LIBRARIES across Essex will begin to reopen from July, it has been confirmed.

Essex County Council said it was preparing a 'phased approach' to opening the centres up.

It will see 16 libraries reopen from Monday, July 6 including Colchester, Clacton and Harwich.

County Hall says the initial sixteen sites were selected as they also provide registration services.

Social distancing will be in place and regular cleaning will be carried out.

Customers will be able to return and borrow books, as well as have some limited time to browse the shelves.

In line with Government guidance, the number of customers allowed in a library at any one time will need to be reduced.

Customers will be asked to use the self-service machines to issue and return their items and to pay any charges.

Public computers, printing facilities and additional services such as recycling bags will be temporarily unavailable.

Susan Barker, cabinet member for customer, corporate, culture and communities said: "We are keen to re-open libraries when we can, but libraries are open access public areas and the safety of customers and staff is paramount.

"More libraries will re-open when we are confident we can do so safely.

"We would encourage everyone to continue to use the online library resources which have proved to be a big hit with the residents of Essex in these uncertain times.”

The other libraries opening on July 6 are Basildon, Billericay, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Dunmow, Epping, Harlow, Maldon, Rayleigh, Rochford, South Benfleet and Witham.

It is hoped most of the council's libraries will be able to open by mid August.

However County Hall said this is subject to the sites being safe and staff being available.

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