Dorset Council is putting plans in place ready for the Government’s lifting of remaining legal restrictions relating to the COVID pandemic from Monday 19 July.
All council services will be operating fully from 19 July. The vast majority of council services continued to operate throughout the pandemic with appropriate COVID restrictions in place. In light of the current rising COVID rate nationally and locally, the decision has been made to retain a number of COVID measures for the ongoing protection of customers and staff. Council staff in customer-facing roles will be strongly encouraged to continue wearing face coverings, as will customers visiting indoor premises. Plexiglass safety screens and hand sanitiser will remain in place in customer-facing settings, and enhanced cleaning regimes will continue.
Council committee meetings will be held in person from 19 July (having been held online throughout the pandemic). Meetings will be held in the Council Chamber and Committee Room 1 at County Hall, Dorchester, and members of the public and of the media will be able to attend in person. The meetings will also be livestreamed and available for people to watch online, either “live” or as recordings afterwards via the council’s website. The current legislation requires that councillors with voting rights must attend meetings in person from 19 July.
Throughout the pandemic, many council employees have continued to deliver their roles working within local communities, providing vital services such as highways maintenance, social work, and waste collection. This work will of course continue from 19 July. A limited number of council staff have been working from council offices throughout the pandemic, with strict COVID-secure measures in place. From 19 July, those council employees who have been working from home will continue to do so where they can, and any future wider return to office working will be cautious and gradual. Working arrangements have been discussed extensively with employees to ensure that staff needs as well as customer needs are met.
Cllr Spencer Flower, Leader of Dorset Council, said:
“There is optimism as the country approaches its final stage of easing restrictions on 19 July. However, the pandemic is not over: COVID continues to carry risks for us all and numbers of cases are rising again across the country and here in Dorset.
“The safety of our residents and our staff is our top priority and we are appealing to everyone to respect our arrangements. The people of Dorset have been great at playing their part and following the COVID rules over the past 16 months, and we’ve had lower rates of COVID than many other areas as a result. Although the COVID rules will no longer be law from 19 July, they still provide very important guidance for us all.
“I urge everyone to get both jabs when you are able to do so. And it’s still important to remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’, use lateral flow tests twice weekly, and make sure you self-isolate if you test positive. Please continue to look out for yourself and for others, and together we can reduce spread of the virus.”
Sam Crowe, Director of Public Health for Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, said:
“Restrictions will be lifted on 19 July but this does not mean that the risks from COVID-19 have gone away, so as a council we’re keeping some measures in place to protect staff and residents. Locally we have seen a spike in cases in recent weeks and this has been a reminder to us all that we are still living with the virus.
“Many people will be looking forward to enjoying more freedoms, but with cases rising we know that many will also be feeling anxious about the coming weeks and months. The past year and a half has been tough for everyone, but it has also highlighted the best in our communities and we must keep this community spirit going by thinking of others and making sensible choices whilst we continue to live with COVID-19.
“Hands, face, space and fresh air remain critical to preventing the spread of the virus, and you should also consider individual risks like clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status. The vaccine is available for free to anyone over 18, and you can get free lateral flow tests online or from a local pharmacy.”
Help and support for residents
Help on a range of issues relating to COVID-19, including support for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable or those who need to self-isolate, can be found online www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/coronavirus or by calling 01305 221000.