Covid Control Plan: Re-opening our city
Covid Control Plan: Re-opening our city
On 22 February 2021, the Prime Minister set out government’s roadmap out of lockdown. The roadmap, set out in COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021, can be read in detail here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021
While the plan set out stages for re-opening and easing of lockdown, it was clear that we must all remain vigilant and ensure a safe exit from lockdown. The plan was also clear that easing of restrictions will be led by data, not dates, so that we do not risk a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
For that reason, the dates set out in the roadmap are indicative and subject to change. As described earlier in this plan, there will be a minimum of five weeks between each step to allow for review of the data and potential affect of the previous stage – with decisions based on four key tests. Only when government is sure that it is safe to move to the next step will the decision be made.
Throughout the pandemic and at all stages of lockdown and enhanced restrictions, we have worked closely with Nexus and the North East Joint Transport Committee to support the safe movement of key workers and other workers returning to work through public transport, recognising that the capacity of public transport could be constrained by as much as 75% while social distancing remains in place. We are keen to ensure that as many as people as possible use more environmentally friendly forms of transport to access their jobs – walking, cycling – and are working on a range of options to support this approach.
We continue to work with NE1 and retailers support the reopening of businesses in a safe way. Last summer we put in place physical measures to support social distancing, including the widening of pavements, additional property entry points, and reconfiguration of street furniture, has been carried out.
On Northumberland Street, our prime retail destination, temporary street designs were implemented to reinforce and enable social distancing and defined property entry points to enable safe access to stores and movement up and down the street. On non-pedestrianised streets we created one-way systems on pavements and re-allocating space to those on foot, bicycles and public transport.
On Grey Street, we used an experimental traffic regulation to change the allocation of space, delivering pocket parks, permitting social distancing, and providing businesses with further pavement space to operate, particularly helpful to food and beverage businesses.
In liaison with Northumbria Police and NE1, and in consultation with city centre retailers, we introduced ‘City Hosts’ to help people understand the new system both for how to get about the area, and where to queue. ‘City Hosts’ welcomed visitors, provide general wayfinding/information i.e. what is open, how do queues work, toilet facilities etc; give guidance to people whilst navigating / queueing in city centre (ensure social distancing / explain how the queueing and one-way systems etc are designed to work); and identify any people needing special consideration i.e. disabled people, vulnerable individuals and assisting if safe to do so. The hosts also ensured that queues outside of premises are working effectively.
We will again use City Hosts to support the opening of businesses as we move through the stages of the roadmap out of lockdown.
Did you know?
Case study: https://howbusyistoon.com
www.howbusyistoon.com was the brainchild of our digital partnership with Newcastle University and NE1. It was developed using real-time data to show how busy it is in the city centre at a certain time and was initially launched to coincide with the easing of social distancing measures across the country at the beginning of July 2020.The tool helps people to make informed decisions about visiting the city centre, help them to feel safe and support economic renewal.
The site proved to be a very popular tool for local people and has also received significant interest from other local authorities and organisations across the country.
In July 2020, we were one of eleven local authorities to be recognised as using innovation to better serve residents and help to solve common problems facing councils as they respond to the pandemic. We were awarded £67,500 by governments Local Digital Fund to build on the early success of the website and work with local people to understand how they would like this to be developed and what additional information they would like to be available on it.
In February 2021, the project received a further £100,000 follow-on funding to continue our work. In the next stage of the project, we are exploring how to improve the tool further and effectively scale it for other local authorities. This includes looking at how we might:
- Increase uptake and promote howbusyisthetoon.com across a wider geographical area, in an efficient and effect way
- Deliver a better user experience with safe travel and transport data
Use citizen-focused data sharing to support economic renewal through safe access to leisure and tourism opportunities.