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Be a 'stay-at-home hero' say Dartmoor rangers

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Dartmoor National Park is asking people not to visit over the Easter weekend.

Kevin Bishop
Dartmoor National Park

Visitor numbers have dropped by 90% since travel restrictions were imposed nearly three weeks ago.

Dartmoor Rangers posted a video on Facebook showing the moor empty.

But chief executive Kevin Bishop put out a reminder: "At this time of national emergency you can do your bit by being a ‘home hero’ – resist the temptation to travel to Dartmoor or other beauty spots, exercise locally."

National park offices, visitor centres, car parks and toilets remain closed until further notice.

In the meantime people are being encouraged to share photos and memories with each other through Dartmoor National Park’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels.

Eight more coronavirus deaths in Devon and Cornwall

Jenny Walrond

Health Correspondent, BBC Spotlight

A further eight people have died from coronavirus in Devon and Cornwall.

One in north Devon, one at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, two in Exeter and four at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

It brings the total to 34 in Cornwall and 57 in Devon.

RNLI urges people not to go in the sea

Johanna Carr

BBC News Online

St Ives

The RNLI is asking people not to go in the sea to help reduce the risk of the charity’s volunteer crews and other front line emergency services being exposed to Covid-19.

The charity said it recommended people do not take their daily exercise in the sea.

The RNLI's south west water safety lead said: "We know people who live at the coast still want to exercise by the sea, but when you do this, please think of the potential impact of your actions on RNLI lifeboat volunteers and other emergency services.

"While you could be fully competent and never needed rescue, by going out on the water you could encourage others who are less proficient to take part in similar activities.

"Since lockdown was introduced around the UK coast, our lifeboats have been called out all too often to rescue people."

Mr Instance said if people did go for a walk or run near the coast they should follow the RNLI's safety advice, including to take care near cliffs and check weather forecasts and tides.

He added: "‘Our lifeboat crews are still at the ready 24/7 thanks to their own courage in a time of crisis, and the generosity of our supporters."

Tourists 'will be fined and turned around'

Miles Davis

BBC News Online

Police will be at beaches and car parks as well as monitoring incoming traffic over the Easter weekend, one of Devon and Cornwall's top officers has warned.

Supt Adrian Leisk said people driving to the south west on holiday would be "fined and turned around".

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North Devon business relief 'available from Thursday'

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Applications for the scheme of Government grants to help businesses through the coronavirus outbreak in North Devon can begin to be made from Thursday.

The grants have been made available to support the many small businesses which pay little or no business rates, with central government promising to provide £10,000 cash grants to companies to help meet their ongoing business costs.

A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Concerns have been raised over the delays in opening the scheme for the thousands of eligible businesses in North Devon, as Cornwall, South Hams and Torridge District Council’s had already begun paying out.

One business owner said: “This money is for an emergency and the emergency began weeks ago.

"This situation is a disgrace. We need a firm date of when we will receive the money and we need it now.”

The council said they expect the application form to be on their website by Thursday.

They blamed the delay on having to buy in new software which had to be implemented and tested before it could be used.

Torbay Registrar Office closed to the public

Torbay Registrar Office based at Cockington Court has been closed to the public in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Torbay Council said parents can claim for child benefit or universal credit before registering the birth of their child, with the current 42 day deadline for registering a child lifted.

It said parents would be able to register the births when the lockdown period comes to an end.

All marriage and civil partnership ceremonies have been suspended, and the council is not taking any bookings for citizenship ceremonies.

It said death registration appointments are being carried out by telephone.

Supermarket donates Easter eggs to children's home

Rebecca Thorn

BBC News Online

Severe accident: A30 Devon eastbound

BBC News Travel

A30 Devon eastbound severe accident, from A30 to A30.

A30 Devon - A30 closed and it's heavy eastbound from Woodleigh Junction in Cheriton Bishop to Fingle Glen in Tedburn St Mary, because of accident investigation work.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Devon 'closed' to tourists and second homeowners

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Holidaymakers and second homeowners have been told to stay away during the coronavirus crisis by Devon County Council.

While the South West is so far the least hit region of the country and Devon’s hospitals are only half full, councillors from across the political spectrum were united in their desire to send a clear message that the region is closed.

