Devon County Council prepares coronavirus response as cases are expected to peak in April/May

Dr Phil Norrey, chief executive of Devon County Council.

Dr Phil Norrey, chief executive of Devon County Council. - Credit: Archant

‘Rapid decisions’ will have to be made on how to protect Devon’s most vulnerable residents at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the chief executive of the county council.

Coronavirus cases are expected to peak in April-May.

Coronavirus cases are expected to peak in April-May. - Credit: Archant

Dr Phil Norrey said the council is planning for a scenario of up to 30 per cent of the workforce being away from work at the peak period, now expected in April/May.

People will be either ill with the virus, in self-isolation or having caring responsibilities.

The UK government has moved from the 'containment' to the 'delay' phase of its response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The measures include seven-day self-isolation periods for those with persistent coughs or fevers.

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The local elections in May have been put off until 2021, and the election of Devon and Cornwall's police and crime commissioner is also expected to be postponed.

Dr Norrey said: 'At the height, we are looking at 20 per cent either ill or self-isolating, with a 10 per cent knock-on as well because people have caring responsibilities.

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'Up to 30 per cent of the workforce could be away at the peak, and organisationally, us and the NHS are planning for this sort of impact, and some smaller institutions planning for 50/60 per cent.'

He added: 'There is lots of planning going on and organisationally we will have to make rapid decisions about resources and tasks that don't need to be done, to free up staff to protect the most vulnerable.'

Dr Norrey said the impact of the virus on people's lives was comparable to that of World War Two, and would fall 'disproportionally on the more vulnerable in our communities'.

But he said there was nothing to suggest that Devon was a particular hotspot for the coronavirus.

There are currently 14 confirmed cases in the Devon local authority area, and seven in Torbay.

The county was one of the first places in the UK where there were confirmed cases, but Dr Norrey said: 'Those cases were largely explicable in terms of people returning from holiday destinations.

'We have not seen any confirmed cases from community transmission, and have been overtaken by other areas in terms of the outbreak.

Nationally, ten people have died after contracting the virus, none of them in Devon.

But Dr Norrey said there was a post-mortem being carried out into one death in Devon, where there was a possibility that the person had contracted the virus.

Visit the NHS coronavirus website for the latest information and advice.

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