A North Wales police officer who was deliberately coughed on and threatened with COVID-19 has told how the experience left him anxious for the health of his family.
Experienced PC Rob Jones (pictured below), whose assailant was jailed after deliberately weaponsing the virus, called the incident ‘petrifying’ and revealed his colleagues are fearful of daily spitting and coughing attacks which might infect them with the virus.
The officer, who has 16 years’ service with the force and is based in Colwyn Bay as part of a response team, spoke out after a man was sentenced to 26 weeks at Mold Crown Court and convicted of assaulting him.
North Wales Police Federation Rep Rob said the shocking experience was one every colleague feared in the current climate. He added: “We did everything by the textbook, but it still did not prevent this individual from coughing deliberately in my face.
“He was being detained in the back of a vehicle when he repeatedly started shouting: ‘I’m going to spit in your face.’ We intended to use a spit guard to protect us, but when we opened the door to take him into custody, he went straight for me.
“It all happened so quickly, and he deliberately coughed within a few inches of my face. I could even feel the warm air from his mouth, and it was horrifying.”
Following the attack, the officer’s first thoughts turned immediately to his close family. He said: “I have vulnerable individuals around me at home, but I’ll only qualify for COVID-19 testing if I display symptoms. It’s a constant worry, and one which is in the mind of every single police officer in the nation as the number of similar attacks increases.”
North Wales Police Federation General Secretary Mark Jones welcomed the jail sentence but warned the incident was representative of a growing trend.
He said: “We’ve seen more and more of these attacks where people are deliberately weaponising COVID-19 through spitting and coughing on colleagues.
“In Rob’s case, he now has to live with a potentially silent killer and worry about the potential consequences of this despicable attack on himself, fellow officers, and of course his family.
“This kind of cowardly assault is particularly terrifying. On a daily basis, it is becoming more of a threat to every frontline officer as they patrol the streets to help the NHS and fight this virus.
“That is why we must have lengthy jail sentences for this type of awful attack. We need the courts to step up to the mark and support colleagues who are doing their level best to protect the public.”
The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales also urged magistrates and the judiciary to be consistent with sentencing. PFEW National Chair Mr Apter said: “Nothing is worse than being spat at or coughed in the face by an individual who says they want to infect you and your family with the most contagious of viruses.
“What is adding insult to injury is the different approaches in how it is sometimes dealt with by courts. Some are being sent to prison, which is where they absolutely deserve to be, whilst others are let off with nothing more than a slap on wrist. This sends completely the wrong message.”
Ben Lake MP stands up for Ceredigion’s hospitality sector in Parliament
A WESTMINSTER Hall debate, brought about by an online petition signed over 200,000 times, saw MPs on both sides come together to shine a light on the challenges currently faced by restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and supply chain businesses across the UK.
During his contribution to the debate, Ben Lake MP emphasised the importance of the hospitality industry to Ceredigion’s local economy. Ceredigion is home to nearly 400 food and accommodation businesses, including 75 pubs, and together hospitality businesses employ 4,500 people in the county. This equates to over 16% of all employees, without accounting for the many supply chain jobs that are dependent on the sector, such as those found in breweries, food wholesale, and catering equipment hire businesses.
Figures published by UK Hospitality have shown that approximately 41% of hospitality businesses suggested that they would fail by mid-2021 and only one in five sector businesses have enough cash flow to survive beyond February.
Ben Lake MP said: “The vaccination programme of course offers some hope that we will see the level of Covid disruption reduce significantly this year, but hospitality businesses across Ceredigion tell me that they are deeply concerned about their immediate prospects for survival.
“I support calls for the Treasury to provide additional funds so that businesses can be supported to bounce back once restrictions have been eased, and to pause employer national insurance contributions for furloughed employees as a way of alleviating the burden on businesses that are still, in many instances, required by law to close. I also urged the Treasury to consider extending the business rates holiday for the forthcoming financial year, as well as extending the hospitality VAT reduction scheme into 2022.
“Not only would these support measures give businesses the support they require to see out this pandemic, it would also avoid the terrible situation whereby businesses that have previously received Government support are forced to close for good – leaving their employees without a job and previous Government support in vain.”
While there will be no direct action as a consequence of this Westminster Hall debate, it is hoped the result will put increased pressure on the UK Government to consider the proposal more seriously.
Lifeboat Operations Manager in New Year’s Honours list
Richard Llewelyn Griffiths the Lifeboat Operations Manager of Aberystwyth Lifeboat Station has been recognised for services to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Wales.
He has been awarded a BEM.
Having served as a RNLI volunteer for an impressive 47 years, it is his role in the last 21 years as Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) which has earned him the most respect.
His local knowledge has provided reassurance to casualties and crews alike when launching in difficult conditions.
His operational decision-making and station management skills are outstanding, and he is greatly valued by crew, management, volunteers and coastal personnel both past and present.
He has contributed greatly towards Aberystwyth being recognised as a ‘benchmark’ Inshore Lifeboat Station, serving as an example to the whole institution of how a station could and should be run.
Richard said: ‘I’m very surprised but honoured to be receiving a BEM – the news still doesn’t feel real. My father was awarded a BEM in 1988 and I still have his medal at home, so to be awarded one myself for my work with the lifeboats is a great privilege. I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of characters during my time with the RNLI – both at Borth and Aberystwyth – and continue to volunteer alongside a good crew today.’
Nationally, a total of six Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers have been recognised for their vital role in helping the charity save lives at sea through the New Year’s Honours.
Mark Dowie, RNLI Chief Executive said: ‘Following a challenging 2020, it is particularly pleasing to see these RNLI volunteers recognised in the New Year’s Honours list. Together, they personify the RNLI’s ‘One Crew’ ethos, representing the variety and diversity of roles from a former full-time mechanic to shore crew and fundraisers to station managers, who collectively deliver a shared vision to save every one. On behalf of everyone at the RNLI, congratulations to you all for being recognised for your longstanding service, hard work and selfless commitment. And thank you for everything you do to help the RNLI save lives at sea.’
Temporary closure of Minor Injuries Unit in Cardigan confirmed
AS PART of its response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hywel Dda University Health Board says it has temporarily closed the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) in Cardigan in order to redeploy clinical staff to support the COVID 19 response within Ceredigion.
The MIU, which is based in Cardigan Integrated Care Centre and normally operates from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, will temporarily close with immediate effect. The situation will be under constant review and normal service will be resumed when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
In the meantime, minor injuries help and advice is available as follows:
– visit the 111 symptom checker (https://111.wales.nhs.uk/)
– visit your local pharmacy
– call 111
– please do NOT self-present to the GP reception in Cardigan Integrated Care Centre as they do not deal with minor injuries.
– for emergency care the A+E departments are as follows:
· Glangwili Hospital A+E Carmarthen SA32 2AF
· Bronglais Hospital A+E Aberystwyth SY23 1ER
· Withybush Hospital A+E Haverfordwest SA61 2PZ