Efforts to prevent a local lockdown in Birmingham are ramping up, with the introduction of new powers to close businesses in breach of Government guidance and the launch of a whistleblowing hotline.
In August, the Government designated Birmingham as an Area of Enhanced Support following a surge in Covid-19 cases across the city. To help combat the spread, BCC is working with WM Police to use emergency regulatory powers to intervene if businesses fail to comply with risk assessments and put people at risk of infection.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Whilst we recognise the importance of protecting the economy, the health and wellbeing of everyone in Birmingham remains our highest priority. The figures released last week have shown there is a very real threat of lockdown being imposed on Birmingham if we do not curb the numbers and take action now. We know businesses are desperate to get back on track, but they are still bound by Government guidelines, which for hospitality industries, means not accepting bookings of more than two households or support bubbles.
We appreciate that they may not be keen to turn custom away, but if they do not, they could find the decision to trade is taken out of their hands with our new powers to intervene. It is also not fair that those who follow the guidance should lose out to those who don’t, which is why we have launched the whistleblowing hotline so that those who flout the rules do not continue to profit from it.”
The new powers will allow the council and police to investigate reports of business premises which are failing to comply with Covid-secure risk assessments and, if necessary, reduce the numbers of people present, restrict numbers in areas of the premises or close the premises.
Offending businesses could also be issued with written warning and if they continue to flout the regulations, they may be served with a direction notice of closure.
Businesses can also be reported using the anonymous online form or telephone number.
Birmingham Commander Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said: “We are supporting BCC’s efforts to help curb the rise in cases in the city. Along with local authority colleagues, we will be visiting licensed premises that are reportedly failing to comply with the measures to be Covid-secure. We continue to work with partners across the city to help keep everyone as safe as possible as the pandemic continues to be amongst us.”
Businesses must enforce Government guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus. This includes ensuring customers and staff comply with social distancing and, unless exempt, that customers wear a face covering where required. Hospitality premises should also not accept bookings for groups from more than two households or support bubbles.
A household is defined as a single dwelling in which a group of people live, this may not be the same as a family group who live in different houses. A support bubble is considered to be 1 household.
Larger groups where people know each other will inevitably lead to individuals circulating around tables which is unacceptable. If unsure, businesses have the right to ask and refuse service.
Track and trace should also be enforced to make sure all customers provide their personal details in case of a positive test result whilst staff should be sent home to isolate and take a test if they show symptoms.
The council has issued a safety guide to businesses in Birmingham, asking them to follow five simple rules in order to be Covid-19 safety compliant:
- Maintain 2m social distancing
- Wash hands and use hand sanitiser
- Increase cleaning in the workplace
- Wear face coverings where appropriate.
- Your staff are a precious resource ensure staff with symptoms do not work and get tested to prevent your business having to close.
In addition, members of the public should be vigilant and ask themselves the following questions when entering a business to ensure their safety:
- Has the business asked for your name and contact details for track and trace?
- Does the business have adequate space in-between tables/seating for social distancing?
- Are the staff wearing PPE?
- Are tables and chairs being thoroughly cleansed in-between reservations?
- Is there handwash and sanitiser readily available?
To report a business which is putting staff and/ or customers at risk visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/xfp/form/755 or call 0121 303 1116