‘Covid cops’ will patrol shopping areas across Stoke-on-Trent as businesses reopen with the easing of lockdown rules.
Twelve officers from Stoke-on-Trent City Council‘s public protection team will look to ensure that both shops and their customers follow social distancing rules when the coronavirus restrictions are relaxed on Monday, April 12.
Non-essential retail, hairdressers, pubs, gyms and other businesses will be allowed to reopen in the latest stage of the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.
But shoppers will still have to wear face-coverings while indoors and follow social distancing rules.
The public protection officers will carry out ‘detailed visits’ at around 60 businesses across the city on Monday, with dozens more establishments also set to be checked over the course of the day.
Council leader Abi Brown said that while the officers would aim to provide guidance and clarity around the rules, they would also take enforcement action where necessary.
She said: “We’ve all been stuck in lockdown for several months now, and I know people will be excited about the shops and businesses reopening. But they still need to remember that they have to follow the rules around social distancing and do the right thing.
“Officers from our public protection team will be out in the main shopping areas across the city on Monday and in the days ahead to offer guidance and assurance to shoppers. It may be that in their excitement some people will forget about the rules, so our officers will be there to remind them.
“While they will be there to offer advice, they will still carry out enforcement action if that is necessary.
“The teams will be out and about in Hanley, Longton, the markets and other shopping areas as businesses reopen. They’ll also be liaising with our CCTV operators so they can respond if there are particular issues anywhere.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Centre Business Improvement District (BID) has been working with the city council to help ensure retailers are prepared for the easing of restrictions next week.
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According to data from the Centre for Cities, shops in Stoke-on-Trent bounced back faster than those in most parts of the country after the end of the first lockdown last summer. At the end of August footfall in Hanley had returned to 80 per cent of its pre-pandemic level.
Mrs Brown added: “We are hopeful that we will see a return of footfall in the city centre as we did last summer. I know that the BID has done a fantastic job getting the city centre ready for Monday.”
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