19 March 2020
As the Government lays out emergency legislation to flatten the COVID-19 curve, including powers for officers to detain those suspected of having the virus, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) calls for clear guidance from police chiefs to keep them safe.
Today (March 19), Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock introduced the Coronavirus Bill with a raft of measures to protect public health and ensure NHS and social care staff are supported to deal with significant extra pressure on the health system.
One of the clauses sets out it will give police the capability to support and enforce public health measures, including powers to detain potentially infected people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if they refuse to do so willingly.
Responding to the measures, PFEW National Chair John Apter, said: “We are in unprecedented and uncertain times, with government advice frequently changing as COVID-19 affects more people.
“Keeping the public safe is the number one priority for police officers, but policing is already under a huge strain from the everyday demands, in addition to dealing with this current crisis.
“While new laws might be necessary, we must have clear guidance for officers about how we deal with people who are affected with the virus. We must ensure that officers dealing with COVID-19 related incidents receive the protection and support they need.”
The new law will have a two-year time limit and , would only "switch on" when absolutely necessary and would be removed after the outbreak on the advice of the chief medical officers of the four UK nations, according to ministers.
Mr Apter concluded: “Police officers will always do their best. They are professional, dedicated people - but behind the uniform they are human beings. They are mums and dads, sons and daughters - this is why we are working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure they get the clear guidance and protections necessary so that they can ensure we are able protect the public.”
The remaining stages of the Bill will take place on March 23.