SPF refuses to endorse use of surgical masks as PPE

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has refused to endorse surgical face masks issued to Police Scotland officers claiming they fail to provide “any meaningful protection”.

Apr 17, 2020
By Tony Thompson

The force announced yesterday (April 16) that officers and staff would be provided with masks to wear when they respond to incidents or deal with the public when it is not possible to adhere to social distancing measures.

Two types of mask are being made available as personal protective equipment (PPE). FFP3 masks, which offer an enhanced level of protection through a face-fitted respirator, and type two surgical masks.

Police Scotland said it had secured stocks of the type two fluid resistant surgical masks and was distributing them to officers in response to advice from Health Protection Scotland, Public Health England and the UK Government.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect the public and limit the spread of the virus, and to protect our own people as they carry out their duties.

“We recognise that every day our officers and staff are putting themselves in harm’s way and we want them to have the right protection to do their job. In line with scientific advice, these surgical masks will be available for use as a precaution for officers and staff dealing with incidents where social distancing measures are not possible.”

However, an expert panel set up last week by the SPF has refused to endorse the use of surgical masks as PPE.

SPF chair David Hamilton said: “The demand for PPE among our members is understandably high and while we note the service is now able to issue type two surgical masks, these will not provide any meaningful protection to officers.

“Our panel is unanimous in its views that the primary aim of the surgical mask is to prevent the wearer from infecting anyone else; and that they offer little effective barrier to the wearer from contracting the virus. In short, the scientific case that these masks can be used as PPE against Covid-19 has yet to be made.”

The SPF expert panel comprises “some of the finest medical and scientific minds”, including bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington and former chief medical officer Sir Harry Burn, to provide specialist advice on risks and safeguards for police staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

SPF General Secretary Calum Steele said: “We cannot continue with a mindset that says if a police officer doesn’t have symptoms then he or she doesn’t have the virus. This is wrong.

“An increasing amount of time is being spent with those in vulnerable categories. Police officers face a risk on a daily basis and we need to rethink about how we police. Every police officer is committed to upholding the law and helping the vulnerable but we cannot do that if our own officers are allowed to succumb to the deadly virus.”

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