Concerns raised over thousands of unvaccinated police officers gathering for G7
Concerns have been raised over thousands of unvaccinated police officers gathering at the G7 summit and potentially spreading the Covid-19 variant first identified in India.
Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter told the Home Secretary on Wednesday that officers felt “betrayed” over the Government decision not to prioritise officers for Covid-19 vaccines.
Speaking at the federation’s annual conference, he said that thousands of potentially unvaccinated officers would gather in Cornwall while on duty at the summit.
Mr Apter told delegates: “Just this week, we have thousands of colleagues from all over the country coming together to police the G7 summit in Cornwall. Police officers from those communities where the Indian variant of the virus is thriving.
“We have young police officers who, by age alone, will not have been vaccinated. How can that be right?”
A video was played from an officer who will be on duty at the event, a constable from Devon and Cornwall Police, Leanne Gould.
She said: “I feel deeply concerned for the amount of people that are travelling down to G7, and the fact that I have not been vaccinated and many others haven’t. Especially with the new Indian variant that is spreading.
“When the vaccination rollout was initially confirmed, I thought that police would be prioritised after the most vulnerable like our NHS colleagues on the front line.
“I do feel completely let down by the Government as we’ve just been left to be exposed to the enormous risk of catching the virus.”
Mr Apter said: “She speaks for all of us about how badly let down we do feel.
“This is a failing of Government, and it’s a failing that we can never forget.”
The Government’s warm words became lame actions and the result is that my colleagues do feel a deep sense of betrayal
He said that federation members felt betrayed over the failure to prioritise officers for the jabs, despite apparent Government reassurances that this would happen.
Mr Apter told delegates: “The Government’s warm words became lame actions and the result is that my colleagues do feel a deep sense of betrayal.”
In an earlier panel discussion held as part of the conference, policing minister Kit Malthouse insisted that officials had tried to make the case for officers to be prioritised.
Asked why the Government did not place more pressure on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to prioritise officers, Mr Malthouse said: “We made the case strongly about police officers.”
He added: “We did repeatedly make the case and make the request but obviously the JCVI made the decision that they did.
“From my point of view, it’s a point of regret that we didn’t manage to make our point strongly enough.
“Having said that, as was said earlier, quite a number of officers managed to get vaccinated with spare vaccines, hopefully now everybody is done or will be done shortly.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the JCVI advised that the quickest way to reduce deaths was to prioritise vaccines by age and clinical vulnerability.
She told delegates: “In addition to maintaining order and fighting crime, police officers have a duty to protect life.
“It means having the courage to make tough decisions about risk day in, day out, and having to account for those decisions.
“The pandemic caused us to have to do the same – not just on the restrictions imposed, but also on the vaccination rollout.
“It meant recognising that to save lives we absolutely had to prioritise the vaccine rollout in line with the overriding risk factors of age and clinical vulnerability. “