North Wales Police are feeling “burned out” and “terrified” of taking coronavirus home to their loved ones, a top union representative said.
The “incredibly thin blue line” is still dealing with Covidiots breaching rules, travelling to North Wales beauty spots, gathering in people’s homes, as well as committing the usual crimes.
Amid this, more police officers are getting infected, having to self-isolate, while attending other incidents including crashes and domestic incidents.
And as coronavirus cases rise, they are treading a fine line between enforcing the lockdown rules or educating transgressors, said North Wales Police Federation secretary Mark Jones.
“When we go out to these incidents, sometimes we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t,” Mr Jones said.
“We can get accused of being heavy handed if we issue a fine, but if we don’t act, then we can get criticism for not taking action to deal with it.”
In recent weeks officers have had to deal with hundreds of cars turning up at beauty spots including Snowdonia and Moel Famau which straddles Flintshire and Denbighshire, ignoring the coronavirus travel ban for exercise in Wales.
“We are constantly walking a tight rope all the time, between engaging with people to educate them to having to penalise them,” said Mr Jones.
“People who do not adhere the rules are putting themselves. members of the public and police at risk.
“These are laws and powers that the police did not ask for and we want to hand them back when it is over.
“But in the meantime, we are there to make people and the public safe. We get no pleasure at all from doing this, but the safety of the public is paramount.”
The feel is very different to the first lockdown in March, with more people moving around and larger volumes of traffic on roads, he said.
And cases of coronavirus continue to “sky rocket” in parts, as a more infectious strain sweeps across North Wales, straining the NHS and emergency services.
“The majority are obeying the rules, but there is still the minority, who won’t follow them and there are those that look for reasons not to follow them,” said Mr Jones.
“We live in a great part of the world, and I understand people want to see the splendour of North Wales, but the parks and the countryside will still be there when this pandemic is over.”
Amid this officers on the front line confront the fact they may come into coronavirus every day and fear the consequences, if that happens.
Mr Jones said: “Officers are are terrified they will get it and take the virus home to their family and loved ones.
“When they are called out to incidents, the safety of officers is at risk and we are seeing more infections and people having to self-isolate.
“They are still having to deal with all the other policing jobs such as road crashes, other incidents and crime and it does take its toll.”
Mr Jones was full of praise for the NHS and the efforts of staff to save people’s lives.
The police’s job was to minimise the numbers breaking the rules, help stop the spread and reduce the numbers needing hospital treatment.
And there have been calls for police operating on the front line to be a vaccine priority.
“The real heroes of this pandemic are the NHS and our job is to protect them by keeping people following the rules, to stop them and others getting sick and adding further pressure to the NHS,” said Mr Jones.
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“At the moment the thin line blue is stretched incredibly thin.
“I think the scars of the pandemic will be felt for months after, officers are saying they are burned out and fed up.
“But there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine now being ruled out and if people can stick to the rules in the coming months and help stop the spread of the virus, we can get through this.”
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