Coronavirus: Scientists to advise Police Scotland on Covid-19 risks

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Police Scotland genericImage source, Police Scotland

The body which represents Scotland's rank-and-file police officers has set up a panel to provide specific Covid-19 advice on the risks facing staff.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said it comprises "some of the finest medical and scientific minds".

Members include bacteriologist Prof Hugh Pennington and former chief medical officer Sir Harry Burns.

They will look at issues such as the availability and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The panel will also examine issues such as the suitability of generic public health guidance for the "dynamic activity" of policing, as well as the cleaning and decontamination of work places and equipment.

The head of the SPF Calum Steele said: "The generic health protection advice promoted by government simply does not take account of the realities of police work.

"We need sector specific advice which recognises and reflects the often unpredictable and up close and personal nature of policing, and this panel will help us secure that."

Mr Steele said the federation, which represents more than 18,500 members, will liaise directly with Police Scotland.

He added: "We cannot continue with a mindset that says if a police officer doesn't have symptoms then he or she doesn't have the virus. This is wrong."

The SPF warned an increasing amount of time is being spent with people in vulnerable issues and officers face risk on a daily basis.

Mr Steele added: "Every police officer is committed to upholding the law and helping the vulnerable but we cannot do that if our own officers are allowed to succumb to the deadly virus."

A police spokeswoman said the force was "working continuously" to procure the best quality PPE and roll this out to frontline officers.

She added: "More than 2,600 officers and staff have completed training to ensure they are fully briefed on the correct use of the equipment being supplied and a further 200 are being trained every day."

Who is on the expert panel?

Image caption,
Sir Harry Burns stepped down as Scotland's chief medical officer in 2014

Sir Harry Burns and Prof Hugh Pennington will be joined on the panel by Prof George Crooks.

The SPF will be represented by Mr Steele and David Kennedy, while legal expertise will be provided by Prof Peter Watson.

The panel met for the first time via video conference next Monday.

During her daily media briefing first minister Nicola Sturgeon said equipping frontline workers was an important focus.

She also encouraged anyone with concerns about PPE to contact the Scottish government if their manager or workplace does not address the issue.

The Police Scotland website informs the public officers "may look different" as they are being provided with PPE including masks, gloves, boot covers, coveralls and goggles.

It continues: "They will use this, as required based on a thorough risk assessment, when responding to incidents."

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