Police officers and council ‘Covid marshals’ took to the streets of the city in three key locations today to ‘encourage and educate’ the people of the city about abiding by the coronavirus regulations.
So Avon and Somerset police’s coronavirus taskforce officers joined with Bristol City Council’s Covid marshals to patrol three areas of the city today (November 25) to get the message across about the restrictions.
They began in a small and specific area of the city centre, from College Green to Queen Square, Baldwin Street and The Centre, with large numbers of yellow, high-viz jacket-wearing officials often outnumbering members of the public on the streets.
The teams then went to Barton Hill and Lawrence Hill in the eastern inner city, where cases have been among the highest in Bristol for a number of weeks.
Residents there have complained the conditions in the many tower blocks in Barton Hill could be exacerbating the spread of the virus, with communal laundry facilities, lifts and other areas making it harder for people to socially distance and stop the virus spreading.
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The police officers Bristol Live followed visited a food handout for homeless and vulnerable people at the Bristol Methodist Centre in Lincoln Street.
One of those organising the food distribution said they had worked hard to maintain social distancing, but it was a challenge. “We’ve been on it since March, and we marked out spaces where people could queue, and everyone knew what they were doing, and the people who come here were really good,” she said.
“But it is a challenge, because they might live with some of the other people here, or spend the day with them. We can’t give someone a hot meal and then expect them to go off somewhere and eat it on their own. But everyone is doing what they can,” she added.
The patrols also visited Imperial Park in south Bristol. The retail park has remained largely open throughout the second lockdown, with only a couple of the stores closing, and a couple more remaining open for click-and-collect.
Council Covid marshals handed out free masks and entered stores like The Range and B&M Bargains to check distancing, queueing, masks and hand sanitiser was all up together.
The day was planned by Chief Inspector Mark Runacres, the police’s lead officer on coronavirus laws. At the start of the day, he said it wasn’t about enforcing and fining people, just encouraging them to abide by the rules.
“Success will have been to have achieved a high level of engagement with members of the public in the three key locations that we’re going to,” he said.
“I’m not looking to achieve and delivery enforcement interventions through the patrols today. If we need to, we can, if that’s proportionate and justified, if we find people who are refusing to do what’s asked of them and comply with the regulations and are committing offences, then we can deliver enforcement.
“But that’s not our priority today. Our priority is to be in the areas that are key to the city, engage with people in those locations – people on the street and in businesses there – encourage their compliance with the regulations of what is being asked of them, explain the need for that, and even just acknowledge the effort that they are putting into maintaining that compliance where they are.
“Because we absolutely get and understand the impact that this has on people, and on people’s lives,” he added.
“The idea is that through those engagements, we can reinforce to people the benefits of what’s being asked of them, and they will then go away from that encounter then, have conversations with their friends and their family about what happened today – it just reminds people of the need to do what’s asked of them,” he added.
Chief Inspector Runacres said the three areas were chosen specifically as they had high case rates recently.
“We’re starting off in the city centre – it’s an area of high footfall,” he said.
“We’re then going to Barton Hill, where the public health data indicates higher levels of infection than we would want, and also we’ve had some increased reports of non-compliance with regulations reported to the police, so those two factors are fed into that location being selected.
“Bishopsworth is a part of the city that has some of the very highest infection rates in recent weeks, that’s caused great concern. I don’t fully understand why.
“The idea is we go to a key location in that part of the city, look to deliver really high intensity engagement, and make sure we’re supporting people in doing what’s being asked of them to minimise the risk of further infection,” he added.