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Bristol City Council could introduce Covid-19 marshals

By amanda cameron, Friday Sep 18, 2020

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has said the city council will consider introducing Covid-19 marshals, but has criticised the government for leaving local authorities to foot the bill.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced last week that Covid-19 marshals in towns and city centres in England would help ensure social distancing rules are followed.

The government has said the marshals can be volunteers or council staff, but local authorities will get no extra funding to pay for them.

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The marshals are tasked with ensuring people follow the rules – such as wearing face coverings in shops and takeaways.

They will also enforce local authority guidance – such as using a one-way system on pavements – as well as hand out masks and hand gel.

But they will have no powers to enforce the new “rule of six” law, banning people in England from meeting in groups of more than six.

Mayor Marvin Rees discussed the possibility of coronavirus marshals in Bristol. Photo: CB Bristol Design

Asked whether Bristol City Council will introduce Covid-19 marshals at a press briefing on September 16, Rees said: “We’ll take a view on that with our director of public health. It’s certainly possible.”

But the mayor stressed that, compared with other parts of the country, Bristol still had relatively low rates of coronavirus infection and might not need to take the same measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

“That does not mean we are relaxed about it,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure that people are taking on behaviours that keep us both safe and keep it as low as possible.

“But we’re not in an extreme situation as they are in some other parts of the country where they may need to take incredibly intensive action to stave off the immediate threat of a (local) lockdown.

Photo: Sign on King Street that says 'COVID-19 Maintain social distance'.

Bristol isn’t in immediate danger of a local lockdown, said Rees. Photo: Martin Booth

He added: “Dare I say, (Covid-19 marshals are) another example of someone making an announcement at national level without having any conversation with local authorities … and no conversation around paying for it either.

“(A briefing) said it would be expected to come from existing funds from local authorities. Well, we know we’re taking a £14million, possibly more, hit in Bristol through Covid, anyway.”

A total of 1,655 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Bristol so far, Rees said. 61 new cases were confirmed in the past seven days.

The mayor said this was a drop compared with the previous week and that disease prevalence had likewise fallen from 19.4 to 14.2 cases per 100,000 people.

But the numbers could simply be the result of people “struggling” to get a Covid-19 test and not a true reflection of the number of people infected, he cautioned. Some 6,135 residents were tested in the last seven days.

More than 6,000 people have been tested in a week. Photo: James Koch

Rees urged people to seek a test only if they develop a continuous cough, a high temperature and loss of taste. He also reminded people of the current coronavirus rules around wearing facemasks and the rule of six.

Amanda Cameron is a local democracy reporter for Bristol.

Main photo: Ellie Pipe

Read more: Four more Bristol schools have confirmed cases of Covid-19

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