Officers from across Tower Hamlets Council are working with police partners to ensure residents and businesses are complying with Covid-19 regulations.
The council team is made up of four government funded officers alongside staff from environmental health and trading standards. Around 20 officers are deployed every day to:
Undertake patrols within areas of high footfall and where complaints have been made about people not adhering to Covid-19 rules.
Visit premises and deliver Covid-19 compliance advice positively, documenting any findings and issuing warnings or fixed penalty notices (FPNs)
Answer queries from residents and businesses regarding Covid-19 regulations and giving advice to people, including reminders about wearing face coverings and social distancing.
Over the past week the team have carried out nearly 4,500 observations, where they check businesses are not operating outside regulations. Of these, around 60 businesses in the borough were found to be non-compliant, or illegal activity was identified, including:
Cafes and restaurants allowing customers to sit in to consume food and drink or making seating available.
Businesses opening and serving customers who are not essential retail and must close.
Organised gatherings, parties and events with groups of people coming together
Takeaways allowing collections indoors after 10pm.
Essential retail not displaying mandatory posters / information about use of face coverings.
Joint activity with police around larger events such as unlicensed music events.
While the team have the power to issue fines to businesses who do not comply with guidance, a key part of their work is providing support. They proactively help traders to follow Covid-19 regulations by distributing posters with public health advice and answering queries.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Covid-19 has had a huge impact on all our lives, and I understand how difficult it is for local businesses who have had their livelihoods affected, especially those who’ve had to close.
“However, we all need to play our part to help stop the spread of Covid-19. It is only through everyone following the rules together that we will achieve the reduction in infections needed to open back up safely.
“We’re working hard with police partners and where residents or businesses wilfully break the rules, we will take action to protect the community and keep Tower Hamlets safe.”
The team work closely with police partners and have recently supported enforcement action around:
Two unlicensed music events including one at Naval Row where police and council officers dispersed over 200 people. Six people were subsequently arrested for breaching Covid-19 regulations and drug offences.
Businesses not closing, including arrest of one business owner refusing to close a non-essential shop after repeated requests and warnings.
Pete Shaw, Chief Inspector at Central East BCU, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we have worked to support residents and businesses, engaging with them to explain legislation and encourage compliance.
“While enforcement is a last resort, we will not hesitate to progress to arrest, or issue significant fines where breaches are serious and dangerous, such organising and hosting unlicensed music events or parties.
“Many of our communities have made great personal sacrifice in the short-term to play their part and help ensure we’re in the best position to tackle Covid-19 in the long-term. We don’t want this effort to be in vain through the irresponsible or illegal actions of some.”