Coronavirus: Stratford Centre to close at night on public health grounds

The Stratford Centre will be closed from 8pm to 5am for the next 28 days. Picture: Jon King

The Stratford Centre will be closed from 8pm to 5am for the next 28 days. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

Newham Council has been given legal permission to close Stratford Centre between the hours of 8pm and 5am while the coronavirus pandemic continues.

At a cabinet meeting on Friday, Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and members unanimously agreed to seek court approval to be able to close the centre on a daily basis for a period of 28 days. The step has been considered entirely necessary on public health grounds and is part of the council’s response to dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, following an order by the government.

The decision of the court today, Saturday, supports the move to protect rough sleepers who bed down in the centre overnight and others who use the centre, including workers that serve the wider community with food and other essential household items, from the risk of infection from coronavirus.

The council’s street homeless outreach team will proactively offer the rough sleepers accommodation, food, medicine and assistance, working with voluntary sector partners who are assisting this life-saving effort.

The report considered by cabinet said: “The escalation of the infection and mortality rate makes resolving this issue an urgent matter for decision.”

Newham and other local authorities have received guidance from the government about the need to accommodate rough sleepers. Units of self-contained accommodation have been secured and will be available for them.

The overnight closure order will last initially for 28 days to allow longer term measures to be considered. The report to cabinet said that taking no action would be “irrational and potentially dangerous by allowing vulnerable persons to be at high risk of infection and a collateral risk to the public”.

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Newham currently has 148 confirmed cases of people with coronavirus.

Ms Fiaz said: “The government has asked all councils in England to house rough sleepers off the streets by the weekend. Rough sleepers are a highly vulnerable group in our community and even before this government order we stepped up our support to help them during this unprecedented and deadly pandemic.

“The coronavirus impact knows no bounds. No individual is safe from it. We have to do everything we can to stop it spreading. We have been working hard to this end and have already implemented an emergency action plan in response to the coronavirus pandemic and already provided self-contained accommodation to 65 rough sleepers to date. Yet despite all of our efforts and expanded outreach and providing housing provision, we are still seeing a steady additional rise in the number of rough sleepers in the Stratford Centre, especially this past week.

“We are acutely sensitive of the need to ensure all our rough sleepers are housed safely, so this move to close the centre at certain hours overnight is being done with their safety at the forefront of our response to the borough’s most vulnerable individuals. Our application to the court was entirely made on the basis of public health grounds.

“It wasn’t a choice; it is about saving lives. Our action plan will offer full support with advice, information, food, assistance, and transfer into accommodation. We take this vital step as a further effort to stop the spread of the disease. Only that way can we look back in future years and say we did all that was required of us to preserve life.”

Closure orders have been displayed at the centre. The closure applies to all pedestrian walkways and entrances to members of the public. During the restricted hours, access will only be allowed to members of staff of businesses inside the centre, market traders for the purpose of business, security staff, cleaners, and the emergency services. Notices will be displayed outside