A third of police officers have been threatened with infection by members of the public claiming to have Covid-19, research suggests.
A survey of around one in 10 rank-and-file officers by the Police Federation of England and Wales found that 30% said at least once during the last six months a member of the public thought to have the virus had threatened to spit at them.
And 32% said someone who they believed to have Covid-19 had threatened to breathe or cough on them.
The research also showed that 21% had a member of the public believed to have the virus actually try to spit at them, while 24% had someone try to breathe or cough on them.
Just over half, 55%, said that they had been the victim of an unarmed physical attack in the past year, while 16% said they had suffered injuries requiring medical attention.
Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said: “This survey clearly shows the huge pressure officers are under policing the pandemic and the negative impact on their welfare, with half of the respondents saying they have been physically attacked and 1 in 3 having been threatened by someone claiming to have Covid.”
“The results of this survey have come directly from our members – those police officers who are on the front line dealing with whatever society throws at them.
“The increasing level of violence they face, especially involving the ‘weaponising’ of the virus, is a sad indictment of the society we live in.”
A total of 12,471 officers provided useable responses to the survey, from a total Police Federation membership of more than 120,000 from the rank of constable to chief inspector.
The Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey was carried out between October 5 and November 23 2020 last year.
On Tuesday the Metropolitan Police, the biggest force in the UK, said that five officers had died with Covid-19 in the past two weeks.
Mr Apter is among several police leaders pushing the Government for frontline officers to get priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.
He said: “They must be given all the protection they need to protect themselves and this includes being prioritised for the Covid vaccine. We have had enough of the warm words, we now need action.”