Covid marshals have hit the streets of West Berkshire.

They will be patrolling towns, villages, parks and other public places across West Berkshire seven days a week and checking in on shops and Covid-19 testing centres.

The six marshals do not have any enforcement powers and will refer lockdown breaches to Thames Valley Police.

They will be working with businesses and members of the public to enforce social distancing and provide guidance on the lockdown rules.

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No businesses in West Berkshire have been fined for breaching the rules so far in 2021, but some have been issued with formal warnings.

Using government funding, the council is currently paying a private company for eight marshals, who will be in place for at least three months.

Sean Murphy, from the Public Protection Partnership, said: “They will have a visible presence. They are identified as West Berkshire marshals and have uniforms on.

“I want to be clear – they have no enforcement powers.”

He added: “Some time in the next few months hopefully restrictions will start to ease and we do think the marshals can help a lot with that, stepping up patrols as non-essential retail and hospitality reopens.

“But we don’t want this to be a town-centre centric service, we want this to be a service for the whole community.”

West Berkshire’s infection-rate has been falling since it peaked at 422.2 cases per 100,000 when the third national lockdown was announced on January 4 and it now stands at 107.9.

At the end of December, around one in six tests (16.2 per cent) conducted in West Berkshire were coming back positive. But that has dropped to around one in 17 tests (5.9 per cent).

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During the pandemic, more than 5,860 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in West Berkshire and 219 have died.

The council opened a lateral flow testing centre for critical workers at Highwood Copse Primary School in Newbury on February 8 and in the first week of operation, the 257 tests that were conducted came back negative.

The scheme, which provides people with test results in around 30 minutes, aims to prevent asymptomatic critical workers from transmitting the virus without realising it.

The council opened a second testing centre at Thatcham Rugby Club on February 15 and it plans to open centres at Burghfield Community Sports Association and Hungerford Rugby Club next week.