The city council has written a further letter to 50 retailers across to remind them of their coronavirus responsibilities, the city in response to complaints received from the public.
Last week Stoke-on-Trent City Council alongside Staffordshire County Council and Staffordshire Police wrote to 82 essential retailers to ask them to up their game in complying with the coronavirus guidance, protect staff and shoppers, and to insist that people in store wear face coverings, unless they are exempt.
Now a further 50 retailers this week, including big national chains with stores in the city, have been written to in response to complaints the council has received from residents and shoppers about some of the stores. Complaints include reports of:
- Stores which sell food downstairs and clothing upstairs, keeping their upstairs open selling clothes. This is not allowed under the national lockdown rules.
- Stores with a post office in their premises continuing to have non-essential retail open, and continuing to keep those parts of the premises open when the post office closes.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “The first letter we issued has led to an immediate and positive response, particularly from the big supermarket chains. Our public protection teams, Covid stewards and Staffordshire Police teams have been working together to visit stores. They have reported some great examples such as Tesco in Trent Vale, which has gone the extra mile in providing customers with disposable face coverings at the entrance. We thank retailers for acting quickly, doing the right thing and helping to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
“We have every understanding for essential retailers working hard to continue to operate under very difficult circumstances and we will support our city’s businesses as much as possible. We also understand that the national guidance on the restrictions may be less clear cut in some areas, than in previous lockdowns. But businesses must continue to do all they can to stop the spread of the virus and follow the rules. The letter makes the responsibilities that are expected of retailers really clear, and we will continue to follow this up with visits to premises. If any residents have concerns about premises, they can email email@example.com or call 01782 234234.”
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “I personally wrote a further letter to retailers to appeal to their continued sense of public responsibility as part of the on-going battle against coronavirus here in the city. “Retailers have a key role to play to help to control the spread of coronavirus by ensuring adherence to a number of measures within their stores. Many people are now staying home, so visiting a supermarket or retail store may be the only place they visit.
“Retailers have been asked to review the sale of non-essential retail in their shops, ensure masks are worn in stores, ensure customers (and staff) are able to socially distance in stores and ensure managers are visible within stored and at the entrance.
“The more that we can combat coronavirus in Stoke-on-Trent, the sooner we can get retail and other businesses fully up and running again and reduce the restrictions on residents so that they can more freely and more safely visit stores.”
The letter and call for compliance come as covid stewards over the weekend witnessed residents flocking to local parks and in some incidences breaking government restrictions.
City council covid stewards work in conjunction with the council’s CCTV monitoring centre staff, and are able to visit areas of high footfall that are identified by the cameras so that they can be on hand to support people.
Covid stewards visited parks in Hanley, Longton, Shelton, Tunstall, and Westport Lake to monitor compliance and give residents advice. Stewards found examples where people were not social distancing and meeting others from outside their households. In particular a lack of social distancing was discovered at skate parks and groups of teenagers socially meeting up.
Councillor Brown said: “The weather was warmer and drier at the weekend, and we have such wonderful parks and open spaces to enjoy across the city. We all need fresh air and to get the exercise that we are allowed, but please stick to the guidelines.
“You can go outside to public spaces for exercise and you're allowed to exercise outdoors with the people you live with. You can meet for exercise with one person from another household, but you can't take anyone else from your household to meet them - except for a child under the age of five. You can only meet to exercise, not to socialise - for example, you can't have a picnic or social meeting. We are actively sharing information with the police, you could be fined £200 if you go out or meet with people when you're not allowed to.”
Chief Inspector Mark Barlow, Commander of Stoke-on-Trent North Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “Since the most recent lockdown was introduced we have seen an increase in the number of reports over breaches of Covid-19 legislation.
“While we respond to incidents where appropriate we also have proactive patrols who are continuing to target hotspot areas where there have been reports of people gathering or simply not following the national guidelines. We also work closely with the local authority’s Covid Stewards to identify locations where concerns have been raised.
“Our frontline officers are keen to engage and educate people over the rules – but where necessary they have the power to issue fixed penalty notices of £200. We have found the majority of people are doing the right thing and following the rules and we want to thank them for playing their part.
“Our colleagues in the health service are working tirelessly to not only treat those suffering from this illness but to vaccinate large numbers of the population - and during these challenging times it is important we support each other. We all have a part to play and we will continue to work with our partners – including Stoke-on-Trent City Council – to restore normality to our city.”
For the latest information on council services and support during the coronavirus, and frequently asked questions, please visit www.stoke.gov.uk/coronavirus. For latest health advice on the coronavirus, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus, and for further information on the virus visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. If residents have symptoms, please get tested. All residents must continue to follow the guidance of wash hands, cover face and make space.
For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.
For all media enquiries please contact Isabel Hodgkinson in the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 236703.