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Devon and Cornwall Police operating with 15% less staff

Rebecca Thorn

BBC News Online

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer says the force has a "15% vacancy factor" whilst some members of staff are forced to self-isolate during the coronavirus outbreak.

He said the number was "far more than we normally do", but assured the public this was about the national average for police forces across the country.

Officers were primarily having to self-isolate due to the health of family members, he said.

Five more deaths in Devon and Cornwall

Charley Adams

BBC News Online

A further five people who had tested positive for coronavirus in Devon and Cornwall have died, bringing the total to 49.

Latest data from the NHS shows two people have died in Cornwall, two in Plymouth and one in Exeter.

This brings the total up to 28 people in Devon and 21 people in Cornwall.

The South West claps for carers

Jonathan Morris

BBC News Online

From the coasts to small villages, people came out across the South West on Thursday to clap for carers and key workers dealing with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

People from across the South West clap for carers

Up to 123,000 jobs in Devon under threat, report says

Job Centre
Local Jobcentres are reporting an average rise of six times the number of claimants, the report said

As many as 123,000 jobs in Devon could be lost as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a new report has indicated.

Commissioned by Devon, Plymouth and Torbay councils, the Covid-19 Economic Resilience report also predicted a potential loss to the economy of nearly £2bn.

It was commissioned by the three three local authorities following a request from the government's Local Economies Advisory Panel.

They have jointly called on the government to provide more financial assistance to the county, after they created and presented the report to the panel.

The combined impact of job losses in the air industry, hospitality, food and drink, and retail sectors have contributed to the panel giving Devon's economy a “red rating”.

Disruption to the construction, manufacturing, marine and fishing industries are also being reported as orders fail to materialise, while Jobcentres are reporting an average rise of six times the number of claimants, the report said.

We want local businesses to know that we are in their corner, fighting for them, and we’re urging the government to get behind us.

John HartDevon County Council Leader

Call for blood donations to continue 'as normal'

Blood donation
Getty Images

Blood donors across the South West should "keep donating as normal" in order to ensure stocks remain at healthy levels in the "weeks and months ahead", the NHS has said.

Travelling to a donation session is still allowed under the essential travel rules for medical reasons.

Jane Murphy, Plymouth Blood Donor Centre manager, said: "The coronavirus transmission could go on for many months.

"It's business at usual for us, but extra precautions for safety measures."

Hospital staff dance with coronavirus message

Staff from the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital are dancing to keep spirits up while battling coronavirus.

The team have an important message to end their routine - "We stay at work for you, you stay at home for us".

Royal Devon and Exeter staff dance on Tik Tok

Action fund launched for virus-hit communities

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

A special action fund to provide money to organisations working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus has been launched in Devon.

Through the COVID-19 Action Fund, Devon County Council will provide small amounts of grant funding to community-led schemes, which identify some of the issues caused by the outbreak.

Applications are being welcomed from organisations who can propose initiatives that help communities become more resilient, such as:

  • Improving connectivity, by strengthening and developing virtual community networks, for example by organising telephone calls to elderly or lonely people, online chats or pen-pal schemes.
  • Helping people to access services and information.
  • Maintaining supplies of food, medicines and essential goods for those who are vulnerable or isolating.
  • Supporting good mental health and wellbeing in the community by tackling loneliness and isolation.

There are two separate grants available through the fund – one of less than £500 and one of between £500 and £5,000, and can be made online here.

Devon and Cornwall Police 'not changing travel advice'

Johanna Carr

BBC News Online


Devon and Cornwall Police is once again urging people not to use their car to drive to the coast or countryside to exercise.

Guidance, issued by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing on Tuesday told forces people could drive a reasonable distance to exercise but Devon and Cornwall Police said it would not change its advice on traveling.

In a statement, the force said: "There has been much discussion around what the legislation does and doesn’t specifically prohibit.

"The legal aspects of the legislation are based upon whether a person’s actions are reasonable or not.

"Officers will continue to make individual judgments based on the specific circumstances presented to them."

Devon and Cornwall Police said if you can exercise with a run or a walk near your home, it is reasonable for you to do so.

It added: "Our interpretation is that it is not reasonable, for the majority, to drive miles to a specific place such as a beauty spot.

"It is also not within the spirit of what we are trying to achieve if you drive from Devon to the coast of Cornwall for surfing, regardless of whether that is 'lawful' or not."

Rough-sleepers offered place to stay

Ed Oldfield

Local Democracy Reporting Service

All rough-sleepers in Plymouth have been offered a place to stay where they can self-isolate.

