Councillors leave Hertfordshire County Council meeting after learning members have been ‘pinged’
As part of the NHS Track and Trace anyone who has been a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus has to self-isolate for a period of up to 10 days
A number of councillors left a meeting of the county council on Tuesday, July 20, after it emerged at least one councillor had been ‘pinged’ by Track and Trace.
The councillor is believed to have received a ‘ping’ from Track and Trace AFTER the meeting had started.
But councillors believe there was a second councillor in the room who had received a ‘ping’ in advance of the meeting.
The situation only emerged in response to a point of order raised by a Liberal Democrat councillor Cllr Paul Clark, who asked a question as the formal afternoon session was about to re-start.
It is understood that advice offered to councillors suggested that the meeting – which was being conducted in a Covid safe environment – could continue.
Nevertheless a number of councillors opted to leave the meeting – which was held at the Gordon Craig Theatre, in Stevenage – as the first debate of the afternoon was about to start.
Following the meeting, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said attendance at the meeting by those who had been ‘pinged’ had been “fool-hardy and misguided” – and he said it gave the wrong message to the public.
He pointed to the number of older councillors present and those who were too young to have been double vaccinated – as being vulnerable.
And he said he would be seeking further advice from the county council, in the case that this should occur again with other meetings.
Labour leader Cllr Judi Billing blamed the situation on unclear advice from the government.
She highlights the ‘fumbling behaviour’ with regard to the the self-isolation implications for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chancellor, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s positive test for Covid-19.
And she suggests advice has “become increasingly confusing at the highest level of government”.
Opening that afternoon debate of the county council meeting, Cllr Tina Bhartwas asked vice chairman of the county council Cllr Annie Brewster what the implications were for remaining members at the meeting, following the end of council business.
And she was advised that there would be no implications for members after the meeting.
The meeting is just the second time that the full county council has met ‘in-person’, since the ending of Coronavirus regulations that had allowed all council meetings to be held virtually.
The county council had opted to hold the meeting in the theatre rather than the regular council chamber to enable social distancing.
In addition attendance at the meeting was limited to councillors and essential officers – with the public and the Press limited to accessing the meeting via webcast
In the auditorium, the vice-chair – who was chairing the meeting – sat on the stage – alongside key members of staff.
And the remaining councillors sat in the auditorium – with alternate rows and seats between councillors cordoned off with ‘seat not in use’ covers.
Following the meeting a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “Hertfordshire County Council provides guidance drawn up alongside national agencies to businesses across the county. This includes measures designed to be covid secure in the workplace and in meetings.
“Accordingly advice was provided in advance of today’s full council meeting. It was run in a covid secure way, knowing that the prevalence of covid was rising.
“A small number of people today left the meeting. This included anyone pinged by the app and anyone who felt because of their underlying health condition it would be safer for them to leave the meeting.
“There is full support for anyone needing to isolate having been asked to by the NHS app or track and trace services. Please visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/coronavirus for information.”
As part of the NHS Track and Trace anyone who has been a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus has to self-isolate for a period of up to 10 days.