While NHS staff and those working in care homes put themselves on the front line, they earn our gratitude and respect for doing so. To a greater or lesser extent they have personal protection equipment (PPE) to keep them safe. Well, not always, but the intent is there even if the equipment is not necessarily.
Are all emergency services equal?
But how about the emergency services? The question was prompted by pulling into a petrol station in Frome. There was a police car fuelling at one of the pumps. One officer was filling up while another sat in the front passenger seat. Clearly, neither officer was more than six feet apart when in the car and neither wore a mask or gloves.
It is inevitable that operationally the Police may not always be able to practise social distancing. Curious, we asked the Avon & Somerset Police what precautions officers were required to take for their own safety. We were told “Guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council on PPE is regularly reviewed by a panel of experts at Government level. Their latest advice to police forces is that masks are not necessary when officers are working in close proximity with one another – for instance in cars or other police vehicles.”
The gloves are off…
That seems a little at odds with safety requirements being discussed elsewhere. The statement was also silent on gloves which in most other key worker services are seen as essential. We were also told that “Where officers and staff have symptoms they will self-isolate. We regularly review the advice we’re provided, to ensure our officers are appropriately equipped to perform their roles.”
Which is fine but the whole point of social distancing is that you might not know if you have the virus. Some people have it without exhibiting symptoms. Should we be putting our police officers in a position of taking unnecessary risks with their health?
By contrast, fire crews have guidance to follow social distancing wherever possible. Crew wash down following incidents and use of appliances. All fire stations are locked down with access to crews only. Fire crews are issued with appropriate face masks and, when required, have appropriate PPE – including masks.