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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 home owners 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 home owners are eligible to apply for a £10,000 grant while so many businesses across Devon struggle to get through this crisis."

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."

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.

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.

View more on twitter

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."

View more on twitter

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."


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.

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

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".

View more on twitter

'Turn around and go home'

Shaun Sawyer

People planning on heading to the South West this weekend amid the forecast warm weather should "turn around and go home", a police chief has said.

Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer told BBC Breakfast people should "think about what you're doing" and "go back to where you need to be".

Mr Sawyer said: "If you're in your car with your caravan, your motorhome, your topbox, and the back window's full with a duvet, then turn around and go home."

He added people should "come back later", as the region will "desperately" need people to visit once it is safe.

"We never thought we'd be saying to people 'don't come'," he said.

"This will be one of the first big weekends, if we don't get it right this weekend then what are we going to do at Easter?"

Wiltshire firefighters may become temporary ambulance drivers

Ambulance staff in PPE
PA Media

Firefighters in Wiltshire have started working with the county's ambulance service to help them during the pandemic.

Fire staff are being trained to drive ambulances if South Western Ambulance Service has staff shortages over the coming months.

Chief fire officer for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, Ben Ansell said: "It might be that we reduce some of our fire engines in order to maintain critical emergency ambulances and have firefighters driving them as a crew of two, with a paramedic."

He added that firefighters in Chippenham were also helping ambulance staff by unpacking and assembling masks and respirators - equipment they're well used to working with.

They're also testing the PPE kit to make sure ambulance staff are being properly protected and are confident how to use it.

Cornwall Council wants information on trading holiday businesses

Johnny O'Shea

BBC News Online

Cornwall Council is asking people to contact them if they become aware of any businesses that are letting out rooms or properties, or if second home owners come on holiday.

The Government has confirmed that self-catering cottages and Airbnbs are included in a list of facilities to be closed.

It previously ordered the closure of camp sites, hotels, guesthouses and B&B’s.

Devon and Cornwall Police says it will take action against people who it considers have made non-essential journeys, such as to go on holiday.

The council said it is aware of some providers acting illegally.

Anyone with information is asked to email -

We will work closely with and support our partners in protecting the public. If people undertake non-essential travel which could include travelling to second homes then we reserve the right to take enforcement action which will be considered on a case by case basis.”

Inspector Miles TophamDevon and Cornwall Police

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