A council is reassuring residents and businesses that it will continue to deliver its services following the introduction of the Government’s Plan B winter response.

In line with the new national guidance, Durham County Council has made changes to how some services will be delivered, as well as implementing additional measures to help slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Among the changes will be the temporary closure of the local authority’s customer access points from Monday 13 December. All other council facilities, including leisure centres, libraries and theatres, remain open but with additional measures in place.

Members of the public can still access the customer support team by other channels, including email, text, webchat, social media, virtual appointments or by calling 03000 260000 – with teams on hand to support customers to access the help they need.

The Government’s announcement also called for the introduction of compulsory face coverings in most indoor public settings, including places of worship, libraries, theatres and cinemas, as well as in shops and on public transport. In accordance with this, all staff and anyone who visits the council’s libraries and cultural venues must wear a face covering unless they are exempt. This includes Gala Durham, Empire Consett, Durham Town Hall and Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

At the council’s leisure centres, face coverings must also be worn while moving through the building but can be removed when people begin their activities in the gym, fitness hall or pool.

Face coverings do not need to be worn in hospitality settings such as the cafés in these venues.

From Monday, all Durham County Council staff who are able to work from home will do so until further notice in line with the Government’s requirements.

John Hewitt, chief executive of Durham County Council, said:

“Maintaining key services and ensuring the safety of our residents and staff have been our top priorities since the start of the pandemic.”

“Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Wednesday, we have introduced some changes to ensure we can comply with the new measures, while continuing to deliver the services on which our communities rely.”

“It’s really important we all do as much as we can to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. The reintroduction of these measures may seem like a backwards step after the lifting of the restrictions in July, but by taking these precautions now, we can reduce the spread of the virus, protect ourselves and others and still enjoy the festive season with our friends and loved ones.”

On Thursday, in the wake of the announcement, the Directors of Public Health for the seven North East local authorities issued a joint statement encouraging people to “double down” on efforts to slow the spread of the virus. This includes giving other people space, washing hands regularly, keeping indoor spaces ventilated, getting tested and self-isolating where required. Those who are not vaccinated or are overdue a second or booster dose is also encouraged to make an appointment at the earliest opportunity.

Durham County Council’s virtual support hub, County Durham Together, continues to offer support to those who are self-isolating or struggling with issues relating to Covid-19. To contact the team, email [email protected] or call 03000 26026.

For the latest news about coronavirus and changes to Durham County Council services, visit www.durham.gov.uk/coronavirus

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