A PLEDGE has been made to continue the most vital public services to ‘those residents who need them the most’, as the coronavirus outbreak escalates. 

Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock highlighted the importance of reassuring the public during the pandemic.

Councillor Brock said: “One of our key roles is to provide public reassurance, to say what you are doing now is the right thing and you are following the guidance.

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“We need to ensure that people are fully aware of the guidance, especially as it changes.”

He made the comments during a meeting of the health and wellbeing board at Reading Borough Council on March 13.

The council leader added: “Extensive work has gone into business continuity planning for council services and into emergency planning for council services.

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“[We are] especially making sure that the most vital services will be available to those residents who need them the most.”

Public sector organisations in Berkshire have been working “very closely” to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, according to David Munday, public health consultant for Reading Borough Council.

Speaking at the same meeting, he said the council has been working with Royal Berkshire Hospital, to ensure patients ready to be discharged have somewhere to go.

Dr Munday added: “We have been working very closely with our schools and Brighter Futures for Children to ensure that our schools in Reading remain open and remain functioning.

“We have managed to do that very successfully through providing timely advice, cleaning where it has been needed, isolation of contacts with cases where that has been needed. Beyond one or two days, out of our entire school network, we have remained fully open.”

The council is also working with the fire, police, and ambulance services, as well as nearby councils, through the Thames Valley local resilience forum — which coordinates local responses to major emergencies and crises like flooding, train crashes, and a no-deal Brexit.

Responding to questions about closing schools, Dr Munday said: “Closing schools is not really beneficial in lowering mortality rates. To see any benefit, schools need to be closed for up to 16 weeks, which is a significant period of time.

“Trying to keep children away from each other for 16 weeks when schools are closed is clearly not something that would be achievable.

“There are questions as to whether that would desirable in terms of educational outcome, and we know that for some children in our borough, schools are the safest and best place for them to be.”