19 March 2020
MPS are today expected to wave through new laws giving police powers to arrest and isolate anyone to protect public health. The Emergency Coronavirus Bill - to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday - will give ministers the powers they say they need to respond to the threat of the virus and support the NHS.
They include allowing the Border Force to suspend operations at airports or transport hubs if there are insufficient resources to ensure security.
It came as a rank-and-file police chief urged people to use the 999 number only in an emergency. Insp Mark Andrews, chairman of Wiltshire Police Federation, said: “All I would ask from the public is to consider, as they have been asked to do with the NHS, if the issue they are facing needs an emergency response or police involvement at all? “If the police are needed and it is not an emergency there are various ways of contacting us including 101 and via our website, using these options will reduce some of the burden on our front line staff.
“The main question should be: are the police actually the best organisation to assist you or would the matter be more effectively handled by another, such as the council? “But we want to reassure people. We are not going anywhere. You can continue to rely on us when you are in need.” He added: “Covid-19 is one of the most significant challenges of our policing generation - but it is a challenge our police officers will rise to in order to support the communities they serve.
“These are tough times for the country. We are an emergency service and there is no working from home for the majority of our police officers as the public need to have access to us – and we will continue to protect them in line with the Police Attestation sworn by every constable at the start of their career.”
Last week, Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, left, told Swindon councillors: “We are exercising our plans and renewing our excess deaths plan. We are still in the contain phase but we are ready to move.”