Posted: Sun 24th Jan 2021

North Wales PCC says police officers should stop enforcing Covid regulations as row over vaccine priority continues

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Jan 24th, 2021

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Police in North Wales should stop enforcing the Covid regulations unless they’re included on the priority list for vaccines, the region’s police and crime commissioner has said.

The comments were made on Twitter by Plaid Cymru’s Arfon Jones after he accused the Welsh Government of ignoring pleas for officers to be immunised against the coronavirus during the current stage of vaccinations.

The North Wales Police Federation has strongly advocated for their inclusion after pointing out they face a high risk of contracting the virus due to the public facing nature of their jobs.

General secretary Mark Jones said in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live that his colleagues had even been spat at by offenders during the pandemic, raising the potential for them to catch it even further.

However, the government has brushed aside a request for police to be put on a reserve list to be given any spare or unused vaccines.

Mr Jones, who is a former police inspector, criticised the decision and said it was time for officers to take action.

Responding to a post by the federation, which highlighted that 500 West Yorkshire Police officers had received spare vaccines, he said: “@vaughangething ignoring calls to vaccinate Police Officers is a disgrace. Time to play hard ball and let @WelshGovernment enforce their own regulations.”

The federation replied: “From what we are hearing from sources the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker are all getting their vaccines but NOT the police!!”

In a further tweet, Mr Jones suggested the federation should use the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure adequate protection for front line officers.

The question of whether officers should be prioritised was raised in the Senedd this week by North Wales MS Mark Isherwood.

He said: “Many current and former North Wales Police officers have written to me since stating that, ‘Every single day, police officers and staff run the risk of coming into contact with a person with COVID, contracting it themselves and then bringing the killer virus back into their own homes’, and asking for the Welsh Government to commit to giving policing some priority.

“And on Monday, the North Wales Police Federation told me they were contacted last weekend by, quote, ‘Very reliable sources working within the vaccination centres’, who advised that hospital secretaries and even social workers working from home are receiving the vaccine, yet front-line policing is still not considered to be a risk, or even being allowed to use up any spare or unused vaccines.

“How do you therefore respond to their specific statement that even getting front-line police officers on a stand-by list, like is happening in some parts of England, might be a start?”

Health Minister Vaughan Gething replied that it was more likely police would be included on the list during the second stage of vaccinations.

He said: “The independent, expert JCVI have given us advice on how to make best use of the vaccines that we have available; chief medical officers have endorsed that advice, because it will help to save as many lives as possible.

“The current priority list one to nine that the JCVI have recommended—and every government, including your Conservative colleagues in England, has followed that prioritisation, because it should mean that 99 per cent of the hospitalisations and deaths that take place will be covered within those first nine priority groups.

“The JCVI will be considering advice to give to chief medical officers and ministers like myself in all four governments on the next phase of the vaccination that is to come.

“And I’m looking forward to receiving that advice and an understanding if they’ll give advice on occupational risk groups for that second vaccination stage—whether people are teachers, police officers, taxi drivers or bus drivers, people need to consider the risk to different occupations of the harm that can be caused by COVID.

“When I get that advice, I’ll then make a decision. I’ll be open and transparent about what it is, but you can rely on the fact that my choice will be about the public health case, to save the greatest number of lives as quickly as possible.”

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