Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council today agreed to close all Council owned buildings to the public from 6pm today, Friday 13 March, for an initial two-week period. A number of forthcoming major events including the City of Derry Jazz Festival are also to be cancelled.
The decision was made following a members briefing this morning in the Guildhall, as a precautionary measure and in the interest of the health and safety of the public as the local authority reviewed its contingency planning to reduce the risk of COVID-19 across the Council area.
Following on from the decision yesterday to close the Derry Road office in Strabane and the Brandywell building, it was agreed that additional closures will come into force from 6pm today. They will include the Civic offices on Derry’s Strand Road, all leisure facilities, council owned and managed community centres, the Guildhall, Tower Museum, the Alley Theatre and sports pitches and pavilions.
It was agreed at the briefing that Council parks, open spaces including cemeteries and play areas will currently remain open.
In terms of forthcoming Council events, the City of Derry Jazz Festival, the Angling Fair and the Strabane Lifford Half Marathon will be cancelled. Other events and services continue to be under constant review.
Council staff will continue to report to their place of work as normal where internal working arrangements are being reviewed and a range of restrictions put in place including no external meetings and attendance at conferences, in full consultation with unions to facilitate the delivery of essential services during this challenging period.
Members agreed that Council will communicate with third party facilities, including community centres and arts facilities that have a service level arrangement with Council, of Council’s plans to assist them in making informed decisions about their own premises.
Members were provided assurance by Council officials that adaptations will be made within Council services to facilitate the continued delivery of vital services. Any operational changes to any service will be communicated to the public once they are finalised.
New arrangements to allow for the continuation of Council meetings are also been reviewed with an emphasis on the need for key decision making to continue.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Michaela Boyle welcomed the decisions taken by Council today. She said Derry City and Strabane District Council continued to show strong leadership and praised the organisation for its proactive approach to dealing with a very difficult situation.
She said: “The decision to close all Council facilities to the public and to cancel some of our key events was not taken lightly but it was unanimously agreed that they are the right decision in the interests of the safety of the public. The Council has a duty of care to its staff and the public and this is a very responsible and proactive approach to this situation. We will continue to work and consult with our statutory agencies and partners in terms of contingency planning and service provision.”
She said senior management and elected members will continue to communicate to monitor the situation over the coming days and weeks.