Month: April 2020

The epidemic hit some local care homes badly after developing in East Devon in March – but the lockdown stopped a wider spread.

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I am now in a position to report further on the Covid situation in care homes and the local community.

Outbreaks occurred in several care homes in Seaton and surrounding towns at the end of March/beginning of April, reflecting people having become infected earlier in March before the lockdown was imposed. A number of people are believed to have died. (The national graph above shows the drastic acceleration of deaths in care homes in the first two weeks of April; most ‘other excess deaths’ are probably Covid-related but not recorded as Covid.)

More critically ill in their 50s than 70s, according to hospital data. Overall Covid mortality TWICE the Public Health England figures, i.e. 30,000+.

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The Government has belatedly changed its advice in its new TV ad, aired since Easter. it now says that Covid-19 is ‘life-threatening to people of all age groups’. Previously it had said that ‘the over-70s’ and people with serious conditions were ‘the vulnerable group‘.

No explanation has been given for this change, but the diagram above says it all. According to a report from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre, up to 3rd April there were more people in their 50s critically ill with Covid-19 than in their 70s, and more in their 30s and 40s than 80s. 

The figures will underestimate the number of 80+, because many are dying in care homes or at home without making it to hospital. However the message is still clear – and sobering.

Overall death toll now over 30,000, headed for 50,000

Indeed, the Cumulative Mortality Investigation (CMI) of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries estimates (page 5) that overall there have been TWICE the number of deaths reported in the daily hospital counts. When Public Health England reported 15,400 deaths, the CMI estimates that had been 26,000-32,000 excess deaths.

Now that PHE are reporting 18,000 deaths, the likely real total would be in the range 29,000-35,000, and heading to over 50,000 for this wave.

The excess deaths include many people who have died of Covid but where Covid has not been put on the death certificate.

Our proposal for mass testing and tracing in the SW is gaining traction. Time for Devon MPs and councils to act.

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The proposal by Hilary Ackland, Claire Wright and myself that we need a regional strategy for Covid-19 in the South West has gained quite a bit of attention, but also some misunderstandings. 
  • UnknownWe are NOT pressing for a regional release of the lockdown at this stage. 
  • What we ARE arguing is for a large-scale return to testing, tracing and monitored quarantining of those who are infectious and their contacts, as advocated by Exeter University’s infectious disease expert Dr Bharat Pankhania.
With an ambitious programme, this should be feasible in this area, since infection is estimated at only around 2 per cent of the population rather than the much higher levels estimated in other areas.
  • This would need not only a lot more tests but also rapid expansion of testing and tracing teams beyond the Public Health team, using district Environmental Health staff, and recruiting many others. 
Dangers of delay
Five weeks ago, Hilary, Claire and I with other colleagues were calling for the large-scale social distancing, but the Government was dragging its feet. We were criticised for not following the Government’s position, but it is now the view of virtually all informed opinion that the Government moved too late.
The danger is that something similar may be happening now over testing. Without a programme like the one Dr Pankhania is advocating, we are left simply waiting for a vaccine (next year?) – or risk the lockdown being lifted when we don’t know where the virus is, leading to a second wave with even more deaths.
I hope that Devon MPs and councils will see that a mass testing and tracing programme should be the local (and eventually national) priority and that all will use their influence to press forward on this.

Local firm produces ear guards for carers using face masks; contact me if you can use them

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unnamedBeer-based Pecorama are making these ear guards, free of charge, to help carers wearing face masks for lengthy periods. They are being used and much appreciated in one local home where a resident has had the virus.

Email me if you are a carer or care home manager and would like Peco to supply you with some.

They are based on a design produced by an enterprising school in Scotland and a video explaining them can be found at

Help build up a picture of the pandemic in Devon and nationally – report your health status through this app

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Help slow the spread of #COVID19 and identify at risk cases sooner by self-reporting your symptoms daily, even if you feel well.

Download the app

Care home crisis: now almost 10 per cent of Devon homes have Covid-19 infection

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According to new information which I have been given, a much larger number of homes are now infected, roughly double the figures mentioned in my previous post. This confirms the desperate urgency of improving PPE for care home staff and ensuring that everyone transferred into a home from hospital is tested first, as the Government has very belatedly promised.