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PSNI moves to 12-hour shifts as other forces monitor sickness rates

Forces with devolved governments are preparing to bolster frontline officers for fresh COVID-19 regulations.

Uniformed officers in Northern Ireland have been ordered to move to 12-hour shifts to cover the new demands and potential staff shortages.

Nightclubs have been ordered to close by the Northern Ireland Assembly from 27 December and other restrictions are set to follow.

But the leader of frontline officers responded that ministers’ expectations were unrealistic and impracticable in expecting unilateral enforcement because there aren’t enough people to do it.

And there was anger that a fresh demand was being made at a time when backdated pay hadn’t been settled and the force’s leadership has warned of job cuts to balance budgets.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said: “Colleagues step up to help society cope, at great personal cost to their own family life at Christmas. The reward from the NI Executive is to extensively cut the budget for next three years.”

PFNI Chair, Mark Lindsay, had already warned: “We simply don’t have the numbers to be everywhere. Re-directing officers from other duties isn’t realistic and anyone who thinks the police can shoulder the burden as sole enforcement organisation is either delusional or not serious about protecting society.”

In Wales, officers will have to step in at venues that encourage major gatherings.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced it will be an offence for more than 30 people to meet indoors or for 50 people to gather outdoors or at parties.

And at venues, people aren’t being allowed to meet in groups of more than six people.

The regulations will start from Boxing Day.

Steve Treharne, South Wales Police Federation Chair, said: "Policing the pandemic has been demanding, and continues to be so, particularly with new restrictions coming into play immediately after Christmas.

"It has proved to be thankless work, with officers criticised for being both too tough and not tough enough."

Scotland has cancelled all large events – limiting numbers to 500 for three weeks from 26 December.

At the moment, senior officers in England say they are confident that resilience is not an issue as current COVID-19 cases among staff are low.

But they are predicting the number of officers isolating will rise within weeks.

At the last COVID-19 peak, the number of sick officers was low and forces have contingency plans in place – including PPE supplies.

An official told Police Oracle: “The figure is still low. It is being monitored very closely.”

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