon’s Director of Public Health, Dr Virginia Pearson, said 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. 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.”
She added that the other recently-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon are not connected, saying that in each case the necessary containment procedures have been quickly followed, adding: “We must remember, while not for one moment being complacent, that the rate of confirmed cases in Devon remains very low. 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.”
In Plymouth, a group of 11 youngsters, all aged 18 or 19, testing positive for COVID-19 following a holiday in the Greek island of Zante.
The teens, it has been confirmed by director of public health Dr Ruth Harrell, visited restaurants and pubs after returning home but before they were aware they had tested positive for the virus, with most having no or very minor symptoms.
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She added: “We know that some of these young people had no symptoms, and so carried on as normal, including a night out in Plymouth’s bars and restaurants, until they became aware of the risk,” she said. “That means more people could be infected.
“We are in contact with all the pubs and bars across the city to remind them of their frontline role in stopping the spread of this virus. They need to help us to protect the city. But it also needs everyone to help too.
“If you think you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you need to self-isolate. If you get any symptoms, get tested as well as isolate. There’s no two ways round it.”
However, despite the rise in cases, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus has continued to fall, and in the South West, the figure has dropped from 17 last Friday, to 13 today – the lowest figure since April when numbers began to be collated.
The last death in a hospital in Devon and Cornwall occurred on June 29, and latest figures produced today from the ONS showed that only four people in the two counties had COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate in July. That was down from 20 in June, 118 in May, 373 in April, and 53 in March.
Of the four deaths in July, one was in Cornwall in Pool & Illogan Highway, one was in Plymouth in Higher Compton & Eggbuckland, one was in Crediton in Mid Devon, and one was in Horrabridge & Mary Tavy in West Devon, with just 0.6 per cent of all deaths in the South West related of coronavirus.
The R Rate for the South West is now being estimated as between 0.9 and 1.1, up from 0.8 to 1.1,as of last week but it covers a large geographical area and low case numbers mean the estimates is insufficiently robust to inform policy decisions.
In total, Torridge has had 57 positive cases, West Devon 76, with 110 in the South Hams, 131 in North Devon, 224 in Mid Devon, 224 in Teignbridge, 248 in East Devon, 267 in Exeter, 304 in Torbay, 714 in Plymouth and 980 in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The COVID-19 cases are identified by taking specimens from people and sending these specimens to laboratories around the UK to be tested. If the test is positive, this is a referred to as a lab-confirmed case.
Confirmed positive cases are matched to ONS geographical area codes using the home postcode of the person tested.
The data is now shown by the date the specimen was taken from the person being tested and while it gives a useful analysis of the progression of cases over time, it does mean that the latest days’ figures may be incomplete.
Cases received from laboratories by 12:30am are included in the counts published that day. While there may have been new cases of coronavirus confirmed or people having tested positive, those test results either yet to reach PHE for adding to the dataset or were not received in time for the latest daily figures to be published.