Council and police caution to Christmas shoppers

Sandwell Council and local police chiefs today issued a coronavirus caution to Christmas shoppers. Crowded shops and consumers ignoring social distancing rules face a real risk, they said.

Director of Public Health Dr Lisa McNally said this was a threat to people across the borough. She said: “If we spend time in busy shops then we are at real risk of being infected with coronavirus. “COVID-19 is a potentially serious illness. We are very concerned that infections to shoppers will increase hospitalisations and deaths over the coming weeks. “Even if we are younger and less prone to serious illness, an infection caught while shopping can be passed on to a loved one with serious consequences. “For everyone’s sake, we should avoid busy shops as much as possible and make sure we keep our distance from others.” Deputy Council Leader Councillor Maria Crompton said: “Shops have suddenly become crowded and we’ve seen many examples of failure to keep to social distancing and face covering rules. “Our message is clear – when you go shopping COVID-19 is all around you.

If shops are overcrowded and they aren’t encouraging social distancing and the use of face coverings - don’t go there. “Under the Health & Safety at Work Act , shops, however small or large, have a clear responsibility to operate in a safe way – for the sake of both their customers and their staff. “Of course people want to see their friends and family over the holiday, but Christmas bubbles don’t mean the virus has gone away. “It’s one thing to know what you can do – but sometimes quite another thing to know what you should do. Please make responsible choices.

When we’ve come this far, is it worth the risk? “Vulnerable people will be just as vulnerable over Christmas. Our situation remains very serious and we need to continue to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our community safe. “Wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and stay two metres apart from anyone you don't live with – including in shops.” Superintendent Martin Hurcomb said the police would be working closely with the council to identify irresponsible businesses.

He said they would not hesitate to take action. He said: “We have seen social distancing break down as Christmas shopping gets under way. “We can’t afford to tolerate a breakdown of social distancing just because it’s Christmas and it is up to them to make sure this is happening in their stores. “If we find shops and businesses are crowded where social distancing has broken down we will back enforcement action by the council.”

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