Sat. Nov 28th, 2020

Isle of Wight Observer News

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Some public toilets to remain closed to prevent spread of Covid-19

4 min read
Some councils have decided to keep them shut to avoid any ‘unnecessary risk’

Despite pleas to reopen public toilets now lockdown restrictions are easing, some councils have decided to keep them shut to avoid any ‘unnecessary risk’.

Some areas of the Island have had no access to public toilets since the start of lockdown, as a way to prevent the spread of the virus.

An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said the decision to open a public toilet would rest with individual councils.

“There is not currently any specific government guidance, but we would suggest a common-sense approach should be taken,” they said.

“There is nothing in the current regulations requiring toilets to be shut. Those responsible for managing toilet blocks would need to undertake a risk assessment for any staff cleaning or supporting this facility.

“Infection control for users and the potential spread of Covid-19 should also be considered.”

Across the Island, some councils have decided to open the stall doors.

After ‘extensive consideration’, Sandown Town Council decided to open public toilets at Yaverland, Eastern Gardens and St John’s last weekend but only from 9am to 6pm.

Deep cleans were undertaken, signage and guidance provided, with distancing markers and hand sanitising stations part of the arrangements to re-opening.

Cowes Town Council, however, opened public toilets from May 13, when unlimited exercise was allowed and requests for them to open started coming in.

A spokesperson for the town council said the cleaners had personal protective equipment to protect themselves and extra effort was made to sanitise all contact surfaces.

“These are public facilities and users must take ‘personal responsibility’ and use common sense when using a communal facility: maintain social distancing and wash your hands thoroughly on exiting the premises,” they said.

However, not all have councils have chosen this approach.

Newport and Carisbrooke Community Council has recently come under fire for not opening any conveniences in the town centre, leaving people who need a quick comfort break with the only option of supermarkets available.

In a local bulletin, a representative of the community council said the decision to ‘close and keep closed’ the toilets had been met with complaints from those who disagreed.

East Cowes Town Council has also said their decision was based on the duty of care they have to the staff and community considering reopening the toilers and unnecessary risk but will be reviewing it on a regular basis.

Ryde Town Council has kept the majority of toilets closed but easy access facilities are open for Radar key holders although hope to open the general facilities soon having undertaken risk assessments and addressing the issues.

Until restrictions are lifted, or councillors agree otherwise, public toilets in Yarmouth will remain shut.

Shanklin Town Council are ‘deciding very soon’ whether to reopen the toilets when non-essential shops do on June 15, with measures in place so they are safe for staff and residents and have asked people to ‘respect that’.

Update 29th May:

ONE public toilet in Newport will open in the coming weeks as residents complain about the lack of facilities — but the local council say they have not opened them sooner as it tries to be responsible.

As public toilets slowly open up, those in the Island’s county town have remained firmly shut to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking about the matter, Julie Jones-Evans, chair of Newport and Carisbrooke Community Council, said the toilets were still shut because of the many contact surfaces in the conveniences and wanted to avoid them becoming hotspots of the disease.

Cllr Jones-Evans said: “Given the government are easing restrictions, with non-essential shops opening on June 15, that has given us a timeframe to work towards.

“[Our concern] uppermost is stopping the spread of Covid-19 — the council did not want our toilets being a hotspot and spreading the disease so we are focusing our resources on South Street, keeping them as clean as possible.”

The toilets, next to the bus station, have some of the highest traffic as people use those when changing buses, travelling through the town and are next to a car park.

Despite the toilets potentially opening soon, Cllr Jones-Evans said individuals will need to be aware that others will be using the facilities and, along with the safety measures being put in place, if they would like to wear face masks and bring their own supply of antibacterial gel and wipes then they can do so.

She said: “We will do all that we can to make it a safe environment, ensuring covid confidence but people have to be aware we cannot have someone in the toilet all day wiping down areas.”

Other toilets in Newport and Carisbrooke, including the Post Lane toilets, which are set to be demolished, and those in Seaclose will be looked at at a later date.

Miss Jones-Evans said: “As we come out of the crisis we can make them available again but they are a point of contact so we have to be safe.

“We want to be as responsible as we can and for people to have confidence in the facilities.”

Toilets in Totland and Colwell have been open for a couple of weeks now and Totland Parish Council have said they are cleaned twice a day and deep cleaned each week.

Freshwater Parish Council has said Moa Place toilets will be open this weekend following a risk assessment, deep clean and minor changes made to reduce the risk as much as possible. Gate Lane toilets will also be open as soon as it  is possible and safe to do so.