All police displaying Covid-19 symptoms ‘should be tested’

Police displaying possible mild symptoms of Covid-19 should receive testing, a senior officer in Northern Ireland said.

Assistant chief constable Alan Todd said it would provide reassurance and confidence.

People who are self-isolating with mild symptoms will not be tested, according to official guidance.

The senior officer said: “We don’t think that is a risk that should be owned by the chief constable.

“There needs to be wider political leadership of that.

“My people will get ill. The vast majority will recover and come back to work, but the testing is needed to give reassurance and confidence.”

The World Health Organisation has encouraged more testing to help understand the spread of the coronavirus.

Police also have raised shortages of Covid-19 protective kit with Stormont ministers.

Mr Todd gave evidence to Stormont’s justice committee of Assembly members on Thursday.

He said confidence and reassurance levels among officers was linked to their ability to in turn provide reassurance to the public.

He added: “My principal concern is that not all of our officers have all their kit in all of the places at all times.”

He said that was partly down to global demand.

Police call handlers are now asking those contacting them for help with extra questions to establish whether attending could put officers at risk of contracting the virus, he said.

An isolation section is being created in custody suites where they question suspects to help manage the risk to staff.

Mr Todd said members of the force were working “at pace” to help combat the effects of the epidemic.

“Over time that puts a significant amount of strain on our people and we have to protect against that,” he said.

He is consolidating community policing rotas in anticipation of a significant number of sickness absences.

The senior officer added: “Police officers are used to moving towards dangerous situations when other members of the public are moving away from them.”

He warned acquisitive crime could rise as people’s incomes suffered.

Police are also geared up for more cases of domestic violence as homes are put under strain by extended periods of self-isolation.

A strategic command room has been established on a 24/7 basis and closer ties established with the ambulance and fire services.

Mr Todd added: “Crisis brings opportunities sometimes…to sit together in a room.”