Greater Manchester Police has urged the public to 'think twice' about requesting callouts in non-emergencies as officers are attending coronavirus-related incidents without protective masks.
The force is urgently trying to secure more personal protective equipment (PPE) such as water repellant masks amid calls for greater access to the national stockpile.
Frontline staff are concerned about unknowingly passing on COVID-19 when visiting elderly and vulnerable people, and those in self-isolation, when responding to crime or a death.
Assistant chief constable Nick Bailey said it was important for all public services, including health and social care, to have greater access to PPE.
But he told a press conference on Greater Manchester’s response to the pandemic: ”As a police officer and looking at incidents we are starting to attend, they are frequently becoming more and more identified as incidents with COVID-19.
“That may be a crime, that may be domestic abuse, that may be tragically a death in the community where our officers have to attend.
“They have the same concerns in terms of any transfer of disease they may have which they may not know about at the time if they’re going to an elderly or vulnerable person, and likewise if they’re going into a house in self-isolation with grandparents or elderly parents.
“As the curve increases, it’s really important to try and risk assessing incidents and ask the public to think twice about having attendance of the police where there is not an immediate threat and risk.”
Mr Bailey said officers have access to ‘some PPE’ but not water repellant masks, adding that GMP was seeking procurement channels to increase availability.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham described the force’s predicament as a ‘clear message’ to the government that all public services need access to the national stockpile.
He added: “Police officers are attending incidents where there may be a health concern but they dont’ have [PPE] access, and consequently some may not feel able to attend.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently by the government.”
The mayor also urged Boris Johnson to give clearer assurances that commitments to provide NHS staff with equipment would be expanded to social care staff, alongside capacity to test those who may fear they have coronavirus symptoms.
The prime minister has insisted the UK has plenty of PPE in reserve after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed some NHS staff were ’scared’ about shortages.
Keep up to date with all the latest local and national developments here: https://www.questmedianetwork.co.uk/news/daily-coronavirus-updates/.