Devon councillors urge MPs to press for a regional approach to tackling Covid-19

Otter Valley councillor Claire Wright

Otter Valley councillor Claire Wright - Credit: Archant

An ‘urgent’ call has been made for a new approach to tackling coronavirus in the south west, in view of the relatively low number of cases.

Martin Shaw. Ref ehr 31 17TI 8559. Picture: Terry Ife

Martin Shaw. Ref ehr 31 17TI 8559. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Three Devon county councillors, including Otter Valley representative Claire Wright, are supporting the call by an infectious disease and public health expert.

Dr Bharat Pankhania of Exeter University’s medical school believes that effective control of the disease in the least affected parts of the country would be an important step towards a national solution.

He said contact tracing, isolation and testing should be introduced ‘as a matter of urgency’ in the south west, north west, north east, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The councillors, Hilary Ackland (Exeter), Martin Shaw (Seaton and Colyton) and Claire Wright, have released a joint statement, which said: “The south west is experiencing the epidemic in a different way from other regions.

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“We have the lowest levels of hospitalisation and death from Covid-19 in the country.

“South west councils, MPs and the police have had some success in preventing second-home owners and tourists further spreading the virus.

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“We therefore support the call by Dr Bharat Pankhania, Exeter University’s infectious disease and public health expert, to take advantage of the lockdown to introduce a regional approach to the epidemic in the south west, with intensive testing, tracing and quarantining to eliminate the virus.

“We call on Directors of Public Health in the region to devote all available resources to this approach, and on Devon MPs to press the Government to give the necessary support for this.

“While we do not believe the lockdown can be lifted imminently, effective control of the epidemic in the south west would be an important step forward towards a national solution, and would enable local leaders to make the case for a regional approach to lifting the lockdown in due course.”

Cllr Shaw added: “As of two days ago, 21 people had died of Covid in the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Trust, compared to almost 200 in many trusts in other regions.

“This shows that the epidemic is still very uneven – a patchwork of variable local epidemics, as Dr Pankhania has argued in the British Medical Journal.

“We should press for an effective south west strategy.”

Across Devon as a whole there have been 84 deaths from the coronavirus in the four main hospitals. The official figures provided by NHS England do not include deaths in care homes or the wider community.

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