Devon County Council leader John Hart told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday he was planning to meet with all district councils to discuss co-ordinated enforcement action against holiday providers who continue to take bookings.

The cabinet agreed that there should be much tougher penalties imposed on people who flout the rules.

Councillor Hart told the meeting they wanted to "send a very clear message" that "Devon and the South West are closed".

He said: “We currently have low coronavirus infection rates in the South West but, if you come here, you stand a chance of bringing it with you and we do not want it under any circumstance.

“We want the message to go out loud and clear and we want our MPs to stop those organisations which are still advertising holidays here.”

Devon's hospitals 'less than 50% full'

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Devon’s hospitals are less than 50% full as the region is so far the least hit in England from coronavirus.

As of 7 April, there have been 45,968 positive cases of Covid-19 in England, with 2,047 in the South West.


Across the Devon County Council administrative area, there have been 236 cases, with 57 in Torbay and 102 in Plymouth.

Devon County Council’s cabinet heard on Wednesday that the hospitals were coping.

Dr Phil Norrey, the council’s chief executive, said in terms of protecting the vulnerable and keeping the number of acute cases down, it was a "good news story".

He said: “In Devon’s hospitals [Royal Devon and Exeter, North Devon and Torbay], they are at less than 50% occupancy at the moment. They range between 43 and 48% with Derriford in Plymouth at 52%."

Four more coronavirus deaths

There have been four further coronavirus deaths across Devon and Cornwall.

Two in Cornwall, one in North Devon and one at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth.

It brings the total number of deaths in Devon to 53 and in Cornwall 30.

Students set up self-isolation club nights

Dave Gilyeat

BBC South

Rona Radio
Rona Radio

A pair of students from the University of Reading are streaming club nights from their homes to get people dancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harvey Dryburgh, 21, and Freddie Mann, 22, are broadcasting live sets from international DJs through their internet radio station, Rona Radio.

Harvey, who is a second-year Henley Business School student, said: "We initially set this up as a bit of fun but have seen the popularity of the live streams grow massively since starting it just over a week ago.

"We encourage all participating DJs to follow government guidelines on social distancing and self-isolating.

"The whole premise of our platform is that we are providing entertainment to people who are in isolation."

Harvey is with his family in Devon, and Freddie at his student house in Reading, where he provides live sets from the kitchen.

MP says grant loophole for second homes is 'perverse'

Ed Oldfield

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Daniel Clark

A Devon MP is calling on the government to close a loophole allowing second homeowners to pocket a £10,000 coronavirus grant for small businesses.

Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall says the system is allowing owners to “exploit” the Covid-19 crisis.

Some second homes are registered as a business and avoid paying council tax.

If they are let for at least 140 days a year, then can be assessed for business rates and most are exempt from paying anything.

Because they qualify for business rate relief, they can access the £10,000 government grant designed to support small businesses struggling due to the impact of the virus.

Government figures for 2017 showed about one in 11 properties in the South Hams was classed as a second home, the highest rate in Devon. There were almost 4,000 in the district, out of a total for Devon of just over 14,000.

Mr Mangnall has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on behalf of all Devon MPs to urge the government “to close this loophole as soon as possible”.

The Conservative MP for the Totnes constituency, which also covers Brixham, said: “It is perverse that second homeowners are eligible to apply for a £10,000 grant while so many businesses across Devon struggle to get through this crisis."

Food festival donates £1,000 to the vulnerable

BBC Radio Devon

The Dartmouth Food Festival has donated £1,000 to a local charity which is providing hot lunches for the vulnerable in the local area.

Dartmouth Caring will use the money to help prepare and deliver about 300 hot meals a week.

More than 40% of people living in and around the South Hams town are over 60 with many self-isolating.

Self-employed hotel worker 'petrified' for future

Jenny Kumah

BBC South West politics reporter

A self-employed hotel worker says he feels "utterly abandoned" by the government after losing his job in the coronavirus pandemic.

Richard Coulson

Sommelier Richard Coulson started a new job at a Devon hotel in March which means he's not eligible for the government's coronavirus support scheme

Under the rules you must be on your company's payroll on 28 February to be eligible for a wage subsidy of up to £2,500-a-month.

The government says if you started a new job after that date you can ask your former employer to put you on the scheme.

But Richard has been told he doesn't qualify because he is self employed and he's among a significant number in the same boat.

