COVID marshals to be recruited in Herts amid fears of a third wave

The majority of COVID-19 infections in Hertfordshire were contracted in schools and shops, the latest data shows.

60 COVID-19 marshals are being recruited in Hertfordshire - Credit: PA

Sixty COVID marshals are looking to be recruited in Hertfordshire amid fears of a 'third wave' of the virus in the autumn.

The latest data shows that rates of COVID-19 across the county are falling, the vaccine roll-out continues – and there are national plans to remove restrictions on social contact by June 21.

But despite the “very encouraging” picture, Hertfordshire County Council has this week launched its search for an organisation to provide a team of 60 COVID marshals.

Based throughout the county, the marshals role would encourage ‘compliance’ and build awareness of COVID-19 guidance, including in areas where local restrictions may be in place.

They would form part of the county’s response to a possible ‘third wave’ of the virus.

Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire

Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire Jim McManus - Credit: Herts county council

Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus says the marshals are ‘effective assets in the fight against COVID-19’.

“We know from last year that numbers of infections can change rapidly, and Government are very clear that we should plan in case a third wave arises,” he said.

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“It would be a dereliction of duty not to prepare for a third wave, at the same time as doing all we can to prevent it happening by keeping infections as low as possible so we can enjoy summer with no restrictions.

“COVID marshals are a very effective asset in the fight against COVID-19 and one of the key ways we manage local outbreaks as they continue to occur in our communities.”

Mr McManus also stresses that the role of the marshals does not involve enforcement.

“COVID marshals do not have enforcement powers and the recruitment of more COVID marshals is not indicative of any increases in restrictions from July 2021 onwards,” he said.

The council’s latest COVID marshals contract – worth up to £3million – has now been advertised. It is being funded by the government.

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday (April 27), Mr McManus reported that across the county the COVID-19 case rate has fallen to 16.56 cases per 100k of population.

And it has emerged that last week was the first week without a single death from COVID since September last year.

Mr McManus said that the vast majority of those business that were allowed to re-open from April 12 were doing “an absolutely brilliant job”.

And he said: “If we keep going in the same direction there is every reason why the May 17 step is achievable – purely epidemiologically speaking.”

On May 17 – if data allows – the government has indicated that the ‘rule of six’ could be abolished outdoors, two households would be able to mix indoors and cinemas, museums and hotels would be allowed to open, though social distancing would remain.

Mr McManus reported that there were very few cases of the South African variant in the county and that the ‘Kent’ variant is the dominant strain.

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