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Coronavirus: Police chief says: ‘We’re not here to punish you’

PUBLISHED: 13:09 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:44 26 March 2020

Norfolk Police's assistant chief constable for Norfolk Constabulary, Julie Wvendth. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

Norfolk Police's assistant chief constable for Norfolk Constabulary, Julie Wvendth. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

Archant

Police bosses in Norfolk have told how they are “here for the public” in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered that people adhere to a lockdown to tackle COVID-19 with people that ignore the warnings facing £30 fines or possible court action if they refuse to pay.

Police will have powers to disperse gatherings under a ban on meetings of more than two people apart from those who live together.

But Norfolk’s temporary assistant chief constable Julie Wvendth, the force’s silver commander for helping police to tackle the virus, said they wanted to reassure the public they were here to support them, not punish them in response to this unprecedented public health emergency.

She said: “We would rather encourage people to adhere to the government rules and the government advice rather than go down the prosecution route for all the right reasons.

A dummy COVID-19 swab is handled inside a sealed sterile tube during a demonstration by lab technicians who are carrying out diagnostic tests for coronavirus. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA WireA dummy COVID-19 swab is handled inside a sealed sterile tube during a demonstration by lab technicians who are carrying out diagnostic tests for coronavirus. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

“We’re here for the public. We want to reassure them that we will engage with them and continue to support them.

“We do realise this is an unprecedented health emergency to say the least.

“Our key message is we’re looking to continue our services - we’re maintaining the best service to the public and doing everting we can to protect our officers and staff.”

She said the force was preparing for the worst by “making plans around scaling back services because of staff shortages”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation. Photo: PA Video/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire

And while she could not give an exact figure on those within the organisation who had been affected by the virus she would say they had been “haven’t been significantly affected in terms of shortages” at the moment.

However there were members of staff who were self isolating and working from home.

She also told how grateful she was to staff and officers for still coming to duty in these “really challenging times” despite their own concerns about their loved ones.

While in terms of staff welfare she said the force’s health team had done an “excellent job” in securing a large amount of PPE equipment for officers, adding “we’re on an okay position”

Officers were being guided by their health department as to when they should use the equipment but had access to a 24 hour help line if they concerns.

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