The Wokingham Paper

Wokingham borough council looks for guidance on appointing Covid-19 marshals

A representation of the coronavirus Picture: Daniel Roberts from Pixabay

WOKINGHAM Borough Council is still waiting for details to come through over the Covid Marshal scheme.

Last week, Boris Johnson said that councils would be given tougher powers to tackle violations of Covid-19 rules, but information as to how this is meant to happen is still to be forthcoming.

“We will boost the enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing Covid Secure Marshals to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres, and by setting up a register of Environmental Health Officers that local authorities can draw upon for support,” he said during a press conference held at 10 Downing Street on Thursday, September 10.

Other measures announced include supporting local authorities to “make further and faster use of their powers to close venues that are breaking the rules and pose a risk to public health” and to fine hospitality venues that fail to keep their premises Covid-secure.

He said that the measures were to avoid a second national lockdown.

Despite this, by Monday this week, no information had been sent to councils as to what marshals would look like.

Cllr John Halsall, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We haven’t had the guidance yet.

“We don’t know what, if any, involvement (we’ll have). We imagine we will have some involvement, but we don’t know what it is yet.”

And there are also ongoing concerns over testing people who think they have Covid-19 symptoms. Across the country, there has been a shortage of available tests.

Last week, Mr Johnson said: “We are increasing our testing capacity further to meet rising demand.

“You can help by only booking a test if you have a fever, a new continuous cough, or you’ve lost your sense of taste or smell – if you don’t have those symptoms and haven’t been asked to book a test, please don’t.”

Tests remain in short supply, with social media awash with stories of people who have not been able to secure tests locally — some being sent to Scotland instead.

Cllr Halsall said that the picture was “concerning”.

“Because there’s been outbreak (of Covid-19) elsewhere, what’s happened is that the resources which are available have been redirected to the areas of outbreak, and areas which had low Covid-19 levels like we have in Wokingham, thankfully I should say, are being starved of those resources.

“The advice we’re trying to give people is please don’t seek a test unless you feel that you absolutely need one.

“It’s poor advice, because people have been advised elsewhere, and by us, to have a test when they think they need one.

“But it is what it is – the resources are not there at the moment, and we just hope that the Government puts them there.”

And Cllr Halsall said that one of the reasons why Wokingham borough has had low Covid-19 rates is thanks to its residents rising to the challenge.

“Throughout this emergency, the good people in Wokingham have been rational, capable, staying alert and doing the right things,” he said. “I thank everybody for that.

“We are lucky to live in a place where people behave properly. I’m thankful – thanks to everybody for doing so.”

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