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What it's like to be a COVID-19 marshal in Slough

COVID-19 marshals discuss challenges of ensuring people follow coronavirus regulations in Slough

One of Slough’s COVID-19 marshals has discussed the challenges involved with people following coronavirus rules.

Slough Borough Council recruited a team of coronavirus officers in October whose job is to encourage members of the public and businesses to comply with the Government’s COVID-19 laws.

Last month the council said it had seen a ‘dramatic increase’ in the number of complaints about businesses failing to comply with the rules in Slough.

Martin Allen, who manages the town’s COVID-19 officers, said his team’s main aim is to work with businesses to help them understand and follow the Government guidance.

He said: “Our role as the officers is about collaborating with the businesses more than anything and to a certain degree giving them advice persuading them to do their best.

“We’ve never been through anything like this before and with a lot of it there’s not even a legal duty. A lot of it is a moral or ethical duty for people to do things.”

(from left) COVID-19 marshals Iftikhar Ali and Pardeep Singh

Since starting working in Slough, the council’s COVID-19 officers have made more than 1260 inspections of business premises, including takeaways, and are following up all complaints made by the public.

Mr Allen said the main issue his team face is businesses not carrying out mandatory COVID-19 risk assessments of their properties.

Failure to do a risk assessment and place signs on the door telling people to wear face coverings can lead to legal enforcement by the council.

Mr Allen added: “Lots of the businesses in Slough don’t have the money or resources to do some of the things the major supermarkets do. 

“The main message I want to get across is the businesses have nothing to fear if they’re making the effort to try and comply and we want to work with them to try and achieve that.

“There’s no enforcement targets, there’s no drive to put people out of business or adversely impact on certain businesses.”

Ensuring members of the public wear face masks inside shops has also been a challenge but Mr Allen said when asked to put a mask on, most people in the town respond positively rather than becoming abusive.

Farnham Road has been a hotspot for coronavirus breaches throughout the pandemic with area’s strip of takeaways attracting large gatherings.

Mr Allen said the town’s COVID-19 marshals are working alongside Thames Valley Police and takeaways to encourage people to disperse but he added this is an issue that pre-dates the coronavirus crisis.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in Farnham Road and the issue with Farnham Road is not just a COVID issue. Those issues were present before COVID-19 came along," he added.

“A lot of the businesses down there themselves are frustrated because they themselves get abuse when they try and tell members of the public to put masks on.

“It would be nice to have us there all the time but obviously we can’t be there all the time.”

Grill Street owner Bilal Malik has put up signs to raise awareness of coronavirus regulations in Farnham Road

Positive COVID-19 tests in Slough are continuing to fall but the town still has one of the highest infection rates in the country.

Mr Allen said the team’s ultimate aim remains to drive down infections in the borough and save lives.

He added: “It’s one of those things that’s really difficult to measure success for because there’s so many influences.

“It would be nice to say since we’ve been there we’ve achieved this and that in relation to the infection rates and death rates, ultimately that’s our aim.

“But there’s so many influences like the new variants so it’s impossible to say that. We’re just a small part in the big cog to try and bring that infection rate down.”

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  • be_ transparent

    16:09, 05 February 2021

    Mr Allen and his team are clearly struggling if nearly a year after the first lockdown all they are still doing in Farnham Rd is "encouraging people to disperse" and coming up with excuses. Difficult job I know, perhaps the police need to be much more active in Farnham Road because after a year of little enforcement Slough is still 3rd in the country "Cases by Upper Tier LA covid rates per 100,000" at 470.8. https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases Problems that don't get dealt with just get worse. I'm just thankful we have a government with a decent vaccination program because otherwise Slough would be stuffed.

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