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Coronavirus: PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne does not expect 'scenes from horror film' if cases rise

The Chief Constable Simon Byrne has said he does not expect "scenes from a horror film" if cases of coronavirus increase in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after a meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday, Mr Byrne said he felt confident the police were resilient enough to cope if an increased number of officers went on sick leave.

He has also called for the PSNI to be given new powers to detain people suspected of having coronavirus, as has already been done for police forces in England and Wales.

On Monday it was announced that three people in Northern Ireland have now tested positive for the virus, as well as six in the Irish Republic.

"At the moment we're following the Public Health Agency's advice, which is similar to everybody else at the moment," he said.

"The disease, whilst the dots in the map are increasing, it hasn't yet exploded into the country.

"So we're following the advice about personal hygiene. Clearly you would imagine in terms of what I need to do with senior colleagues is to make sure our preparedness is at optimum."

It's easy to speculate some sort of scenes from a horror film or a famous Hollywood movie where we're dealing with pandemic and virus Chief Constable Simon Byrne

He expected officer numbers would not only be affected by illness, but by those caring for family members.

"Our commitment is to continue to staff the 999 service, respond to emergency calls and respond to serious crime and terrorism," he said.

He added that extra care would be needed in areas of increased risk of infection such as custody centres.

"It's easy to speculate some sort of scenes from a horror film or a famous Hollywood movie where we're dealing with pandemic and virus," he said.

"But at the moment our assumption is actually that as people fall ill, that will quieten down the calls for service from us.

"Our priority is to encourage people to remain calm through a period of uncertainty. We're all probably facing a unique experience that we've not seen the like of for a 100 years.

"But we need to keep officers and staff at work to protect you."

Options to cope with reduced officer numbers, he said, were introducing 12-hour shifts and cancelling rest days in the short term.

"So at the moment we're not complacent and we can use a lot of experience here from operating at pace in different times. Whether it's dealing with complex investigations or serious disorder to keep officers and staff available to work."

Belfast Telegraph