Posted: 14.01.21 at 16:29 by The Editor
More than 80 Avon and Somerset Police officers are ill with Covid-19 and another 47 could be infected.
Chief constable Andy Marsh is cancelling rest days and offering overtime to tackle lockdown breaches, and is also set to consider a request for officers to drive ambulances to support stretched NHS services.
Firefighters across Avon have put in hundreds of shifts since the start of the pandemic driving ambulances and have responded to more than 1,400 incidents.
The South Western Ambulance Service this week appealed to the region’s police forces for additional blue light emergency drivers.
Speaking to police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens on Facebook Live, chief constable Marsh said: “Many people are making sacrifices. Most people can now say this pandemic has touched their lives in some way.
“Eighty-two colleagues in Avon and Somerset are currently sick with Covid. We’ve had colleagues in hospital sick with Covid. Forty-seven have suspected Covid.
“Looking at the positive side, there are vaccination centres springing up across the force area. While we all know people that are ill, very soon we’re all going to know people turning up to get a spike in the arm.”
Chief constable Marsh said the force is running a seven-day operation to tackle Covid breaches – 1,500 have been reported in the last week – with additional officers on duty.
He said: “They’re on cancelled rest days or working overtime and we’re tiring them out and we’ve heard that many are sick.”
He added: “We’ve offered all of our buildings, our skilled and dedicated people are at the disposal of the vaccination centres.
“If we can help in any way, we’re ready to do that. It may be that we’re required to help in the coming months.
“We’ve recently received a request from the ambulance service, who are under immense pressure, to help them provide police-trained drivers to drive ambulances.
“We’re working through that request and I know a number of other forces are helping too.”
A force spokesperson said there was nothing to suggest that police stations would be used as vaccination centres.
A spokesperson for Avon Fire and Rescue Service said it too is “ready, willing and able to support local authorities, NHS colleagues and the vaccination programme”.
Chief fire officer Mick Crennell said: “We will continue to place ourselves in a position where we can support and offer mutual aid to SWASFT (South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust) and other emergency services.
“Throughout this process we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both our ambulance colleagues and staff who volunteered to put themselves forward to help during these unprecedented times.
“We recognise that we have skills to be able support our partners and we will continue to work together where we can. Here at AFRS we value the opportunity to support our colleagues and communities through these trying times.”
SWASFT chief executive Will Warrender said: “We are experiencing sustained and increasingly high levels of demand on our service across the South West due to coronavirus.
“This week I wrote to my police colleagues across the region to formally request their assistance in providing additional trained blue light emergency drivers to work alongside our crews.
“We work closely with the police and fire services every day, and our partnership working is a shining example of the way we all pull together to support the patients who need us during this difficult time.”