More than 80 police officers off with coronavirus

Ambulance and fire officer

Avon firefighters are supporting the NHS by driving ambulances. - Credit: AFRS

More than 80 Avon and Somerset police officers are ill with Covid-19 and another 47 could be infected. 

Chief constable Andy Marsh is cancelling rest days and offering overtime to tackle lockdown breaches, and is also set to consider a request for officers to drive ambulances to support stretched NHS services. 

Firefighters across Avon and Somerset have put in hundreds of shifts since the start of the pandemic driving ambulances and have responded to more than 1,400 incidents. 

The South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) this week appealed to the region’s police forces for additional blue light emergency drivers.

Speaking to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens on Facebook Live, Chief Constable Marsh said: “Many people are making sacrifices. Most people can now say this pandemic has touched their lives in some way. 

“Eighty-two colleagues in Avon and Somerset are currently sick with Covid. We’ve had colleagues in hospital sick with Covid. Forty-seven have suspected Covid." 

Chief Constable Marsh said the force is running a seven-day operation to tackle Covid breaches – 1,500 have been reported in the last week – with additional officers on duty. 

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He said: “They’re on cancelled rest days or working overtime and we’re tiring them out and we’ve heard that many are sick.”

He added: “We’ve recently received a request from the ambulance service, who are under immense pressure, to help them provide police-trained drivers to drive ambulances. 

“We’re working through that request and I know a number of other forces are helping too.”

A spokesperson for Avon Fire and Rescue Service said it too is 'ready, willing and able to support local authorities, NHS colleagues and the vaccination programme'.

SWASFT chief executive Will Warrender said: “We are experiencing sustained and increasingly high levels of demand on our service across the South West due to coronavirus. 

“This week I wrote to my police colleagues across the region to formally request their assistance in providing additional trained blue light emergency drivers to work alongside our crews. 

“We work closely with the police and fire services every day, and our partnership working is a shining example of the way we all pull together to support the patients who need us during this difficult time.”

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