South Tyneside's leaders approve new powers to tackle local outbreaks - but vow not to be 'draconian'

Town hall chiefs have approved a raft of new powers to deal with any fresh rise in COVID-19 infections.

Saturday, 15th August 2020, 6:00 am
File image of testing centre in operation earlier in the pandemic. Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The scheme allows bosses at South Tyneside Council to shut down events, parks and other venues which could be linked to a rise in coronavirus cases.

But leaders have also accepted the possibly ‘draconian nature and effect’ of such measures and have added a requirement for input from police and health authorities before any action is taken.

Joan Atkinson, cabinet member for area management and community safety, said: “The [regulations] provide new powers for the council to contain the risk of spread of coronavirus.

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“The powers will enable directions to be issued on premises, public outdoor places or in relation to events, provided there is sufficient evidence of a serious and imminent threat to public health.

“The directive is a proportionate response and will prevent the spread of the virus.

“We continue our proactive and partnership working across all settings to ensure the infection rate across the borough remains as low as possible.

“However, if needed, we must ensure we’re ready to react.”

Cllr Atkinson was speaking at a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

This saw the panel approve the adoption of powers introduced under the government’s latest Health Protection Regulations.

This allows council bosses to:

:: Restrict access to or close individual premises

:: Ban arranged events from taking place

:: Restrict access to or close outdoor public places

However, this may only be done if borough chiefs believe there is a ‘serious and imminent threat to public health’ and that doing so could reduce the risk of further COVID-19 infections.

Infection rates have plummeted following the virus’s peak in May, when the borough was listed as one of the worst-affected areas in England.

But bosses at South Tyneside Council insist they remain vigilant for signs of a second wave and are ready to step in to contain any potential resurgence.

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