Providers have found 39 rooms in private rental properties as part of the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows an instruction from the government to councils to help the homeless off the streets.

The work has been carried out by the city council and its partners in the Plymouth Alliance of organisations which provides services for vulnerable people.

Rough sleeper
Getty Images

Girl, 12, runs marathon in back garden

Hope Elliott ran 845 laps of her back garden to complete a marathon while in isolation due to the coronavirus crisis and raised more than £250 for Cancer Research.

Hope Elliott ran a marathon in her back garden

Twelve more deaths in Devon and Cornwall

Chris Quevatre

BBC News Online

A further 12 people who had tested positive for coronavirus in Devon and Cornwall have died, bringing the total to 39.

The latest data from the NHS shows one person in Exeter, two people in Plymouth, three in Torbay, and six people in Cornwall have died, bringing the UK total to 2,352.

563 people who had tested positive for coronavirus died in the last 24 hours.

Coronavirus: UK deaths rise to 2,352 amid rush to test medics

Coronavirus in UK: How many confirmed cases are there in your area?

What is the coronavirus?

Boy, 13, sets up pantry outside house

A 13-year-old boy has set up a pantry outside his house in Babbacombe, Devon.

It's to help the vulnerable avoid a trip to the shops and anyone who might be struggling with finding essentials.

A 13-year-old boy has set up a pantry outside his house.

Merlin helicopters to help NHS fight coronavirus

Chris Quevatre

BBC News Online

Helicopters usually used to hunt down submarines have been reassigned to help the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Three Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose will provide "round-the-clock assistance to the NHS" and ambulance service, acting as "flying ambulances and transporters, flying supplies and personnel".

They will cover a population of more than 4.5 million people across Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Bristol, Somerset, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands.

Merlin heliopter
RNAS Culdrose

Harbour master urges end to recreational watersports

BBC Radio Devon

Exeter's harbour master has urged people to stop using the River Exe for recreational activities.

People are continuing to use the river for kite surfing and paddle boarding, which is not essential and could lead to a fine for those taking part.

Harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw said use of the river could put the ports staff and emergency services at unnecessary risk.

River Exe

Torbay helpline takes more than 2,000 calls

BBC Radio Devon

A new community helpline for people in Torbay has taken more than 2,000 calls in the last few days.

On Monday, calls to Torbay Community Development Trust were coming in at a rate of more than 50 an hour.

The helpline is for people who need help getting food and medical supplies, general advice or just a friendly voice at the end of the line.

Protective visors made using laser at Devon school

BBC Radio Devon

One of Devon's biggest schools has joined the effort to help medical staff who are on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff at Exmouth Community College have used a laser to create protective visors for a local GP surgery.

The college has donated about 50 pairs to the Exmouth Health Centre for staff to use.

Exmouth Community College

Seed sales grow during self-isolation

BBC Radio Devon

A Devon seeds company says it is working around the clock to fulfill orders.

Suttons Seeds, in Paignton, is setting up new systems in its factory to help staff pick and dispatch seeds, while remaining at a safe distance from each other.

The company says demand for its products is higher than anyone at the firm can remember.

If you take our seed sales, we're experiencing a 10-fold increase on average. So if we were taking 100 orders on a seed variety, we're now taking 1,000 orders on the same variety.

Hilary CutlerSutton Seeds

Police chief urges tourists to stay away from South West

The Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable, Shaun Sawyer, has made a direct plea to holidaymakers to stay away from the South West of England during Easter.

He said visitors would be welcome to Devon and Cornwall when the current crisis was over but for the time being people should stay in their own homes.

Chief Constable, Shaun Sawyer

My message to you right now is please do not come. Whilst coronavirus is with us, it is essential that you stay at home to keep your loved ones safe, and that we stay at home. We have restrictions here, on the people who live here."

Shaun SawyerChief Constable, Devon & Cornwall Police

'Don't be alarmed' by ambulance staff in PPE

Chris Quevatre

BBC News Online

The ambulance service wants to reassure members of the public who see their staff responding to calls in personal protective equipment.

The South West Ambulance Service Trust said it did not mean they thought someone had coronvirus, they were just being "as careful as possible for everyone's safety".

Staff member wearing PPE
South Western Ambulance Service Trust

A spokesperson said: "You may see more of our staff wearing surgical masks and disposal aprons along with other Personal Protective Equipment when they respond to a 999 call.

"Please don’t be alarmed, we are simply doing everything we can to protect our staff and our patients as much as possible."

Staff member wearing PPE
South Western Ambulance Service Trust

Parking restrictions relaxed across Devon

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Councils across Devon have relaxed parking restrictions in car parks that they run, with some suspending enforcement and charges entirely.

