Southend Council document outlines measures for local lockdown in case of second coronavirus spike

TAXI drivers could be asked to take customers’ contact details and “drive-by” patrols would be carried out to check restaurants and pubs if Southend goes into local lockdown, council papers reveal.

A “scenario planning” document has been prepared by Southend Council containing the steps it would take if further restrictions are ordered in the event of a spike in coronavirus cases.

For businesses – including restaurants, pubs and cafes – enforcement officials would scour social media for intelligence and spot checks would be carried out.

The focus of these checks will be on “high risk or lower hygiene rated premises or smaller independent businesses”.

Staff would also be encouraged to only work in the same group each shift to reduce impact on the business if there is an outbreak.

Transport across the borough would also impacted with taxi drivers being “encouraged” to take down the contact details of passengers so they could later be traced if the driver tests positive for the virus.

Taxi drivers may also be asked to keep a log of every journey they make and should they or their passenger test positive for the virus, the vehicle licence will be suspended until “proper cleaning” has been carried out. The driver and possibly their colleagues will all be prevented from working again until they have proof of a negative test result.

The council was asked how the passenger data would be secured if taxi drivers were to collect it, as well as when it would be destroyed and how passengers’ right to privacy would be respected.

Councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in Southend, admitted “more work would be needed”.

He said: “As part of this scenario planning in the event of responding to a local outbreak, the taxi trade could play a key role in helping contain an outbreak.

“One possibility is that taxi drivers could help with contact tracing by being encouraged to ask for passengers contact details and to keep a log of all journeys for example. Where they are private hire vehicles this could already be available to the operator.”

He added: “If it was to happen, then more work would be needed to ensure compliance with the relevant data protection regulations.”

On the seafront, the council is also considering a stronger approach to containing the virus than what was seen during the height of lockdown.

It could include monitoring visitor numbers, extra cleaning, more signs and the possibility of closing down seafront businesses, venues, car parks and roads.

Other groups potentially impacted by a lockdown is the traveller community. As soon as a group pitch up in the borough, the council would carry out a site visit and conduct welfare checks to find out if anyone requires support due to being vulnerable to COVID-19.

The authority will then provide guidance in an “easy to read format” that will advise those considered vulnerable how to minimise their risk of infection. Temporary “transit” sites may also be established.

Toilets and on site water could also be provided but documents note that “this is not practical at many locations” in the borough.

Details of the lockdown measures have been published among a series of documents which examine how Southend would be impacted in the event the virus begins to spread rapidly through the borough but the council has stressed that many of the scenarios are just “ideas under consideration” rather than firm plans.

Cllr Harp added: “It needs to be emphasised that this is part of scenario planning, something we have done for a number of areas and possibilities.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter