ROADS could be closed, businesses shut and whole communities placed into lockdown under new powers given to councils to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The new local lockdown powers are set to be discussed by the Government in the coming weeks and will be part of the new track and trace system aimed at stopping the spread of infection.

It is not yet clear what powers will be handed to councils but councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in Southend, said it could include the ability to shut down entire neighbourhoods.

It is hoped local authorities will be able to response quicker to changes than central Government.

“We haven’t had the full briefings through from the Government yet but we will have in place a local management board which will have all of the data coming in and the idea would be that we can shut down neighbourhoods or even individual places of work,” he said.

“You could have a situation where a company that owns a large office or call centre suddenly has a spike and we would then be able to tell them to have some kind of quarantine or even to shut down for a period of time.

“We certainly don’t have these powers at the moment but they are under discussion and we are expected to have a virus control plan in place by the end of June.”

Mr Harp added that handing the council these decision-making powers would be preferable as the alternative would be a potentially slower response with decisions made by someone in Westminster.

“There will be local accountability if we are given the ability to do this,” he continued.

“It takes this out of the national political arena and allows for better agility in our decision making because we would only be looking at our local area as opposed to Westminster where they will be looking at thousands of inputs from across the country.

“We will also be able to look at this through our health and wellbeing board, which I am chair of. This will allow us to report back to scrutiny committees if need be to maintain transparency.”

Martin Terry, councillor responsible for community safety, was also positive about the possibility the council will be given greater control of the lockdown.

He said: “This would definitely be good because it is clear there are regional variances in the R-number which is the rate of infection.

“Currently, we believe the R-number in Southend is low and we are pleased with that.

“We don’t have much information on this yet but I believe it will all be dealt with through the council’s health and wellbeing board.

“This is one of the frustrating things about how the Government has disseminated information. Right now they have been good at making announcements and while it makes a good headline, they don’t have much to back it up.”

Talks over whether to hand lockdown powers from ministers to local authorities are expected to take place sometime in June.

Councils across the country were told on Thursday they would need to put together a virus control plan by the end of June.