South Hams, West Devon, Plymouth and North Devon councils have suspended charges in all of the car parks that they manage, while East Devon, Exeter and Torbay are offering free parking to NHS staff, social care staff and volunteers, as is Devon County Council at County Hall.

Parking restrictions on some of Devon’s roads had already been temporarily relaxed by Devon County Council during the coronavirus outbreak.

Motorists will still be banned from parking on double yellow lines and key routes, but in peripheral or some residential areas, enforcement action will no longer be taken.

The government is urging people to stay at home, but people are still allowed to travel to a shop for basic necessities, for medical reasons, or to travel to work if they cannot work from home.

Parking charges sign

Staff praised for new ICU build

Chris Quevatre

BBC News Online

The NHS trust that runs Derriford Hospital has praised staff for managing to put together a new ICU unit to help tackle coronavirus.

The University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said the project was the culmination of "amazing work from everyone involved".

"Putting together an ICU in such a short space of time involved teams working tirelessly to prepare, train, procure, support, manage and care."

"Hundreds of staff have been trained in ICU skills and our #1BigTeam should be incredibly proud!" it added.

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
As people stay home, areas that would be packed on a sunny day are nearly empty.
As people stay home, areas that would be packed on a sunny day have been nearly empty.

National park thanks people for staying away

Tarr Steps
Getty Images

Exmoor National Park Authority has thanked people for following government advice and largely staying away from the beauty spot over the weekend.

National Park rangers worked with police officers from Somerset and Devon to offer information and advice to a small number of walkers, just a week after huge crowds were seen at national parks, prompting concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re extremely grateful to everyone for foregoing their visits to the national park over the weekend and until restrictions lift," said access and recreation manager Dan Barnett.

He added: "The importance of these places for people’s health and well being cannot be underestimated and we fully appreciate the sacrifice many are making to protect fellow citizens."

Coronavirus: ICU nurse visits triplets from driveway
Graham is living apart from his wife and triplets who are at risk from coronavirus complications.

Police responding to reports of 'self-policing'

BBC Radio Devon

The police are receiving calls from people conducting "self-policing" and reporting others who are allegedly breaching the social distancing guidelines set out by the government.

Devon and Cornwall Police say over the weekend, the vast majority of people stuck to the call to stay at home - but there were some exceptions.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said officers would act if they heard about shops opening or people gathering in groups.

He said: "We do get the calls off people who are frustrated seeing gatherings.

"We will respond to that, not as a blue light response but we will deal with it."

He said the force would go to the reported spot if it is "appropriate", but "assess" it alongside what else the force is dealing with at that time.

Have you spotted Dora the Explorer?

Emma Thomasson

BBC Spotlight

Children have been looking out for cartoon characters strolling the streets of Plymouth.

A man is dressing up as cartoon characters for his daily walk - to put a smile on people's faces.

Coronavirus: 'Unacceptable risk' to operate air ambulance

Charley Adams

BBC News Online

An air ambulance service will temporarily only be responding to calls by car.

Heléna Holt, CEO of Devon Air Ambulance, said standing down the aircraft "has been a very difficult decision", but one they had to make to "protect all of our crew".

Devon air ambulance

Paramedics wear personal protective gear when treating and attending to patients, but the pilots cannot operate aircraft while doing so or maintain a 2m (6ft) social distance between themselves and the patient.

"As we have no way of knowing whether a patient has coronavirus, this leaves them completely exposed within a small confined space," explained the air ambulance CEO.

"We hope our community will understand that this is an unacceptable risk."

This is a temporary measure and the ambulance service will be working with the NHS to identify other ways to support the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We will do our best to maintain our service and keep being there for patients, albeit by road not air.”

Number of families fleeing domestic abuse rises

BBC Radio Devon

In recent weeks there has been a rise in the number of families fleeing domestic violence, a charity claims.

North Devon Against Domestic Violence, the only refuge in Devon said it has seen an increase of seven to eight families per day presenting to housing.

Upset woman
Science Photo Library

Currently, there are six families at the refuge and all are well.

Staff are not entering the refuge and mental health support is being provided over the phone or via video link.

A new campaign is being launched across Devon and Cornwall to help people suffering abuse, because they are having to stay at home due to coronavirus.

Lovely card delivered to South Western Ambulance staff

Well done Millie, Kyla and Pippa for sending this card - it's a real hoot!

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Action fund launched to help comnunity groups

BBC Radio Devon

A county council has launched an action fund to support groups helping out in local communities.

The Covid-19 fund has been launched by Devon County Council.

