Meet the covid marshals: Army of workers who will enforce new lockdown rules

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It might sound like a job no one would want – but the first of Boris’s much derided ‘Covid marshals’ are already up and running in towns across the UK, and insist they are relishing their new roles. 

In his downbeat address to the nation last night, the PM announced his new army of marshals, who will be out in force to catch anyone breaking the rules.  

The PM warned the ‘Covid secure’ marshals will check up on pubs and restaurants and hand out fines if social distancing rules are not being followed.  

Those in the role will be recruited by councils to step up enforcement, patrolling town centres issuing advice and encouraging groups to break up.

But there is confusion on how wide their remit will be as critics ask why they will have the power to break up groups of people but will then have to call the police to make arrests.

Police will be asked to break up house parties and groups of more than six in parks, town centres and pubs. Those refusing to move on will face fines of £100. 

The marshals helping to keep Cornwall's high streets Covid-safe

The marshals helping to keep Cornwall’s high streets Covid-safe

Marshals are already a presence on Cornwall's streets, ensuring people are 'respecting social distancing.'

Marshals are already a presence on Cornwall’s streets, ensuring people are ‘respecting social distancing.’

Among a string of measures announced by Boris Johnson last night: 

  • Mr Johnson revealed ambitious ‘moonshot’ plans for mass testing; 
  • Councils were encouraged to recruit the ‘Covid marshals’, who will patrol town centres issuing advice and encouraging groups to break up;
  • Pubs and restaurants will face £1,000 fines if they fail to collect the contact details of all customers;
  • Plans to allow Premier League matches to be held with 25 per cent capacity crowds from next month were put on hold;
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged families not to let grandparents look after their grandchildren;
  • Travellers were warned they could be barred from flights if they fail to fill in a Government contact form in advance;
  • Officials were ordered to draw up a list of newly-qualified and former environmental health officers who could be drafted in to help councils crack down on businesses breaking the rules;
  • Professor Whitty hinted that more school closures could happen if infections among children rise.

Asked for further details on the introduction of marshals to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres, a spokesman from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: ‘We are encouraging the introduction of Covid-secure marshals to help support our high streets and public spaces, making sure that people feel safe to enjoy them.

‘Some areas of the country have already introduced marshals to support the public in following the guidelines in a friendly way and we will be working with local authorities to see where else they are needed. We will be setting out further details in due course.’

The Government said where marshals have already been introduced, they have had responsibilities including ‘directing pedestrians, providing information, cleaning touchpoints, preventing mixing between groups and being a point of contact for information on government guidelines’.

Councillor Nesil Caliskan, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: ‘We need to quickly see further detail on how the Government’s Covid-19-secure marshal scheme is intended to work, and any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded.’

Marshals are already a presence on Cornwall’s streets, ensuring people are ‘respecting social distancing.’ 

The new marshals work alongside Cornwall Council’s public protection officers who have been giving support and advice to businesses on reopening safely in towns and villages across Cornwall.

The new marshals work alongside Cornwall Council's public protection officers who have been giving support and advice to businesses on reopening safely in towns and villages across Cornwall

The new marshals work alongside Cornwall Council’s public protection officers who have been giving support and advice to businesses on reopening safely in towns and villages across Cornwall

Tim Dwelly, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for the economy, said: ‘It’s good to see people out and about in our towns again.

‘Many of our high streets look very different because of the Covid-safe measures that have been put in place such as one-way signage on pavements and reminders to follow social distancing. This has been done so people can visit and work there with confidence.

‘The presence of these marshals and our public protection officers play a hugely valuable role in giving a bit of extra help where needed.

‘You can be assured that your safety is top-of-mind at all times, so do say a friendly ‘hi’ (dydh da) when you see them.

One marshal called Dan said he has been enjoying providing reassurance to some of Camborne’s older residents and getting to know local businesses in the process.

‘So far, most visitors have been really co-operative and do their best to follow the guidelines and respect social distancing,’ he said.

‘I especially like helping reassure some of our older residents. I’ve got to know the local businesses and it’s great to know they’re all really keen to do what they can to make their customers and staff feel comfortable.’

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