Police accuse government of betrayal over vaccine snub

Martin EvansTue, 9 February 2021, 7:18 pm

Frontline police officers will not be given priority for the vaccine
Frontline police officers will not be given priority for the vaccine

Police have reacted with anger accusing the Government of betrayal after Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said officers would not be given priority for the coronavirus vaccine.

Senior officers have been lobbying ministers for weeks to get men and women on the frontline vaccinated as soon as possible to protect them from the virus.

It was thought their pleas had been heeded by Government who recognised the dangers police officers faced when carrying out their vital duties.

So they were taken by surprise on Monday when Mr Hancock announced in the House of Commons that the police would not be given priority in the roll out and would have to wait until after groups 1 to 9 had been treated, meaning it could be months before young frontline officers are vaccinated.

Sources said senior police leaders were furious because the announcement was made without any prior briefing, meaning Chief Constables were unable to inform their officers ahead of time.

John Apter, chair of the Police Federation said: “Police officers feel betrayed by the lack of action from Government. The warm words and platitudes we have had to date are simply not enough.

“Officers are risking their lives on the frontline of this pandemic – they are in daily contact with vulnerable people – and must now be protected without delay. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty by the English and Welsh governments.”

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, who has appeared alongside Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, at several Downing Street coronavirus briefings, said officers performed a unique role in society and that should be taken into account.

“Police chiefs have been clear in their discussions with government that there is a very strong case for officers to be vaccinated as soon as possible, after the most vulnerable have received theirs.

“Decisions about prioritisation are understandably difficult and need to be based on science, but should also factor in the unique nature of the role of the police in society.

“We come into contact with members of the public all the time, including going into homes and buildings. We are also working side-by-side with healthcare staff every day, including some officers driving ambulances.

“We also need to protect the resilience of the service to continue keeping the public safe and tackling crime. You cannot carry out policing at a two-metre distance and for their safety, as well as that of the public, we believe that officers should be a priority for vaccination after the elderly and the extremely clinically vulnerable.

“The Crown Prosecution Service charged 1,688 offences for Covid-related assaults on emergency service workers in the last six months, the majority of which were related to policing. This includes spitting and threatening to infect officers with Covid. This is not acceptable, it is not just part of the job, and it and underlines the risk officers are facing.

“We will continue to discuss with ministers the importance of prioritising officers for the vaccine.”