11 June 2020| | 2 min read
Team lines up to give a friendly welcome
A team of friendly faces will be lining up to welcome people back into Newcastle city centre next week as businesses gradually start to reopen.
Known as city hosts, the team will be out and about on Northumberland Street, Grainger Street and Blackett Street to help those coming back into the city, in many cases for the first time since lockdown began in March.
They’ll be on hand to explain how the new social distancing measures on the street will work, including the new one-way walking systems and queuing areas outside shops and businesses.
The volunteers and redeployed staff are all people whose normal roles are to help people and provide customer service, including at the city’s libraries, museums and other public buildings.
But while their normal places of work remain closed as part of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions the 23 members of staff have stepped in on a temporary basis to help keep people safe in the city centre as lockdown starts to ease.
Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment and culture at Newcastle City Council, said: “As businesses start to reopen and we take our first steps towards economic recovery, it is vital that we carefully manage the way people start to use the city centre.
“We all need to stick to social distancing measures as we continue to control the spread of coronavirus so we are putting a number of measures in place, initially on Northumberland Street, to ensure that this can happen.
“Our team of city hosts will be out and about to welcome people back and also to help people as they become familiar with these arrangements.
“We would encourage members of the public to look out for the city hosts, who will be able to give help and support throughout the first few weeks of the city’s reopening.
“The team is made up of members of staff who have agreed to take on this role while their current duties are suspended and I would like to thank them for their contribution towards our efforts to help welcome people back and get the city’s businesses back on their feet.”
City hosts will be easy to spot in their green fleeces and caps and will be out on Northumberland Street every day from Monday 15 June between 8am and 6pm initially. Working hours and the number of city hosts on duty may change as time goes on in response to demand and busier times of day.
City hosts will not be responsible for dealing with anti-social and criminal behaviour or with issues regarding social distancing measures inside shops, which will be the responsibility of businesses themselves.
Their role will be to give help and support to people and to ensure the measures on the street are working properly. People can contact the city hosts to report any issues in relation to the measures on Northumberland Street, either in person or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A spokesperson for Northumberland Street retailer Fenwick said: “We are glad to be opening again on Monday and look forward to welcoming customers back then.
“However, we need people to remember that we are not back to normal just yet and things will be very different to start with. During this time the safety of our staff and customers is our main concern.
“We know that social distancing measures are essential and have worked really hard to make sure our stores are as safe and welcoming as possible. We’re very pleased to have the team of city hosts to help members of the public as they get used to what will be a very different city centre.”
The measures on Northumberland Street will see the creation of two 4m wide walkways, one in each direction, with areas in front of shops and businesses for people to queue.
There will also be additional queuing space in the centre of the street in case queuing areas outside shops become full.
The city council has designed the measures in collaboration with key partners including the police, NE1 and major retailers.
Due to the large number of businesses on Northumberland Street space for queues outside will be limited and people are urged not to overcrowd queuing areas or try to extend the queue onto walkways.
People are also encouraged to continue to only travel into the city centre if their journey is essential and to use their local shops whenever possible.
Work in district shopping centres throughout the city will also be taking place to help ensure people can shop there safely and with social distancing.