Fire Brigades' Union calls for more testing amid 3,000 firefighters are off work with coronavirus

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has called on the government for more coronavirus testing to be done as approximately 3,000 staff across the UK are in self-isolation, representing 5.1% of the UK’s overall fire and rescue workforce.

England is reportedly the only country of the UK that has not committed to testing its members for the virus. Of the 3,000 fire and rescue staff in isolation, 2,600 are firefighters or work in control rooms.

The Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is one of the smallest brigades in the country and the FBU says the fire brigade in Bedfordshire has lost 12% of its frontline staff to self-isolation and is calling for more testing of the emergency services.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Of course testing of NHS staff has to be a priority, but firefighters and other emergency service personnel are also at serious risk.

"The very safety of the public relies on them being able to attend work. There needs to be a clear and deliverable testing strategy for all workers required to continue at work."

A survey conducted by the FBU suggests that across the Anglia region, the seven fire brigades that serve the area have a total of 341 staff in isolation representing 6% of the total.

In a statement, the FBU said: "Without urgent testing of frontline personnel, there will inevitably be an impact on brigades’ ability to provide fire cover and respond to other emergencies, including their work supporting the coronavirus response.”

Fire crews have offered to drive ambulances, deliver essential items to vulnerable people and retrieve dead bodies on top of their normal duties and with 11,500 fewer firefighters than in 2010, this could prove to be a challenge.

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