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Coronavirus: Unprotected police in contact with Covid-19 sufferers told they must keep working

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Police have been given instructions on how to deal with the public during the current crisis

Police have been given instructions on how to deal with the public during the current crisis

PA

Police have been given instructions on how to deal with the public during the current crisis

Police officers who come into contact with people with Covid-19 while not wearing protective equipment are being told they must continue working.

A force-wide email has been sent out to officers giving them instructions to follow after dealing with the public during the strict lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

The PSNI is stepping up patrols to enforce the lockdown.

Officers have been told they must continue their duties as normal if they come into contact with someone with coronavirus.

This is even if they are not wearing specialist protective equipment to help protect them from catching Covid-19.

The email states: "Given the change in public health guidance in relation to contact with suspected or known cases, there are a few important points.

"If you have contact with a known or suspected Covid-19 case, without wearing personal protective equipment... the following approach should be followed.

"Decontaminate, wash your hands as above, do not ring NHS 111, you do not need to self-isolate yourself, and continue working.

"Monitor your symptoms. If you develop a new persistent cough or high temperature, then self-isolate and follow the guidelines available on the Public Health Agency website."

One officer said: "It's fair to say people aren't happy about this.

"First of all, we don't have masks, gloves, sanitiser, or anything like that.

"There are specialist teams that get sent out to calls where a person has been identified as having or potentially having coronavirus and they have the proper protective equipment.

"The call handlers are asking screening questions when people ring up, but all it takes is for someone to lie, and then there are those who don't know they have the virus, and a normal crew is sent out.

"Basically, this comes down to the fact that there aren't enough police so they can't afford for people to go off and self-isolate if they have come into contact with the virus.

"We understand the pressures on the emergency services at the moment, we really do, but the orders we're getting simply don't seem to match up to the medical advice."

The officer continued: "There's lots of us live with people who are vulnerable and in the at-risk groups, there's plenty of guys whose wives are pregnant and there are officers who are the sole provider to elderly relatives.

"And that doesn't even take into account the risk to the public if we're walking around carrying the virus and have no idea.

"Boris Johnson has brought in the most extreme measures we've ever seen to try and tackle this, we're being told it's a war and people aren't allowed to go out of their houses, yet police are being told we have to put ourselves and our loved ones at risk."

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said these are "extremely challenging times for the Police Service".

"However, despite this and all the challenges Covid-19 presents, our priority is to keep people safe and protect communities, and that includes our officers and staff, in particular officers and staff on the frontline," he said.

Mr Todd said there is pressure on Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), but "we continue to work to ensure the maximum amount of PPE is available to staff".

"To mitigate the risk to our officers attending calls, we carefully assess each call and where we feel there may be Covid-19-related risks, we have identified dedicated, fully equipped resources in each district to respond to these incidents," he explained.

"All officers have been issued with guidance in line with advice from the Public Health Agency and Executive and expert advice is available.

"In relation to arrests, officers will continue to arrest individuals where this is necessary for public safety and the measures above are in place to enable them to do so."

The Police Federation has already raised concerns at the lack of personal protective equipment available to officers.

Mark Lindsay, who chairs the Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called for the immediate introduction of spit and bite guards to protect officers.

Belfast Telegraph