Mansfield and Ashfield firefighters help with targeted testing in Nottingham amid Covid 'variant of concern' worries
Firefighters from Mansfield and Ashfield are helping to carry out target testing in Nottingham where an Indian Covid ‘variant of concern’ has been identified – prompting fears fire cover in the area could be ‘stretched’.
They have volunteered to join forces with public health and council officials to help with the targeted testing where the highly transmissible VOC-21APR-02 has been found in shared private accommodation in the city.
But a Fire Brigades Union chief says some members ‘have concerns’ about the service’s ability to ‘respond should something big happen’ by taking part in the programme.
However, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service’s area manager Damien West insisted ‘established processes’ are in place and resources available for emergencies.
"Personnel, including operational crews are now assisting with the targeted testing around Nottingham city centre,” he said.
"Throughout the Covid pandemic we adapted our priorities and workloads to ensure that we are there when our communities need us. We are proud to work with partners to assist our communities in the fight against Covid.
"We have helped with the vaccination programme and establishing community testing facilities, administering over 46,000 vaccinations and undertaking over 1,000 tests.
"Our operational crews have been deployed to help with targeted testing of priority groups to ensure that resources are available to deal with rapidly changing situations. We have well established processes to ensure that our emergency response is maintained and resources are available for emergencies when needed as when we deal with large or widespread incidents.”
Mark Stilwell, of the East Midlands Fire Brigade’s Union, said around ‘15 to 20 firefighters’ were involved in handing tests out but revealed members ‘have felt under pressure to get involved although it is a voluntary act’.
“When they are called away from their duties it does mean they are restricted in their ability to respond should something big happen,” he said. “It’s something firefighters have concerns about but we knew this was coming.
"Firefighters have felt under pressure to get involved although it is a voluntary act, there is an expectation they will do it.
"The union supports members if they want to opt out. We’ve made it clear it’s a voluntary act. It has put some people in a moral dilemma.”