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‘Covid-19 Secure Marshals’ proposed

Local government has given a cautious welcome to COVID-19 Secure Marshals, as proposed by central government ‘to help local authorities support social distancing in towns and city centres’.

This was announced among other changes, covering England only; such as requiring some businesses to have a system to collect NHS Test and Trace data, and keep this for 21 days; and restrict the opening hours of premises, initially in local lockdown areas (as already enforced in Bolton due to a rise in coronavirus cases), with the option of national action.

The Government said that it would launch a register of newly qualified and recently retired Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) to aid councils in recruiting such staff.

The moves towards a stricter lockdown, such as fewer allowed in social gatherings, were part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference yesterday. He publicised a public health campaign of ‘Hands, Face, Space: Wash your hands, cover your face, and make space’. The Government backed councils to make ‘further and faster user of their powers to close venues that are breaking the rules’; and said it will reduce the number of people legally allowed to meet socially from 30 to six; which ‘will make it easier for everyone to understand what is expected and for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings’.


Nesil Caliskan, Labour Leader of Enfield borough in north London, chairs the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning she gave the marshals a cautious welcome, while stressing that (as throughout the pandemic) that central government announced things first and then gave details to local government. Given a shortage of environmental health officers, she also welcomed the register proposed.

She said: “Most hospitality businesses are working hard, supported by councils, to ensure they comply with COVID-19 rules. However, some premises are not collecting contact details of customers so they can be reached in the event of a local outbreak. This is clearly a danger to communities and puts people at risk of infection, so it is good that this will become mandatory as councils have called for.

“While most businesses are implementing the necessary measures to protect people’s safety, we are pleased the Government has also acted on LGA calls for councils to have powers to take action when rules are being flouted. These measures will mean they can act quickly and proactively in cracking down on places that flout COVID-19 guidance, to prevent problems in the first place instead of only being able to act when it is too late.

“We need to quickly see further detail on how the Government’s COVID-19 Secure Marshal scheme is intended to work, and any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded.”

For the Police Federation of England and Wales, National Chair John Apter said that constant changes to legislation are becoming the norm. He called for ‘an effective public information campaign’ adding that ‘there’s been so much confusion for the public and many people don’t know exactly what the law says’. He said: “The pressures on policing have increased significantly over recent months, and this latest change will add to this pressure.

“My colleagues will support the public through what is going to be a very difficult time. At all times they will also remind people that a breach of these regulations means breaking the law.

“We would urge the public to do the right thing and comply with the new rules, to help protect each other and prevent the further spread of this deadly virus.”

And for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), chair Paddy Tipping said that policing guidance was awaited, ‘but we do know that officers will continue to engage, explain and encourage before they take enforcement action’.

He added: “As we have seen throughout the pandemic, overwhelmingly, any breaches of Regulations have been dealt with without the need to issue fines. This approach has been successful to date and I am sure that the public will continue to work with the police to help to reduce the infection rate and keep people safe.”


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