"I've lost my job, my income and I could lose my home," he told BBC Radio Devon.

"I feel utterly abandoned by the government."

Richard was a sommelier for 25 years before starting his own wine tasting business.

"I'm petrified about what is going to happen in the future," he said.

A Treasury spokesman said: "Our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is protecting thousands of jobs up and down the UK - with the government covering 80% of the salary of furloughed workers.

"Firms can re-employ staff made redundant after 1 March and those who do not qualify will be able to access a range of other support - including an increase in the Universal Credit allowance, income tax deferrals, £1bn more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays."

Second home owners warned to stay away at Easter

BBC Radio Devon

Second home owners have been told to stay away by councils in Devon and Cornwall as the traditional break of Easter weekend approaches.

Creative Commons

An open letter from South Hams District Council leader Judy Pearce says the call is made "with a heavy heart".

"But this week we must ask you to stay in your primary residence to protect us all."

The letter, backed by Cornwall Council and Devon district councils, tells second home owners that "we deeply value the contribution you make to our local communities and our tourism economy".

But it points out that government guidance is "very clear, you must only leave your home for very specific reasons, only go outside for food, health reasons and work, and only then if you cannot work from home".

The letter says: "We are extremely worried about our local population, which has a high proportion of vulnerable and elderly residents.

"By travelling to your second home, you are putting them at risk.

"We very much look forward to seeing you and welcoming you back when this is all over and current travelling restrictions are lifted."

Coronavirus: Exeter College opens doors to NHS staff

BBC Radio Devon

Exeter College has opened the doors of its Clock Tower accommodation to NHS workers in need of a place to stay during the coronavirus crisis.

Clock Tower
Exeter College

The accommodation officially opened in September last year for students who travel into the city, but following the recent move to online learning, all students have now returned home.

Following a thorough deep clean, the Clock Tower building, which is on New North Road in the heart of Exeter, will be open for NHS staff to use as accommodation during the fight against the virus.

Severe disruption: M5 Devon southbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Devon southbound severe disruption, from J30 for A376 Sidmouth Road Exeter to J31 for A38.

M5 Devon - M5 partially blocked southbound from J30, A376 (Exeter) to J31, A38 (Okehampton turn off), because of a car that's broken down. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

60-piece orchestra rehearses online
Music director Leo Geyer wants the Devon Philharmonic Orchestra to stay in tune while in isolation.

Test centre for healthcare workers opens in Plymouth

Rebecca Thorn

BBC News Online

White tents forming the test centre in Plymouth
Gem Thomas

A temporary coronavirus test centre for health and care workers has been set up in Plymouth.

The site opened on the Plymouth Medical and Technology Park on Tuesday and will initially test key staff who are self-isolating.

It will not be open to the public and visits by healthcare workers must be pre-booked.

The NHS says the aim is to get employees back to work as quickly as possible to ease pressure on their colleagues.

The first groups to be tested will be workers in critical care, A&E, ambulance services, GP surgeries and social care.

The NHS said currently 150 staff could be tested in a day, rising to 250 each day by the end of the week.

Other drive-through centres will be set up across the South West during April, a spokesman said.

Dr Julie Yates, Public Health Consultant and lead for staff testing with NHS England, said: “We know the South West has fewer covid cases than London and other parts of the country, but the number is rising.

"The testing centre will help us take maximum advantage of the extra time to prepare, to get staffing levels back up in our hospitals and community teams."

Coronavirus: Hundreds sign up in care call

BBC Radio Devon

Nearly 600 people have answered a call from Devon County Council to help care for vulnerable people in the county.

Elderly care generic

Students, college leavers and retired health professionals are among the peoiple who have signed up.

The first group of trainees have already started their three-day fast-track course.

Once trained the new recruits will be deployed to places including people’s homes, hospitals and care homes.

They will support people with their personal care needs including eating, drinking and washing to reduce pressure on existing health and care staff.

Anyone who wants to join up can at Proud to Care.

Woman jailed for spitting in police officer's face

Claire Gilbody-Dickerson

BBC News

A woman has been jailed for six months for spitting in a police officer's face after being found in breach of social distancing rules.

Judith Christopher, 42, from Exeter, was being booked into custody when she "became abusive" and spat in a police constable's face, Devon and Cornwall Police said.

