Following recent government and NHS announcements concerning the spread of Coronavirus, the government has asked everybody in the UK to stop non-essential contact with other people and avoid all unnecessary travel. This has been referred to as “social distancing”.
As a result of this advice the Council have taken the decision to cancel all public committee and other meetings until at least the end of March. They will continue to review government advice on a weekly basis and update its approach as appropriate. Where possible, alternative methods of exchanging information such as video conferencing will be put in place.
The Council are also asking members of the public to think about how they interact with them in the short term – many services can be accessed online or requests made by telephone. They are advising people that its customer reception points will be closed for all but emergency or essential contact. We are therefore asking people not to visit Council Offices unless it is absolutely necessary, and would urge people to speak to officers first before any projected visit.
Officers and Members have also held meetings to discuss service provision during the likely ongoing escalation of the crisis. The emphasis has been on provision of the most important front line services to the many vulnerable people across the district as well as other important services such as refuse collection.. Human resource teams have also been trying to foresee the impact that potential school closures might have on staff that have parenting duties, or other staff who might be more vulnerable due to their own health or the health of relatives or dependant partners.
While services are currently operating at near normal capacity, as more staff may themselves succumb to the virus, or be responsible for looking after others at home, some Council response times may be extended. The Council will do its best to manage resources in key services by redeploying staff or assessing temporary workforce arrangements, but would ask the public for their understanding in what continues to be a fast evolving situation. There may also be a need to prioritise some services over others but we will endeavour to keep all services running as smoothly as possible.
The Council will continue to post updates and important messages on its website, Facebook, Twitter @torridgedc and other social media channels. Torridge will also start posting general and service updates on a dedicated “Corona virus (COVID-19) advice in Torridge” webpage accessible from the landing page on the Councils website. The page will also host links to other main sources of information such as the NHS and Central Government.