Wed, 10 Feb 2021
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COVID marshals are set to be deployed in West Berkshire to monitor behaviour and encourage social distancing.
Eight marshals will be placed across the district, particularly in priority areas like coronavirus testing sites, supermarkets, town centres, parks and open spaces.
They will engage with the public and businesses about any concerns they may have, hand out face masks when necessary and aim to ensure there’s no inadvertent rule-breaking.
The officers will also support local businesses; ensuring they are avoiding bottle-necks by operating effective one-way systems.
They will not, however, have any enforcement powers – instead working with public protection staff and Thames Valley Police, who will pick up situations where legal enforcement is needed.
The marshals will be highly visible and are expected to be out in the district by the middle of February. They will work shifts to cover seven days a week.
The cost will be met by Covid-19 funding provided to West Berkshire Council by central government, and the service is expected to last up to and beyond the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Council executive member for public protection Hilary Cole said: “We are pleased to welcome Covid marshals to our district.
“They will engage with our residents and local businesses, providing yet another way to help people stay up to date with government guidelines around living safely during the pandemic.
“Guidance changes over time, so it’s good to know that these officers are out in our community helping us stay safe.”
The marshals are part of the Public Protection Service and will provide regular activity reports back to the council’s Covid response management team in order to prioritise future efforts to protect the community.
Council leader Lynne Doherty said she had had far more residents complaining about other residents’ behaviour during the third national lockdown and Covid marshals would help encourage the correct behaviour.
She said: “People are used to following the guidance and rules and people are being far more vocal.
“We saw it early doors with concerns about the skate park, and I’ve heard about people congregating in the town centre.
“Supermarkets do seem to be a hotspot because people are thinking why can’t somebody just take a minute and let somebody finish before they move in.
“People are complaining that they want to go to the supermarkets and do it right.
“I think having somebody there with the remit to have difficult conversations – and people get used to that idea that there will be people who pick up on this behaviour – will support our efforts going forward and encourage social distancing that we all know will be with us for some time to come.
“We’re seeing a steady decline in our case numbers and we’ve got to do all we can to continue that.”
Mrs Doherty added that the council had not deployed Covid marshals previously because most of its efforts had been going towards making sure businesses were compliant with coronavirus measures.