NORTH Wales’ chief constable and police and crime commissioner have said their failure to wear face masks at a public meeting was due to a “breakdown in communications”.
Conwy County Council says all attendees at the North Wales Police and Crime Panel were asked to wear a face covering at the meeting on Tuesday at the council’s Bodlondeb HQ.
The council says the request was made following a risk assessment.
But, contrary to Welsh Government rules, most members of the committee did not wear a mask. There were 28 people in the room, including six council staff, and the two-metre distance rule was not followed.
A Conwy County Council spokeswoman said: “All attendees were asked to wear face masks in accordance with the risk assessment.”
Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said the incident was a misunderstanding.
“Unfortunately there does appear to have been a breakdown in communications,” he said.
“The need for masks to be worn unless you were speaking was not made clear at the meeting.
“If there had been a request at any time during the meeting for face masks to be worn, then I would have happily complied, and I’m sure that others present would have done the same unless they were exempt.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin also said he wasn’t asked to wear a mask.
“There has clearly been a breakdown in terms of communication around the protocol for this meeting that was hosted by Conwy County Borough Council in line with their risk assessment,” he said.
“There was no announcement at the beginning of the meeting, or at any time during it, that those in attendance should wear a mask unless they were speaking.
“Had any such instruction been given, I and all members of my team would have complied immediately.
“I am sure all the members of the committee would also have been more than happy to comply.”
Conwy County Council also revealed, as part of the risk assessment, COVID passes were not required and attendees did not have to show a negative lateral flow test result.
A spokesman for the Welsh Government said masks should be worn at indoor public venues.
“There is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries,” he said.
“If you work in an indoor public area, you will definitely have to wear a face covering (unless you have a reasonable excuse not to).
“Even though customers of wedding venues and hospitality premises are no longer required to wear face masks, it is recommended that staff in wedding venues and hospitality premises continue to wear face coverings.
“All employers must undertake a risk assessment for their premises. They can consider whether requiring staff to wear face coverings is a reasonable measure that should be taken in other indoor workplaces. Wearing face coverings will still be necessary where physical distancing cannot be maintained, unless there are good reasons not to.”
He added: “It will be your employer’s responsibility to make sure that the risk assessment for their business addresses the risks of exposure to coronavirus.”
In a second statement, released after the chief constable and crime commissioner issued theirs, a spokeswoman for Conwy County Council then claimed the meeting was not public – but only because no members of the public attended.
Conwy did, though, admit rules put in place after its risk assessment had been ignored.
“The Police and Crime Panel meeting was only accessible to the public by formal arrangement, and the building was not open to the public in general,” said the council.
“The meeting was streamed in order to give the public access to the meeting, and members of the public were not in attendance.
“Accordingly, this is not considered as an indoor public place and not open to the public under the Welsh Government guidance and face masks are not a requirement.
“However, in accordance with our risk assessment, attendees were informed beforehand of the need to wear masks when not addressing the meeting.
“We accept that this was not reiterated at the meeting itself. We will ensure that a verbal reminder is given to all attendees at future meetings.”
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