Antrim PSNI is 'decimated'

A MEMBER of the Policing Board is seeking ‘urgent clarification’ from the Chief Constable that Antrim will not be left undefended after the number of officers was decimated by COVID-19.

Given the hands-on nature of their work, it was perhaps inevitable that the virus would eventually spread to front line officers - but the scale of the outbreak was certainly shocking.

On Saturday the gates of Antrim police station were closed and locked. It is anyone’s guess when they will open again.

As a precaution, Newtownabbey station was closed too. Policing right across the Borough was effectively shut down.

And it is not difficult to see why. It emerged that eight officers had tested positive and a further 51 were self-isolating. By Sunday that number had risen to 60 - though it is important to note that by that stage there were no further confirmed cases.

That is a massive blow to manpower, but Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd insisted that plans were in place to provide a safety net for locals.

“Following reports of a number of officers from Antrim Station being unwell, these officers have undergone testing for COVID-19. At this time, eight of these officers have tested positive for the virus,” he said.

“We have undertaken, and we will continue to undertake a range of appropriate measures, in line with public health advice and guidance, to address the issue. This includes the closure of both Antrim and Newtownabbey stations in order to conduct a deep clean.

“Colleagues from across the district are also self-isolating and will undergo testing for COVID-19 tested.

“I want to reassure public that we have plans in place to ensure continuance of service delivery to keep our people and our communities safe.

“We are also working to identify any other risks arising from this outbreak and will address those with our health care partners.”

DUP South Antrim MLA and Policing Board representative Trevor Clarke has said the outbreak at Antrim station is a timely reminder of the risks faced by local police officers and staff in the course of carrying out their duties.

But he has concerns too. Mr Clarke has written to the Chief Constable asking him to urgently clarify the contingency arrangements being put in place to ensure the continued delivery of service to worried locals.

“In these unprecedented times our sincere thanks go out to local police officers and police staff who have been on the frontline of efforts to keep our communities and citizens safe from harm.

“We send our best wishes to those officers from Antrim PSNI station diagnosed with COVID-19 in recent days, as well to the significant number of officers and staff presently self-isolating as a direct consequence of the outbreak.

“These developments should serve as a timely reminder of personal sacrifice by many of our emergency service personnel working to provide vital and uninterrupted services to the public during this pandemic.”

* Continued on page 5.

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