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13 July 2020
There’s currently a huge issue around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) not being used in all the cases when it should. Some colleagues have stopped wearing it. It may be that complacency has crept in. Certainly, it can be really uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. I hear friends say, ‘if I was going to get Covid-19, I would have by now’ or ‘the virus is not as bad as we thought’, or the ‘pubs are open so it must be okay’.
For example, the number of gloves being worn by officers has halved in the last few weeks, and it’s the same story with masks. And yet we’re getting busier and going to more jobs.
The Federation has said from day one of the coronavirus crisis that officers should wear a mask when they are double crewed or sharing vehicles. Or at the very least they should be wearing the face covering.
And there’s a difference between the two – a mask is classed as PPE, because it’s designed to protect the wearer. So, if you’re in a situation where you might be dealing with a Covid carrier, you should wear PPE. This is to protect you from catching the virus, and so from then later transmitting it to a colleague or even family member. The last thing we would ever want to do is take this horrible virus home and expose somebody we love to it.
The face covering looks similar but does not offer the same level of protection. However, it does comply with the government advice around getting on public transport or visiting a hospital, and there is some evidence that wearing a face covering can afford some protection from transmitting the virus to others, if for example the wearer isn’t aware that they even have COVID-19.
Why is all this important? Well it’s important to recognise that the virus has not gone away. And it could be with us for some time to come. And in our job, we will come into contact with many people, and they will look to us for that example of how to face this virus. To many members of public, seeing police officers wearing either masks or face coverings will reinforce to them the absolute necessity to control the virus, that we’re not yet out of the woods.
PFEW has been involved in writing the guidelines, both for face coverings and PPE. So, we’re content that it meets our needs, although we are constantly reviewing with the Op Talla PPE team it as new scientific evidence comes to light, ensuring it remains fit for purpose. And the PPE team have listened to your feedback to amend the guidelines wherever possible.
In terms of the new face coverings, there are some exemptions in place for police officers, such as in circumstances wearing a mask could stop us from communicating with someone, or if a situation kicks off and there isn’t time to put a mask or covering on. Those instances aside, police officers should be wearing face coverings in any situation where we’d expect the public to do the same.
The police service has procured 600,000 face coverings, and over the last week or so, every force has been sent a quantity of these coverings to issue to officers and staff. We find that officers are prepared to wear it, particularly where they are reminded of the good reasons behind it. This is where forces have got a job to do to reinforce the rationale and the need for us all to comply with the guidance, and this is the message we have been giving to NPCC.
And as we all know, face masks or face coverings are not the silver bullet for COVID-19. In terms of some other ways you can stay safe, hand hygiene is still the biggie, along with maintaining a safe distance from others where possible. If we’re sharing a computer, we can give it a wipe down before and after we use it. The same goes for vehicles. On a set of shifts, I believe you should be crewing-up with the same crewmate for the whole set – that way if one of you contracts the virus, only two officers would potentially have to isolate rather than several members of the squad.
Policing has coped superbly with this crisis. If you look at the amount of proactive work we’ve been doing.- in many cases for the first time in a long time, it’s clear that colleagues have been doing their job under incredibly challenging circumstances, keeping the streets safe during lockdown and taking large amounts of drugs and weapons off the streets. At a time when it’s seemed like we are constantly under attack, you have stepped up and done an amazing job, keeping people safe and doing the unpopular but necessary job of ensuring the public comply with the Coronavirus Regulations.
Absence levels are almost at an all-time low. And that tells us that officers have been mindful of PPE and the other guidance throughout the crisis. We just need to ensure we don’t throw away the good work now. That’s why we must all continue to wear PPE, keep using social distancing (where we can!), keep following the guidance, keep setting that example – and above all keep yourself and your families safe.