Scotland

Coronavirus: Call for tests for frontline police officers

Police Scotland officers Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The SPF said police officers were part of the frontline effort to control the spread of Covid-19

Representatives of Scotland's police officers have called for them to have routine testing for coronavirus.

Scottish Police Federation (SPF) chairman David Hamilton said the police could otherwise be "super spreaders".

He argued that frontline officers should be seen as part of the frontline effort to control the disease.

The Scottish government said it wanted to support key workers to get back to work, with police officers included in the priority group for testing.

Mr Hamilton said: "At the moment people are returning to work and continuing to work potentially spreading the virus amongst the colleagues and amongst the public and that is something that can't be acceptable from a public health perspective."

Failure to introduce asymptomatic testing creates a "back door" for the virus from a public health perspective, he said.

Mr Hamilton added that police officers were "almost like super spreaders" if they are not tested.

The SPF has been calling for asymptomatic testing for a number of weeks, as officers encounter situations when they are not wearing PPE.

Spitting attacks

He also raised concerns about attacks on his members which deliberately attempt to infect them.

"Not only is it disgusting, coughing and spitting on someone, particularly at this time, it is absolutely appalling and essentially weaponsing the virus and using it to try and cause harm to other individuals," he said.

Mr Hamilton believes after a "slow start" the Crown Office has responded to calls for a tougher approach to offenders.

Image caption David Hamilton is concerned about the potential of officers to spread the virus

He added: "What we want the public to know is that this is absolutely unacceptable behaviour.

"People need to know that this will not be tolerated by society.

"This is an attack on police officers but also on society in general because, as police officers, we move throughout society and we could be unwittingly transmitting the virus to others because of these types of attacks (coughing and spitting) so it needs to be absolutely stamped out at the earliest stage."

Mr Hamilton said he would expect any offenders to appear from custody and be given a "heavy sentence".

A spokesman for the Scottish government said threats to police officers and front-line workers would "not be tolerated".

He added: "The Lord Advocate has underlined that prosecutors will respond robustly to criminal conduct related to coronavirus."

On testing, he said the government's approach was to "protect the most vulnerable".

"As part of this, we want to help support key workers to get back to work. That's why symptomatic police officers, or members of their household, are included in the priority group for testing."

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