New powers have been announced for councils to close specific premises, cancel events and close public spaces, to help tackle coronavirus outbreaks.
The Prime Minister outlined the local, targeted measures in the Government’s Contain Framework, which sets out how NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre will work with councils, Public Health England and communities to contain and manage local COVID-19 flare-ups.
This is set to be backed up by draft regulations, setting out government powers to intervene at a local level where necessary.
LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson said the new framework rightly shows councils know their local communities best and that locally led responses have proven to be the best way to deal with significant outbreaks.
He added: “Greater powers for councils to take swift and effective action to address local outbreaks will hopefully help avoid the need for more stringent measures to be imposed locally.
“Managing local COVID-19 outbreaks will always need to build on the consent of local communities and an effective system of tracing and testing. The use of enforcement powers should be an option of last resort where individuals or organisations are unable, unwilling or opposed to taking actions that reduce the spread of this virus.”
The new powers will help save lives by allowing councils to react immediately, for example by shutting down premises in response to public health concerns. Previously, this would have required going to a magistrates’ court, a process that can take several days.
The flow of data to councils has also improved, with patient identifiable data to be provided on a daily basis to councils’ directors of public health to help track down and isolate future flare-ups of the virus.