Coronavirus: Police officers being trained to drive ambulances

Police officers in Dorset are being trained to drive ambulances to help their 999 colleagues as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The officers are expected to be needed to drive ambulances in the coming weeks to ease pressure on South Western Ambulance Service (SWAST).

Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan said he had been asked to help as the service was “under such strain”.

Policing duties would be unaffected by the move, the force said.

Elsewhere, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said 20 of its firefighters are helping drive ambulances for South Central Ambulance Service.

‘Medical emergency’

Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, Mr Vaughan said the support forms part of a “mutual aid arrangement” with demand on the ambulance service expected to double.

He said: “We are all hands to the pump – this is a medical emergency. Driving training is under way and we stand ready to deploy officers.

“We still have enough capacity to deal with routine crime – we won’t take our foot off the ball with that.”

The police chief also warned the force would be stepping up enforcement against people who break coronavirus regulations by “pushing the boundaries”.

He said the vast majority of people want to comply with the rules, but “we will move much more quickly for people we find travelling into the county from other regions and people that run house parties and take to the streets with their protests”.

“Of course I respect people’s right to protest in normal circumstances but I can ill afford having to deploy police officers to be given the run around by protestors – take your protest online.”

His comments come following an anti-lockdown protest and a video being shared online apparently showing a woman being arrested in breach of lockdown for sitting on a bench which the force said was “stage-managed”.

About 1,000 fines, which start at £200 in England, had been issued for a breach of Covid-19 rules in Dorset. Large parties can be shut down by the police, with fines of up to £10,000.

Latest figures show Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole has reached 888.4 and Dorset has reached 354 cases per 100,000 people.

England is currently under a national lockdown, meaning people must stay at home and can go out only for limited reasons such as food shopping, exercise, or work if they cannot do so from home.

Source: (BBC News)