A Thanet councillor has raised concerns about the return of face to face meetings for members – saying there is potential for gatherings to become ‘super spreader events.’
Independent councillor Candy Gregory, who is also a member of the Save Our NHS in Kent campaign group, says she has questioned what risk assessment measures were carried out prior to a council meeting held at Ramsgate Leisure Centre last week.
The meeting, which she says cost the authority some £2,500 to stage, took place after the local elections and coincided with the end of temporary laws which had allowed remote attendance and online coverage.
Cllr Gregory, who is a nurse currently assisting with covid vaccinations at the Saga site in Thanet, says she fears it is still unsafe.
She said: “The government temporary law has now lapsed but we only saw a risk assessment the day before (the meeting) and it was far from adequate. I sought advice from the Hazards Campaign and various medics I know who agreed that the resumption of in person meetings is a potential super spreader event.
“The public were restricted to 30 in number and it wasn’t live screened.
“Considering the Indian variant numbers are rising where is the wisdom in this? At Saga, we are just starting on the 40 plus group to vaccinate with their first dose so it’s far from safe to proceed without alleviating all risks.”
Cllr Gregory has asked Thanet council a number of questions in regards to risk assessment including whether staggered leaving and arriving times will be considered; whether there is additional signage; how seating will be arranged and whether measures such as screens and sanitisers in place.
Cllr Gregory has also written to North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, saying: “My understanding is that it is within Parliament’s gift to extend the law to allow remote meetings while the virus is still circulating.
“I ask that you (Sir Roger) kindly bring this to the attention of your parliamentary colleagues as a matter of urgency to ensure safety, not just TDC representatives but of the population as a whole.”
Sir Roger responded by saying: “The broader issue of extending `virtual meetings` is something that I have already raised and is under review – particularly in the light of current developments. This applies equally to the House of Commons.”
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The council has had to revert to physical council meetings as the emergency legislation that allowed us to meet remotely ended on Thursday 6 May and was not renewed by the Government. We therefore can’t continue with remote meetings.
“All of our meetings are now being arranged in a Covid safe way and in line with the current government guidance on workplace meetings and use of council buildings.
“For smaller meetings we will use the Council Chamber and for larger meetings, such as full council meetings, we will use Ramsgate Leisure Centre. This allows Councillors, staff and the public to participate in a socially distanced way.
“We are working closely with our Health and Safety Compliance Officer to ensure this is carried out in the safest way possible. We are entirely satisfied with our preparations and have provided guidance to other councils about our approach.
“If the rules on social distancing end on June 21, we anticipate holding all council meetings in the council chamber and will continue to ensure that we follow all government guidelines. Considering the safety of the public, Councillors and our staff is paramount.”
The lifting of covid restrictions took another step today (May 17).
Indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment can resume, including cinemas, museums, and children’s play areas.
Up to 6 people or two households will be able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors.
All remaining outdoor entertainment can reopen, such as outdoor cinemas and performances. Some larger events will be able to take place, including conferences, theatre and concert performances, and sports events. Restrictions on the number of attendees will remain as set out in the Roadmap.
Face coverings will no longer be needed in classrooms or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges. Twice weekly home testing will remain to control infection rates.
All remaining university students will be eligible to return to in-person teaching and learning and should get tested twice a week upon return.
Up to 30 people will now be able to attend weddings, receptions, and commemorative events including wakes, as well as standalone life-cycle events. These can take place outdoors or at any indoor Covid secure venue that is permitted to open. The number of people able to attend a funeral will be determined by the number that can be safely accommodated in the venue with social distancing in place.
Thirty people will be able to attend a support group or parent and child group. The limit will not apply to children under 5.
Organised adult sport and exercise classes can resume indoors and saunas and steam rooms may reopen.
Care homes residents will be able to have up to five named visitors, with two visitors able to attend at once provided they are tested and follow infection control measures. Residents will also have greater freedoms to leave their home without having to isolate on their return.