Grants of up to £500 will be available to allow voluntary groups to help the most vulnerable, with services such as delivering food and medicine.

The grants can also fund virtual support groups to help people access the internet and voluntary car schemes.

There have been 80 applications to the council so far.

Suspects arrested showing coronavirus symptoms

A top police officer has said some people with symptoms of the virus have been arrested in Cornwall.

Some suspects arrested recently for GBH, drink-driving and assaulting a police officer have shown symptoms of coronavirus, said Chief Superintendent, Ian Drummond-Smith.

"Don’t be fooled into thinking demand will subside during #coronalockdownuk."

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Domestic abuse fear in coronavirus clampdown

Devon and Cornwall Police and victim support agencies are warning that more people may experience domestic abuse, as we are encouraged to self-isolate at home.

Abuse generic
Getty Images

But they're keen to reassure communities that victims will still have access to support services.

Supt Sharon Donald, from Devon & Cornwall Police, said: “Sadly, as schools close and home working is encouraged, Covid-19 may cause a rise in domestic abuse."

Live Chat is a web-based support service that will be available to victims in Devon and Cornwall 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The service is anonymous, confidential and free to use. To access it visit Victim Support or Victim Care.

Victim Support will still offer telephone support on 0808 031 8178.

In addition to the web chat facility, other channels for victim support are still available.

Victim Care can be contacted on 01392 475900 from 08:00 to 20:00 on Monday to Friday and 09:00 to 17:00 at the weekend.

Three more people die of coronavirus in Devon

BBC Radio Devon

A further three people have died in Devon after testing positive for coronavirus.


Latest figures show two people died at Torbay Hospital on Saturday and one person died at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on Friday.

The total number of deaths in Devon now stands at 12 and seven in Cornwall.

Devon police patrol turns back Birmingham driver

Police patrolling in north Devon turned back this driver who was travelling from Birmingham.

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Restrictions on travel issued by the government mean only essential journeys are allowed.

You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, trips which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or bike ride - alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only when you cannot work from home

Staying 'local' could save lives, says police chief

BBC Spotlight

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer

A police chief has spoken out to try and urge people to stay "local" this weekend and save lives.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer told the BBC he could not have "1.7 million adults and children deciding this weekend to drive to beauty spots and beaches".

He is asking people not to drive anywhere this weekend unless it is necessary and to not drive somewhere for their session of exercise.

"Local means local - stay local at home and stay socially responsible. This is about saving human lives, it's that serious.

"If you're driving somewhere, that is not in the spirit of what is intended."

The chief constable said he was "concerned" about maintaining law and order during this time.

"The day that I issue a ticket or have to arrest people... is a very sad day. If it's needed I will do it, but I want that to be our last resort, not out first."

Extra safety measures for Devon blood donors

Johanna Carr

BBC News Online

Health worker

People in Devon are being urged to carry on donating blood as normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHS Blood and Transplant service said extra safety measures including triage on arrival and extra cleaning had been put in place.

A spokesman for the service said: "We’ve started triaging everyone who arrives so only people with no risk factors can enter the donation area.

“A lot of people have called us asking if sessions are still going ahead. We need them to know that our sessions and donor centres are still open and that travel to a blood donation session is essential for the NHS."

People must keep donating to make sure blood supplies for hospitals are kept up, he added.

There is a permanent blood donation centre in Plymouth at Derriford Hospital.

Appointments can be made by calling 0300 123 23 23 or going to www.blood.co.uk.

Police explain decision to stop beehive-moving driver

Andrew Segal

BBC South West

Police have explained why they classed someone who was transporting a beehive as carrying out a non-essential journey.

The Devon and Cornwall Alliance Roads Policing team tweeted on Thursday evening that someone was stopped in Cullompton, Devon, while "taking a beehive to a field".

The motorist was sent home "with strong words of advice"

The move was criticised on social media, with one commentator saying bee-keeping tasks could be carried out by registered keepers "whilst complying with social distancing".

Questions were also raised if officers acted appropriately if the person was involved in food production.

On Friday morning, officers tweeted to clarify the situation, saying the hive was being transported "not in line with employment or essential work, instead this was a hobbie [sic]".

"Had this been the case, then the final decision would have been different," they said.

They added the individual was from a "Covid-19 vulnerable group, and was not adhering to social distancing".

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Officers redeployed to frontline policing

Johanna Carr

BBC News Online

Devon and Cornwall Police is redeploying staff to frontline policing as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The force said 125 officers had so far been redeployed from back office roles including 40 who would be handling phone calls and sergeants being given custody training.

Police cars

Devon and Cornwall Police said more incidents would be handled over the phone to reduce the risk to staff and the public of spreading the virus.

