East Herts Council environmental health team at forefront of Covid-19 action


East Herts Council has allocated £92,000 for Covid-19 test and trace operations in the district as part of its latest £9.2m round of pandemic spending.

At the latest meeting of the full council, its executive member for wellbeing, Sawbridgeworth’s Cllr Eric Buckmaster, explained the role being played by EHC environmental health officers during the coronavirus crisis.

“If neither the national tracing service nor the county council can contact someone known to have been in close contact with a person with the virus, the environmental health team will pick up the case and try to find a phone number or knock on people’s door if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Cllr Eric Buckmaster (43086994)
Cllr Eric Buckmaster (43086994)

In the first three weeks of October the team worked on 44 such cases. Introduction of a second lockdown against a backdrop of rising infections has increased the importance of their work.

“The level of the workload and fast pace with which new national guidance is issued is challenging,” said Cllr Buckmaster. “This is continuing, with much fresh information needing to be communicated to businesses and the public alike. The small team of officers have worked collaboratively across the county and have reprioritised their work, often at short notice.”

The environmental health team is working with the district’s new Covid marshals, who have been deployed in towns like Bishop’s Stortford this month, funded by £49,000 to come from the Government.

Covid marshals on patrol in the town centre (43087023)
Covid marshals on patrol in the town centre (43087023)

The aim of the marshals is to help businesses comply with the regulations and iron out any confusion. At the same time, they are reminding members of the public of the importance of maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks and frequently sanitising or washing their hands.

However, people with concerns about non-compliance with the restrictions should contact the council’s environmental health team.

Cllr Buckmaster told the council; “The environmental health team has been playing a proactive role supporting local businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This has included contacting more than 400 local businesses to give detailed, bespoke advice, including undertaking advisory visits or phoning or writing to businesses to share information about how to operate safely with regards to both staff and customers alike. This is a key way in which the council has sought to ensure business owners and managers are up to date on the latest regulations.

“Environmental health officers have been conducting a significant amount of their duties outside of the council’s normal office hours so as to reach businesses when they are operating. This is particularly the case with cafés, restaurants and pubs.

“When the 10pm closing time was recently introduced, the team conducted 42 joint visits with police to local businesses operating in the night-time economy on a single Saturday night.”

The Government’s latest £9.2m pandemic grant for East Herts also includes £8.7m for business rate relief, £192,000 for increased housing benefit claims and £71,000 for discretionary accommodation for rough sleepers.

Up to October 15, the district council had received £43.8m: that’s £41m for business rate relief, Government grants to businesses, discretionary business grant money and support for Bishop’s Stortford BID; £0.9m for increased local council tax support claims, increased housing benefit claims and money for discretionary accommodation for rough sleepers; and £1.8m to compensate the council for lost income and new burdens.

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