Non-essential shops, leisure and outdoor hospitality sectors are due to start reopening from 12 April as restrictions ease, with the lockdown restrictions set to end fully in June, so long as conditions are met.
Now four new business and community support officers are getting ready to help keep residents, visitors and businesses in South Tyneside safe as the borough emerges from restrictions.
The posts were created by South Tyneside Council to support its Environmental Health team over the next six months, with the new officers acting as key liaisons for local businesses and communities on matters relating to coronavirus guidelines.
Their roles will include providing advice and support to businesses, and they will also be out talking to the public, reminding them of the rules as well as the importance of social distancing, using face coverings and hand washing.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “We have a long road ahead of us through the Government’s step-by-step approach out of lockdown. We must continue to follow the rules at every stage to keep ourselves and others safe. This, and the great progress being made on vaccine roll-out, is the only way we will see a return to some form of normality this summer.
“Our new team of business and community support officers have a key part to play on the frontline in the months ahead, particularly when businesses, bars, restaurants, shops and attractions start reopening and more people will be out and about.
“They will be lending a supporting and guiding hand, providing advice to businesses and communities, to help prevent further spread of coronavirus. Through their engagement work, they will support us to emerge from this pandemic in a strong position.”
Cllr Gibson said environmental health officers have played a central role in supporting businesses during the pandemic, giving them the confidence to provide a safe environment for their staff and customers in line with the guidelines.
He said the new officers will not have enforcement powers. Their role is to ‘engage, encourage and explain’ the latest rules and public health advice to residents, businesses and visitors, and to work closely with Environmental Health, police and other partners.
The officers may also be posted to the seafront, parks and shopping areas to help work with visitors and shoppers so everyone can stay safe.
The posts are being funded from Government cash provided to help respond to the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
“We want our businesses and communities to feel confident and comfortable as restrictions are slowly lifted and we will do everything we can to support them over the challenging months ahead,” said Cllr Gibson.
“Our business and community support officers are engaging now with local businesses to help understand how we can best support their needs as we welcome them back to business.
"They are really looking forward to getting out and about in our communities and are in no doubt about the importance of their role in helping to protect public health, increase customer confidence and provide a reassuring presence for residents and businesses alike.”