Covid Watch: Shropshire Council wants you to report on whether businesses are complying with rules while thinking of Swiss Cheese

Covid Watch: Shropshire Council wants you to report on whether businesses are complying with rules while thinking of Swiss Cheese

Are you off to the pub tonight or are looking forward to a relaxed meal in your favourite restaurant? Maybe you are doing an evening shop. The weekend is coming and that will be a busy time for going to shops and venues. But is your experience safe? Are the publicans, restaurateurs, shopkeepers obeying and enforcing the rules on social distancing, providing sanitiser and wearing of face coverings. Shropshire Council wants to know.

This invitation to shop on the shops may make some people will feel uncomfortable. Shropshire Council has a role alongside the police in enforcing and handing out fines. It is recruiting its citizens to spy on each other. Is that a good thing?

I hope you are thinking of cheese when you keep local and shop local. The council wants you think of Swiss cheese when thinking about Covid-19.

As our county heads towards Tier 2 restrictions, Shropshire Council is appealing to residents to report on businesses that are not complying with restrictions. It is also asking for positive comments for businesses that observe the rules.

Some will welcome this opportunity to report on breaches of the restrictions. Others will think this is a snooper’s charter. My view is that the community consensus on dealing with the worst public health crisis of this century is being undermined by the snooper’s charter being proposed by Gwilym Butler, the cabinet member for Covid-19 enforcement.

We need to work together. To shop together. Not shop on each other. Let’s leave that the police (101 for breaches) and the unknown number of Shropshire Council officers who are out and about at this moment encouraging businesses to obey the rules. Media reports suggest that councils will shortly be given more powers to immediately clamp down on aberrant premises.

Shropshire Council’s move arises from an extension of the council’s responsibilities to monitor Covid-19 compliance, funded by additional government money. The council employs people –  commonly known as “Covid Marshalls” – to observe management and behaviour. Shropshire Council’s Director of Public Health has told me she doesn’t like the term “Covid Marshalls”. Neither do I. Councillors are due to be briefed on the role of “marshalls” shortly.

Perhaps they should be called Civic Covid Officers (Coff for short). We do not know how many Coffs we have or what they are, or are intending to, achieve.

Use this form to report non-compliance, email advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk or telephone 0345 6789067.

Whether Shropshire goes into Tier 2 (high alert) is a matter for health professionals. If there is a change of status, Telford and Wrekin and the Shropshire unitary area should move together. The two council areas are distinct from each other at a political level but this not about politics.

It is widely reported that 100 cases per 100,000 population over seven days is the trigger point for Tier 2 status. However, the government has not set firm thresholds. Since 13 October, the seven day rate for Telford and Wrekin has grown from around 100 to around 160, in part driven by cases associated with Harper Adams University. The seven day rate in Shropshire’s unitary area has hovered around the mid-80s. Together the two areas are only just above a seven rate of 100 cases per 100,000 population though the rate is steadily increasing.

The Telford and Shropshire communities differ in some ways. But their economic and transport systems are integrated. What happens in Telford inevitably affects Shropshire and, of course, what happens in Shropshire affects Telford.  We should move together if we need to go up a tier and further restrict social activities.

I am uncomfortable with appealing to the public to report premises that break the rules to the council. It breaks the bond of trust and shared experience that drew everyone together at the start of the epidemic. But then that seems to have eroded in almost every quarter.

I nearly forgot to mention the Swiss Cheese. The image from Shropshire Council below says it all. Expect a run on cheese with holes in local supermarkets this weekend. And remember to shop on your shopping experience.

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