Covid support officers take to streets to curb Norwich’s rising coronavirus rates
PUBLISHED: 11:58 17 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:58 17 October 2020
Norwich City Council
A new team of Covid support officers take to the city’s streets for the first time today, as part of a drive to curb Norwich’s surging coronavirus rates.
Council leaders and public health bosses made an urgent plea yesterday for people in Norwich to take extra care to stem the spread of the virus.
It came as the rate of positive cases in Norwich went up to 92 per 100,000 people in the period from October 4 to October 10, more than double the 37 per 100,000 the week before.
While cases remain low compared to other parts of the country and Norfolk remains in the lowest tier when it comes to restrictions, the hope is that, by urging people to take care, cases can be brought back down before harsher restrictions have to be introduced.
One way council bosses hope to bring down the rates is by encouraging shoppers to make sure they adhere to guidelines - which is why a team of 20 Covid support officers has been created.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of Norwich City Council, said they would be taking to the streets of Norwich from Saturday.
The council recently received almost £90,000 from the government to set up such a scheme, although City Hall is not calling them coronavirus marshals - the term prime minister Boris Johnson had coined.
Mr Evans said: “We don’t think marshals is the right term. They are there to provide reassurance and a visible presence on the streets of the city.
“They are primarily going to be in areas of the city where there’s lots of people congregating, so you’ll see them in the city centre, but we can use the data to deploy them in other parts of the city.
“They will be there to remind people of the guidance. They will have stocks of sanitiser and face masks if people need them and they’re really there to provide that visual reassurance.”
Mr Evans said the number of such officers, who include environmental health department officers and staff from other City Hall departments was likely to grow in the weeks ahead.
The council had previously said it would not rule out bringing in extra resources - or even an external agency - over the busier Christmas shopping period.
A high proportion of cases in Norwich are in people under 30 - but not all are linked to the University of East Anglia, health bosses have said.
She said just under half of those who have tested positive were young adults aged between 18 and 30, but said the virus could spread very quickly from that age group to the wider community, including to the vulnerable.
With the university conducting voluntary testing of students and staff, that has led to more positive tests and Dr Smith said 40pc to 50pc of cases were linked to the UEA.
But she said, while there are no major outbreaks, there were other clusters not linked to the university. She said that includes young people working in care homes and people in other workplaces, but stressed there were no “serious outbreaks” in Norwich.
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