For the first time since the start of January, the weekly number of new confirmed coronavirus cases across Devon and Cornwall has risen – but overall numbers in Devon are down.

A total of 397 new cases were confirmed across the two counties in the last week – the first rise weekly rise since the week ending January 8 – with the total since the start of the pandemic standing at 47,118. Government stats show that these 397 new cases have been confirmed across the region in the past seven days in both pillar 1 data from tests carried out by the NHS, and pillar 2 data from commercial partners, and compared to 378 new cases confirmed in the previous week.

Of the 397 new cases confirmed since March 19, 109 were in Cornwall (compared to 88 in the previous week), with 44 in East Devon (53 previously), 19 in Exeter (34 previously), 20 in Mid Devon (26 previously), 7 in North Devon (8 previously), 126 in Plymouth (a rise as there were 95 previously), 11 in South Hams (a rise as there were 7 previously), 16 in Teignbridge (a rise as there were 12 previously), 27 in Torbay (42 previously), 9 in Torridge (a rise as there were 8 previously) and 9 in West Devon (a rise as there were 5 previously). That means that if the county of Devon were to be looked at on its own, the number of new cases there are down week-on-week, with 288 recorded in the last week compared to 290 a week previously, and in the Devon County Council area (excluding Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter) cases are down still further, with 135 compared to 153.

In short, in the last week, the number of cases has risen in West Devon, Torridge, South Hams and Teignbridge – but by less than one new case in each of those districts every two days – so it is the rise in case numbers in Cornwall and Plymouth driving up the overall total for the two counties.

Despite this, the number of COVID cases and infections in the two counties are significantly below the average for England - and only Plymouth has an infection rate higher than the average for the South West (which is in any case the region with the lowest number of cases in England), and infection rates in Devon are among the lowest in England.

For specimens from between March 15 and 21, Cornwall’s infection rate is 17/100,000. Meanwhile in Devon, the South Hams is the area in England with the lowest infection rate (6.9/100,000), with North Devon second lowest (8.2/100,000), West Devon third lowest (9/100,000), Teignbridge fifth lowest (11.2/100,000), Torridge eight lowest (13.2/100,000) and Exeter thirteenth lowest (14.5/100,000) as so ranked in the country’s bottom 15. Mid Devon (18.2/100,000), Torbay (24.2/100,000), East Devon (29.4/100,000) and Plymouth (37.8/100,000) are the other Devon infection rates.

At upper tier level, Devon, with 15/100,000 infection rate, has the second lowest infection rate of any authority in England, only coming behind the Isle of Wight, while Cornwall’s rate is the third lowest.

The latest positivity rates for PCR tests carried out stand at 0.5% in Cornwall 1% in East Devon, 0.5% in Exeter, 0.6% in Mid Devon, 0.3% in North Devon, 1% in Plymouth, 0.1% in South Hams, 0.2% in Teignbridge, 0.5% in Torbay, 0.2% in Torridge and 0.2% in West Devon.

In terms of infection rates per age range, case rates are highest in the age range 20-39 across most areas of Cornwall and Devon. However, in Mid Devon, North Devon and Teignbridge it is the 40-59 age group with the highest case rate, while in the South Hams it is the over 80s age group - although that relates to just two positive cases out of just four cases in the reporting period.

In Exeter, infection rates are highest in the under 19s age group, but are lower in that age group than they were in the previous week. In Cornwall, Plymouth and Torbay, infection rates for the under 19s are rising slightly.

However, the number of patients in hospitals across Devon following a positive Covid-19 test has continued to fall. In Cornwall, the number of COVID patients in hospital has fallen, dropping from 17 in the previous week to 13 as of March 23. In Devon there were 34 patients across the county in hospital after a positive test, a figure down on the 47 as of the previous Tuesday. It is also the lowest figure since early October.

In total there were 21 patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (down from 24 as of March 16), 6 at Torbay Hospital (down from 8), 6 in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth (down from 16), and 1 at North Devon District Hospital (up from 0). The figure for the Derriford is the lowest number of patients since October 4 when they had just four patients

And the number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds across the two counties is down as well to 6, from 10 in the previous week, with three in Exeter and three in Plymouth. There are no patients in mechanical ventilation beds in Cornwall.

In the last week, there have been four deaths in Devon and Cornwall hospitals of patients within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, with two in Exeter, one in Torbay, and one in Plymouth.

In terms of the latest MSOA cluster maps, that cover the period of specimen dates between March 15 and March 21, there are 181 areas of Devon and Cornwall with between 0-2 cases, up from 178 as of last Friday. The MSOA areas in each region with the highest number of cases are, in Cornwall, Launceston with 10 cases; and in Devon, Sidmouth Sidford with 10 cases, Exeter St James’s Park & Hoopern with 7 cases, and Plymouth Millbay & Stonehouse with 10 cases.

Of cluster areas with three or more cases in the Cornish Times area, Altarnun and Stoke Climsland have three cases; Looe and Polperro have five cases; St Neot and St Cleer have three cases; and Torpoint has four cases.

However, 300,000 in Cornwall and just under 600,000 people in Devon have had their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. In Cornwall, 62.4 per cent of adults have had their first dose, and across Devon, 59.4 per cent have been vaccinated once. These figures will have risen in the most recent days as it shows the position as of Sunday.

The statistics, which provide the position as of March 21, show that there have been 638,544 vaccines delivered in Devon, with 593,532 of them being the first dose. In Cornwall, 313,167 vaccines have been delivered, with 290,859 of them being first doses.

By RICHARD WHITEHOUSE, Local Democracy Reporter