She had been found to be in breach of the government's social distancing rules and refused to comply with response officers' enforcement advice.

Ms Christopher was jailed at Exeter Magistrates' Court on Saturday.

Sgt Dan Brenchley, a response officer at Heavitree Road Police Station, said the incident was "particularly hazardous and unpleasant" as the offender had had a nosebleed and had spat "blood as well as mucus".

There is a "no tolerance" approach to those who abuse emergency workers, Sgt Brenchley added.

More coronavirus deaths reported across Devon and Cornwall

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Devon has risen to 51.

There have been two more deaths reported at Derriford Hospital, while Torbay and the Royal Devon and Exeter hospitals have each reported one further death.

In Cornwall three more people have died - bringing the total to 28 .

Coranavirus: New police station opens two weeks early

BBC Radio Devon

Exeter's new police station is opening two weeks early because its state-of-the-art custody cells are better for isolating detainees with coronavirus symptoms.

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The custody centre at the force's Middlemoor headquarters has 40 cells over three wings, so those with Covid-19 symptoms can be isolated from other detainees.

It follows the closure of Exeter's Heavitree Road station today.

Police officers and staff have been working around the clock to bring forward the opening of the custody centre and public enquiry office at the £29m Sidmouth Road building, which had been due to open on 22 April.

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez said: "In a crisis our police force has demonstrated an ability to be extraordinarily agile, and the early opening of the station is an example of that."

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Severe accident: A379 Devon both ways

BBC News Travel

A379 Devon both ways severe accident, between Gabwell Hill and Ness Drive.

A379 Devon - A379 Teignmouth Road in Maidencombe closed and it's slow in both directions between the Gabwell Hill junction and the Ness Drive junction, because of accident investigation work.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Coronavirus: Hundreds sign up in care call

BBC Radio Devon

Nearly 600 people have answered a call from Devon County Council to help care for vulnerable people in the county.

Elderly care generic

Students, college leavers and retired health professionals are among the peoiple who have signed up.

The first group of trainees have already started their three-day fast-track course.

Once trained the new recruits will be deployed to a variety of settings including people’s homes, hospitals and care homes.

They will support people with their personal care needs including eating, drinking and washing to reduce pressure on existing health and care staff.

Anyone who wants to join up can do so at Proud to Care.

Coronavirus: Police chief supports officers issuing fines

Devon and Cornwall’s chief constable has written to officers reassuring them he will support those who issue fines to anyone refusing to respect government restrictions.

Shaun Sawyer said: “Unfortunately there is a minority who continue to ignore government instruction which is in place ultimately to save lives.

“With this in mind, and whilst it really does remain a last resort, I have today reassured my officers that the option of enforcement is available to them, and is an action I am in support of.

“Currently, my officers have only issued a handful of fines since the new legislation has been introduced.

“We are aware of frustrations our public feel when they see others not doing their part and undertaking anything other than essential travel.

“As we look to the bank holiday weekend I wish to be clear with our message which is stay at home and do not undertake travel that isn’t essential. My officers will continue to be visible in our towns and cities, and we will police the roads.

“I would like to emphasise that policing by consent remains our priority. We will continue to use discretion and only use enforcement as a last resort."


Severe disruption: M5 Devon southbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Devon southbound severe disruption, from J30 for A376 Sidmouth Road Exeter to J31 for A38.

M5 Devon - One lane closed on M5 southbound from J30, A376 (Exeter) to J31, A38 (Okehampton turn off), because of a break down. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

'People are scared to come out of their houses'

Ed Oldfield

Local Democracy Reporting Service

A Devon councillor says people living near a beach feel trapped in their homes because of people defying travel restrictions.


Torbay councillor Karen Kennedy urged people to comply with coronavirus restrictions and stay away from the coast.

The councillor for Churston with Galmpton, which includes Broadsands Beach, Paignton, said local people have been afraid to go out to exercise because of visitors parking outside their homes to go to the beach.

The council-owned car park at Broadsands has been closed, but people have been parking in the residential area nearby.

Councillor Kennedy said: “People are scared to come out of their houses. They are scared to use the beach on their doorstep.

“The more people break the travel restrictions, the longer we are going to have to stay in lockdown.”

