Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council today agreed to close all Council-owned play parks to the public. The closures will take place with a phased approach from today and over the coming days. The decision comes less than a week after Council closed all its buildings to the public and cancelled a number of up and coming public events.
Members met again today to get an update on Council services and contingency measures being put into place by Council to protect its staff and the public and help reduce the risk of COVID-19 across the Council area.
Members heard that while play parks will be closed over the coming days, public parks and cemeteries will continue to remain open. Other essential services such as bin collection services will continue to operate. Recycling centres remain open however some adaptations have been made to limit the number of cars entering sites at the one time in an effort to encourage social distancing.
Members also agreed to postpone the Foyle Maritime Festival and the Strabane Summer Jamm both scheduled to take place over the summer months. Earlier this week Clipper Ventures confirmed to Council that the Clipper 20/21 Race is postponed.
Members also heard that a number of significant events including the Worker’s Rights and Social Justice Week and the Battle of the Atlantic VE Day commemorations planned for May have also been cancelled. Events scheduled beyond the summer months will remain under review.
In line with Government guidelines, many Council staff are working from home while others providing front line services continue to report to work where internal working arrangements that include social distancing and additional health and safety measures are being implemented. All of this is being done in full consultation with unions, with a commitment to provide as many essential services as possible.
Members were provided reassurance by Council officials that adaptations have been made within Council services to facilitate the continued delivery of vital services and that any operational changes to any service will be communicated to the public.
While some Council committee meetings have been postponed, new arrangements have been put in place for a Full Council meeting to take place later this month. Members were of the view that the key decision making process should continue for as long as possible.
Members were also informed that while the City of Derry Airport is open and fully operational and Council in partnership with the CODA Board is looking at contingency measures to mitigate against the severe and immediate financial impact of COVID-19 and is engaging with Ministers and officials over the coming days to discuss options for protecting this vital service.
Elected members were informed that the Council’s Business Support team are currently disseminating the information from Central Government in relation to rates relief and business support and will be available to offer advice and guidance to local business.
In relation to community resilience and community support members were informed that Council is currently looking at mechanisms of how it can provide support to the local community sector at this time.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Michaela Boyle chaired the meeting and welcomed the update and praised the efforts of Council in making key decisions at this challenging time.
She spoke about the difficulties being faced by the local business community sector and made reference to the decision by O’Neill’s in Strabane to close its doors.
“This is hugely sad news for Strabane and not an easy decision for Kieran and his team to make but I think it’s the right one and we will hopefully see the business up and running again in the near future.”
The Mayor added: “The Council continues to provide strong leadership and is putting the health and safety of its staff and the public to the fore as it responds to this crisis in a responsible and proactive manner. The Council is also being proactive in working with our statutory agencies and partners in terms of contingency planning and service provision.”
Providing reassurance to the public, the Mayor said that while Council facilities are closed to the public, essential services will continue for as long as possible and they can contact the Council directly at 028 71253 253 or follow Council on Twitter and Facebook and on the Council website at www.derrystrabane.com/coronavirus for regular updates.
She encouraged the public to take note of the advice from the Public Health Agency and to watch out for elderly family members, neighbours and friends. She praised the efforts of health workers, shop assistants, bin collectors, delivery men and all those providing the essential services during this difficult and challenging time.
“By working together and looking out for one another we can all do our bit to limit the spread of this virus and protect our local community by taking the necessary precautions to stay safe,” she concluded.