Covid, tourists and complacency in the West Country

How to keep transmission rates low in Devon and Cornwall

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Many months ago, the West Country had amongst the lowest number of Covid cases:

Which parts of Devon have the lowest number of coronavirus cases in England? | News | Mid-Devon Advertiser

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Now numbers are up in Devon and Cornwall – and yet they still remain amongst the lowest in the country:

A total of 5,120 new cases were confirmed across the two counties – the highest weekly total so far (although comparisons with the spring cannot be made due to lack of testing) – as the total for the two counties rises over 30,000. Cases have risen in every single region of Devon and Cornwall – but despite the rises, Devon at upper tier level has the 3 lowest infection rate, while at lower tier level, all ten areas of Devon are in the bottom 15 of the 315 nationwide.

Weekly Covid cases for Devon and Cornwall tops 5,000 as infections rising everywhere – Devon Live

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There is speculation about why there has been such a rise.

Some would blame students, as happened in the autumn:

Exeter, the University and the spread of the coronavirus – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Others would blame tourists, as happened in the summer:

The West Country tells tourists to ‘Stay at Home’ – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The pressures to open the West Country’s beaches – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Indeed, reports from this weekend suggest ‘incomers’ are an issue:

… more than one third of Devon and Cornwall Police’s incidents yesterday revolved around Covid-19 lockdown breaches – many of which were linked to holiday homes.

Devon and Cornwall Police on everything you can and can’t do in lockdown – Devon Live

Covid-19: Hundreds of rule breaches in Devon and Cornwall – BBC News

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But of course, it is not quite that simple, as this report from the Observer points out:

I don’t blame people for travelling here when the restrictions allowed it – I would probably have done the same. But tourism is a divisive issue in Cornwall at the best of times. Having a deadly virus on the loose was always going to fuel age-old Cornish jokes about destroying the Tamar Bridge and sealing Cornwall off from the rest of the country.

While outsiders are being squarely blamed in many social media postings, public health officials here say there is very little evidence to suggest they are behind the spike in cases. Community and household transmission between friends, family and colleagues over the festive season are the main source, with the new variant making transmission easier. “We are only now seeing the impact of Christmas gatherings and things are clearly going to get worse,” Wigglesworth said.

Did people in Cornwall let their guard down? Did, perhaps, a little bit of complacency creep in after so many months of low rates?

Covid seemed like a crisis far away from Cornwall. Not now | Coronavirus | The Guardian

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And on the other hand, there are communities which are behaving responsibly, with this report from Great Torrington over the weekend:

“I think the reason we have had so few cases here is because everyone has been really good. People are not mixing – even the kids around town, people are keeping their distance, businesses have not been jamming people in and there have not been huge crowds which has been great.

“Everyone has looked after each other. Coronavirus remains a worry but I do feel a lot safer living in this town because people are staying local. I have not been anywhere apart from taking my son to college and maybe going out five times for walks in the countryside.

“A lot of the town is doing that and we are lucky as we have lots of walks around.”

Great Torrington on how it has kept Covid-19 at bay – Devon Live

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image: Great Torrington : Countryside Scenery © Lewis Clarke :: Geograph Britain and Ireland

   
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