PERSONAL protective equipment such as gloves and face masks will be shared out between forces to ensure all response officers are properly protected during the Covid-19 crisis.
That was the pledge from DCC Paul Netherton, the NPCC lead for Civil Contingencies, when he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 18 March.
He and the NPCC’s Strategic Lead ACC Owen Weatherill were outlining to MPs how the service can deliver policing during an extended period of social distancing or lockdown, and how frontline officers can be best protected from contracting Covid-19 during that time.
DCC Netherton admitted that while forces currently have enough PPE, over the next six to 12 months the stocks will need to be monitored “very carefully”. He did say that PPE will be shared “so no force has less than it needs”.
Anti-virus PPE kit will initially be prioritised to response officers, the committee heard, with some forces already equipping a ‘Covid Car’ full of PPE that would be deployed to incidents where officers could be dealing with at-risk people.
He said: “All officers should have gloves and a mask if they are on response duty…All officers on response will have this kit.”
He added that the kit was being replaced after use as soon as possible, and said the service was working closely with NHS procurement teams.
Home Affairs Select Committee Chair Yvette Cooper MP also pledged MPs will press the Government to ensure forces to have all the PPE they need during the Covid-19 crisis.
ACC Weatherill told the committee: “Each day brings a new challenge. It’s a complex situation. Policing tend to help other agencies, but the scale of this is the biggest challenge. We may not be able to help other agencies in the way they would normally ask us to.”
He added that it would be useful for officers to be tested for the virus so they could know when they were recovered they could go back on the front line with no risk.
DCC Netherton told MPs that the service is monitoring the level of specialist resources, including response and firearms capability to take account of officer who are self-isolating.
He said the police planning group expects that forces will have outbreak hotspots at different times so the service as a whole will need to be flexible about moving resources as they are needed.
He did say emphasise that one of the key functions police will maintain is their 999 system so if people have a serious problem they will respond.