Calls for coronavirus tests for firefighters as 30 of Norfolk’s service self-isolates
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 April 2020
As many as 30 operational firefighters and control room staff from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service are currently self-isolating and unable to work because of coronavirus.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned the UK’s fire services are at risk of being put on a “dangerous knife-edge” as the Covid-19 pandemic forces almost 3,000 workers to self-isolate.
According to the FBU, the number of staff unable to work represents 5.1pc of the sector’s overall personnel of 58,426.
This includes just under 2,600 operational firefighters and control room staff self-isolating, out of a total of 48,295.
In Norfolk, the FBU says 4pc of the service’s operational staff, 30 out of 753 staff are currently self isolating.
The union is calling for the government to roll out testing to allow those who do not have coronavirus to return to work.
Ryan Hastings, FBU Norfolk secretary, said the county was currently well placed for staff, but testing was needed.
He said: “Overall [4pc] is quite a small percentage but that’s still 30 staff not in work due to Covid-19 so obviously at the end of the day it’s going to have an impact.
“Norfolk have put in some great systems of working Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to protect their staff which is obviously very reassuring form a union perspective.
“Nationally the FBU understands we shouldn’t be the first to be tested but we feel it’s important because if this virus becomes worse and we start losing our front-line staff then there’s a situation.”
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Westminster Government is playing with fire by not testing firefighters and control room staff for coronavirus.
“Currently, crews are maintaining services, but this will become increasingly difficult as the virus spreads.
“There are already thousands of firefighters and control staff in self-isolation, only a fraction of which will have the disease.
“If we aren’t able to find out exactly who is infected, and more staff isolate unnecessarily, services will be put on a dangerous knife-edge.”
Fire crews have taken on extra tasks during the Covid-19 pandemic, including transporting PPE and testing masks for frontline health workers to ensure they fit properly before use.
Firefighters have already agreed to drive ambulances, deliver essential items such as food to vulnerable people and retrieve dead bodies, in addition to their core roles.
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