Covid restrictions: “We need clarity”

22 February 2021

Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe is calling for more clarity to enable fairer policing of lockdown restrictions.

Steve was speaking as new figures from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) show that only one in 10 officers in England and Wales thought police powers previously introduced to manage the coronavirus crisis were clear.

The demand, capacity and welfare survey also found only 24 per cent of respondents felt the ‘Four E’s’ (engage, explain, encourage and enforce) approach was effective when enforcing the new police powers.

“These figures should serve as something of a wake-up call,” Steve said, “If only 10 per cent of police officers are clear about the lockdown rules, what must that figure be like for the public?

“The vast majority of people have been working with us to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the public. However, there’s a danger that the mixed messages and constant changing of rules will undermine that work at a crucial time when we need full public support.”

Some changes to lockdown restrictions came into effect in Wales on Saturday including four people from two different households being able to meet outdoors for socially-distanced local exercise.

In England, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is today (Monday) announcing a “roadmap” for easing Covid-19 measures.

Steve said: “We need clarity over any new lockdown measures so that they’re enforced fairly and the public know what’s needed.”

Steve’s comments were echoed by national Federation chair John Apter, who said: “We’ve been saying from the beginning, clear guidance on what people can and can’t do is needed; otherwise people will inadvertently fall foul of the law or may take advantage of the mixed messages. And it’s my colleagues who are on the frontline of these changes, continually playing catch-up to get their heads around the latest information.”

The new report also contains a number of personal testimonies from frontline officers, including those who have contracted Covid-19 while on duty, and those who’ve faced the virus being weaponised against them.

Almost a third of respondents (32 per cent) reported that a member of the public, believed to be carrying Covid-19, had purposely threatened to breathe or cough on them at least once over the past six months; with nearly a quarter reporting actual attempts at doing so.

In addition, 26 per cent of respondents believed they’ve already had Covid-19, and 45 per cent of these felt they had contracted the virus through work-related activities.

John added: “I suggest the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Governments of England and Wales read this report very carefully. Then they can attempt to explain to my colleagues on the frontline why, after the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, they should not be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccination.”