Police leaders in Cheshire are calling on the government to reconsider its decision to not prioritise police officers for the Covid-19 vaccine.
It’s after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has announced today that after over 50s are vaccinated, the roll-out will continue by age group leaving those on the Covid frontline at risk.
Police and crime commissioner David Keane has written to the Prime Minster to call for him to make an urgent U-turn on what he says is a “betrayal” and a “failure to protect dedicated public servants” in a decision that would “never be forgiven”.
In letter to the PM he says: “Police officers and staff put themselves and their families at risk everyday by working in close contact with those who may be carrying the virus. But you have let them down by your failure to protect them through the vaccination programme.
“Sadly, at least 22 police officers and staff, including one of our own in Cheshire, have lost their lives to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and many more have been hospitalised and are still suffering the long-term effects of the disease.
“The risks associated with frontline policing and contracting the virus are grave. The nature of policing means officers have to get up close and personal with members of the public. We’re seeing Covid-19 increasingly used as a weapon on our streets with recorded incidents of offenders spitting or coughing at officers increasing. There’s been 126 in Cheshire alone since last March.
“Sending our officers into these situations without appropriate protection against Covid-19 is equivalent to sending them into a public disorder incident without riot gear.
“Police and crime commissioners and chief constables have done their bit to ensure officers have access to sufficient PPE but this doesn’t provide the sufficient protection needed. Vaccines would do so much more.
“This isn’t about police officers jumping the queue. We all need access to the vaccine in order to beat this public health emergency. But it is a failure that your current prioritisation programme puts someone who can work from home as a priority above those serving the public on the frontline.
“This has to be about individual risk. We have a duty of care to protect those who protect our society.
“I urge you to stop betraying our hardworking frontline police officers and staff and reduce the risk of them catching this deadly disease and spreading it vulnerable people in our communities, putting even greater strain on our already stretched public services.
“We need your government to commit to protecting all of our key workers in the same way they have protected our wider communities during this pandemic on behalf of your government.”
Cheshire’s chief constable Darren Martland has also spoken out about the impact this will have on operational policing across the county: “Chief Constable Darren Martland said: “Police officers and staff, in front line roles, are required to enter different settings and come into contact with people from ‘high risk’ groups.
“Often, by the very nature of their role, officers and staff are unable exercise social distancing and PPE can be compromised, which is why I would request that police officers and front line staff are prioritised for vaccination, after the elderly and people who are clinically vulnerable.”