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Police running short of face masks

Supply shortages have meant that some frontline police officers have had to go without face masks, a member of the Bermuda Police Service said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons said on Thursday: “I appreciate that when members of the public see some police officers not wearing a mask, this may cause anxiety.

“We simply didn't have enough masks to issue. Resupply orders have been held up due to global demand.”

He was speaking after pictures were posted online this week that show what appeared to be police officers, and members of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, making roadside vehicle stops.

It was not clear when the photographs were taken.

Several pictures showed what appeared to be personnel conducting the stops without personal protection equipment, including face masks and gloves.

Mr Simons said that 3,000 surgical masks had been purchased on Wednesday and handed out to frontline officers.

He explained that the supply of single-use masks “will not last long”.

Mr Simons added: “The issues associated with the long-term wearing of a mask designed for single use, in a clinical setting, are well established and we simply don't have enough to use them in line with best practice.

“In light of the limited supply, we additionally permit officers to wear cloth face masks and continue to look both locally and overseas for additional supply.”

He said that the BPS would welcome any help from the public to source more masks.

Mr Simons said that social-distancing was “the first and most vital step to protect against the transmission of Covid-19”, and that officers should wear a mask in situations where they are unable to social-distance.

He added that officers were discouraged from handling driver's licenses.

Mr Simons explained: “The driver of [a] car should be instructed to put the licence against the window and look away as the officer examines it.”

He said that officers should also wash their hands often or sanitise when soap and water is not available.

Mr Simons said that officers got regular guidance on “appropriate protection measures”, which are informed by the United States' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Kingdom's National Police Chief's Council, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the World Health Organisation.

Major Duncan Simons, the RBR's Adjutant, said the welfare of soldiers was a top priority and that risk assessments dictated the levels of protection used.

He added: “All soldiers undergo medical screening every day and hand sanitiser is available in all public spaces and accommodation areas in Warwick Camp.

“It is not only our duty to protect the health of our soldiers on humanitarian grounds, but also in the interests of maximum operational ability so we can continue to protect the civilian population.”

He added that soldiers had been ordered to stick to Department of Health rules on social-distancing when on checkpoint duty.

Major Simons said that soldiers were not required to wear gloves or masks at roadside stops, but that they would wear gloves if they needed to touch a driver's licence or other paperwork.

However, he emphasised that some situations called for soldiers to wear a greater level of PPE, such as the clearing of arriving passengers at the airport and transporting them to quarantine on public buses.

Major Simons explained: “In these cases, they will wear face masks, eye protection and coveralls.”

He said that strict social-distancing had also been enforced at Warwick Camp and at the Watford House HQ of the Coast Guard, in Sandys, the temporary homes of the near-200 soldiers at present embodied, to help on land and sea during the coronavirus crisis.

Major Simons added: “We have severely curtailed capacity in barracks and we're using tents for accommodation to ensure social-distancing.

“There are also daily uniform washing rules, thorough disinfection of vehicles between shifts and constant cleaning of all bathrooms and public spaces.”

He said that the regiment was following the guidance provided the Government to keep soldiers and the public safe.

Major Simons added: “PPE is deployed reasonably and proportionately in line with the task at hand.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said on Wednesday that about 4,000 vehicle stops had been made at 25 checkpoints in 24 hours.

He added at the time: “By tomorrow morning, everyone should be in protective masks and gloves.”

Mr Caines did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Photograph from Facebook

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Published April 11, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 11, 2020 at 8:59 am)

Police running short of face masks

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