Torbay Council has also closed the seafront car park at Goodrington in Paignton and blocked off the seafront road near Paignton Pier to deter visitors.

The councillor’s concerns support the police message that people should exercise near their homes and that the Westcountry is closed for tourists during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Blood bike charities: More work, less money

Blood bike charities in the South West say they have more work, but reduced income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers are moving blood samples and swabs to be tested for the virus.

Volunteers are moving blood samples and swabs to be tested for the virus.

Many prescriptions for 'people with out-of-area addresses'

BBC Radio Devon

A senior Devon councillor has called for urgent action to be taken to stop visitors coming to the county after reporting that pharmacies are telling him many prescriptions are for people whose address is outside of the area.

Councillor Frank Biederman, leader of the Independent Group on Devon County Council, said that while clear messages not to come to Devon are being put out, many people are still ignoring them.

"There are clearly many visitors still coming to stay in North Devon either in holiday homes or holiday cottages," he said.

"Many residents have contacted me and said a holiday cottage near them is being used."

Dressmaker offers free hairbands for health workers

Claire Gilbody-Dickerson

BBC News

A dressmaker is offering free hairbands to health workers who have been left with sore ears after prolonged periods of wearing a face mask.

Gail Williams, from Budleigh Salterton, posted photos on social media of her colourful hairbands, which have buttons on the side so the face mask can be hooked.

She said they are free for health workers as long as they can provide their NHS card as proof.

Woman wearing hairband
Gail Williams
The hairbands have buttons on the side which serve as a hook for the mask
Gail Williams

Coronavirus: NHS message in field is out of this world

A message of support for the NHS which was mown into a field on a Devon farm has been spotted from space.

View more on twitter

Dr Geoff Smith from an Earth observation firm in Cambridge, saw the message from a satellite image.

"Well done," he told creator Matthew Alford.

Matthew Alford took two hours to create the 400m wide message with help from farmer John Govier.

View more on twitter

Coronavirus: Cash plea to keep steam railway on track

BBC Radio Devon

A steam railway is facing a £500,000 loss from a drop in visitor numbers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

South Devon Railway
South Devon Railway

The South Devon Railway has asked steam railway fans to dig into their pockets because it says "without this help, we may not have a railway for people of all ages to enjoy again".

It reckons the current closure until half way through its season will lead to a "massive and unsustainable financial hit".

"This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the charity, with services stopping only a few days after they began following our closed winter maintenance period," it said.

Two bridges, including one over the River Dart at Buckfastleigh, were damaged in winter storms and need "urgent repair work".

Coronavirus: 'Open second homes to key workers'

BBC Radio Devon

Second home owners have been urged to open their properties to key workers and victims of domestic abuse.

Creative Commons

Devon and Cornwall's Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said the "message is getting across" to second home owners to stay at home.

"I am asking second home owners to offer their property to key workers and people feeling domestic abuse," she told BBC Radio Devon.

"We are getting people to sign up with the local council."

Ms Hernandez also said police may need "more powers" to enforce government advice on social distancing after reports of crowds on beaches in Torbay last weekend.

A further 17 deaths over the weekend

The number of deaths related to coronavirus in Devon and Cornwall has risen by 17 over the weekend, according to NHS England figures

Five of the deaths were at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, five at Torbay Hospital, four at Plymouth's Derriford Hospital and three at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

This puts the total number of deaths in the region at 66.

Warning over coronavirus scams issued

A warning has been issued for people in Devon to be aware of fraudsters trying to exploit the fear and uncertainty surrounding coronavirus.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said there has been an increase in scams during the crisis.

These scams include the sale of counterfeit medical kits that claim to prevent or cure the disease and fake online resources contain damaging software, the service said.

Counterfeit hand sanitiser, face masks, swabbing kits and other medical items are also being advertised online.

Financial scams, either online or by phone, have also increased as criminals attempt to exploit the financial uncertainty people and businesses face, they added.

'Think twice before bonfires' plea

Adam Durbin

BBC News Online

People should "think twice" before having a bonfire in their garden during this weekend's improved weather, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has said.

The service said it had seen a spike in 999 calls reporting bonfires and was mistakenly called out to "controlled burns" eight times on Friday night.

DSFRS tweeted: "We all need to be more kind and that starts at home.

"Help out your neighbours (and us) and keep your weekend bonfire free".

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