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.”
Adjustment to Safe Zones
In August, temporary traffic orders were introduced so that Safe Zones for four Ceredigion towns could remain for up to 18 months subject to regular reviews so minor adjustments can be made.
In line with the evidence collected on the use of the towns, Ceredigion County Council feel the need to keep the safe zones in place for the time being. Aberaeron and New Quay will continue as they are.
In Cardigan the closures will change to 11am until 4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The safe zones will not be in place on a Sunday in Cardigan. These adjustments will come in to force on Sunday morning, 04 October.
In Aberystwyth, additional parking has been implemented for the disabled and blue badge holders in Chalybeate Street close to the Care Society Mobility Centre.
Further enhancements to provide better access for the disabled and blue badge holders will also continue to be explored.
Safe zones were introduced in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay on 13 July to create safe and spacious areas for the public to visit and provide the confidence that social distancing can be maintained in these areas.
Safe zones will be in place until at least 01 November 2020 and reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence.
More information can be seen on the safe zones web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones
Our responsibility to follow the new Wales coronavirus measures in order to Keep Ceredigion Safe
The Welsh Government is bringing in new coronavirus measures to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.
To help further prevent the spread of coronavirus, new measures were announced by the First Minister which will come into force at 6pm on Thursday, September 24, 2020:
· Hospitality businesses in Wales will have to close at 10pm and provide table service only.
· All off-licences, including supermarkets, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.
We are also being asked to think carefully about making journeys: only travel where it is essential to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.
The Welsh Government have also introduced the following measures:
· A new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus;
· Strengthened regulations to ensure employers support people who need to self-isolate.
The new measures are part of a package of co-ordinated actions to control the spread of coronavirus and it is essential that we all play our part in order to keep Ceredigion safe.
These new measures are to be introduced alongside those that are already in place:
· Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about.
· Wash your hands regularly.
· Wear a mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport
· Only meet 6 people indoors from your extended household (not including children 11 and under).
· Do not meet with more than 30 people outdoors.
· Work from home, wherever possible.
· Think carefully about making journeys: only travel where you need to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.
We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps to protect them and their loved ones.
Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.
All the latest information and advice regarding the coronavirus can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus. The Council’s Corporate Contact Centre number is 01545 570881.
NHS COVID-19 app launches across Wales
People are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help stop the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.
The app launches today [Thursday 24] after positive trials and will be a useful tool when used alongside Wales’ successful manual contact tracing system.
It will be available to those aged 16 and over, and forms a central part of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
The roll-out of the app in Wales coincides with a national campaign around how people in Wales can best support the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme, including only getting a test if they are showing symptoms; self-isolating when required; and working with local contact tracers if they are contacted.
Wales’ contact tracing system – which is a publicly-run service and locally delivered – is working well and has seen a very high contract and trace rate. Latest stats show 94% of cases are being successfully contacted.
The app works by logging the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.
The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a test if needed and get your test results.
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“The launch of the NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, supporting the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme. The more people who download and use this app, the more it will help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We have worked closely with the app development team to ensure it works seamlessly across Wales and England, providing people with the right advice based on where they live. In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level.
“I strongly encourage everyone in Wales to download and use the app to keep Wales safe.”
The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth. These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.
The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed.
Today the UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.
In a joint statement Apple and Google said:
“We built the exposure notifications system to enable public health authorities in their efforts to develop apps to help reduce the spread of the virus while ensuring people can trust in the privacy-preserving design. We are committed to supporting the government’s effort to launch an app based on this technology.”
Whilst the app will be a major support for the contact tracing system, Welsh residents are being reminded to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:
• Always keeping a distance
• Washing hands regularly
• Working from home wherever possible
• Following local restrictions
• Following the rules about meeting people
• Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.
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