Torridge District Council has cancelled all public meetings until at least the end of March as it responds to the escalation in action to protect against the coronavirus pandemic.

The move follows Government advice to stop non-essential travel and contact with other people.

The council has also closed its customer reception points and is asking members of the public to access customer services online or by telephone in the short term.

A statement from the council said it would review government advice on a weekly basis and update where appropriate, and will use methods such as video conferencing in order to continue its business in decision making.

It said council services are operating at ‘near normal’ capacity, although it warned response times may be extended should the virus worsen.

It has held meetings to discuss service provision should measures against the crisis be escalated further.

Council leader, Councillor Ken James, said the council would continue to serve residents and businesses to the best of its abilities.

“I know that all of our officers will do their best to ensure that the upheaval likely to be caused by the spread of Covid-19 will be minimised as far as possible and we will be monitoring and adjusting as times goes on,” said Cllr James.

“Our aim is to continue to serve our residents and businesses to the best of our abilities as the situation allows.”

Members of the public are advised to not visit council offices unless absolutely necessary, and speak to officers first before setting off with the intention to visit.

The council will post updates and important messages on its website and social media channels.

Steve Hearse, TDC’s strategic manager for resources, said: “The public will be able to help us to reduce the spread of the virus and free up officer time by interacting with the council online or by telephone wherever this is possible.

“During the current crisis we would ask that they only visit offices where this is absolutely necessary and agreed in advance by telephone.

“If a request is not urgent then we would also appreciate people deferring a request until a time when the current peak levels of crisis has subsided.”