The public were asked to be patient as the force may take more time to follow up reports relating to lower-level crimes but the force said there were "no types of crime which we will not respond to or log and we will not stop arresting people".

Since the stay at home measures were introduced the force said it had seen a significant reduction in reports of some crimes, such as those related to the evening and night-time economy and motoring, while domestic abuse had increased.

A spokesman said: “Requests for police attendance and the investigations of crimes will be ranked on a basis of the threat, risk and harm and will be responded to proportionately.

“When policing is under strain, from either demand or capacity issues, some services will have to be reduced – such as historic investigations that have a low risk attached to them.

"We will always focus on core policing and serious and violent crime.”

Members of the public are asked to think twice before they contact the force so officers are able to respond to the most pressing matters.

Devon highways teams to carry out essential repairs only

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Planned maintenance on Devon’s roads has been suspended but highways teams will continue to carry out essential repairs.

Devon County Council has temporarily suspended planned maintenance work in order to focus on the repair of critical infrastructure to maintain the local network for key workers.


Highway maintenance workers have been classified by the government as key to delivering essential service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Stuart Hughes said staff were being advised to observe social distancing precautions and called on people not approach maintenance crews.

He said: "They should be applauded for their vital work in keeping our roads safe for everyone during these uncertain times."

Clap for Carers a 'goosebumps moment'

The Clap for Carers event celebrating NHS workers on Thursday night was a "goosebumps moment" for staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, according to a senior administrator.

Leanne Ashmead, A&E manager at the hospital, said the initiative was "emotional" for members of her team who were able to step outside and listen.

"It's proof that people are thinking of them in what is a really challenging time," she said.

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On a personal level, Ms Ashmead said it was "difficult to describe" her feelings in words.

"I made a big point of opening the front door just before eight o’clock to hear the moment at which the streets burst into applause and cheering.

"It epitomised the reason why I work for the NHS, I just want to serve the public and our wonderful institution.

"To see really how much that means to people is wonderful."

Ms Ashmead added she would be reminding herself and her team of the "incredibly special" event at "pressure moments" during the crisis.

"It's like nothing we've ever experienced before."

Coronavirus: Summer weather may change spread of virus

David Braine

Weather Forecaster

We have had several emails asking if the weather or climate can affect the spread or severity of coronavirus and whilst information on this new disease is very sparse we can look at how the weather has affected similar viruses in the past and try to make some observations.

Coronavirus graphic

Covid-19 is a respiratory disease that moves from human to human in a similar way to other viruses such as seasonal flu or coughs and colds, it is spread in mucous or water droplets from coughs, sneezes, and breathing from one person to another, and there are a variety of theories as to how long it can survive on a surface outside of the human body.

Seasonal flu or influenza has affected the human population for thousands of years, typically being more virulent in the world’s temperate regions, and more specifically in the winter months of both the northern and southern hemispheres.

There is evidence that seasonal flu has a harder time spreading in hot dry countries, where the viruses living outside of the body struggle with high temperature and arid environments.

There are some studies from scientists from universities in China, who have examined how the coronavirus has been transmitted in several Chinese cities, and have concluded that “high temperature and high relative humidity significantly reduce the transmission of Covid-19”.

The research also suggests that, as with many viruses, it may transmit more effectively between humans when humidity is low and the temperature is between 5C (41F) and 11C (52F).

At the moment the areas most affected by coronavirus lie between 30-50 degrees north of the equator and, as with seasonal flu, spring and summer could reduce the infection rate with higher temperatures and more UV light, which is known to have an effect on similar viruses.

No one has the answers as to what weather type can help or reduce the spread of Covid-19 but there are similarities to how seasonal flu behaves and there seem to be three critical factors:

  • Viruses live well within the body at approximately 37C (99F) - normal body temperature. During a fever the virus can be killed which is the body’s response to the infection, normal flu viruses survive and transmit better outside the human body at a much lower temperature and level of humidity.
  • Those who live in temperate regions tend to spend a lot of the winter time indoors and in close proximity to each other thus aiding the spread of viruses
  • Vitamin D may play a part in the human immune system to fight viruses, in winter time when the sun is low in temperate regions and people spend more time indoors they typically get less sunshine and therefore make less vitamin D, and that might reduce the immune system.

There are no clear answers as to whether Covid-19 conforms to other types of virus that we know more about, and how much impact the weather will have on it, but sunshine does bring benefits to the immune system in the production of vitamin D, and a higher temperature may help control the survivability of the virus on surfaces.

So heading into spring and summer the sunshine may have an impact on the virus and how we cope with it.