Dozens of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service workers are currently in self-isolation – after displaying coronavirus symptoms.
Latest figures show 10 firefighters and control centre staff are currently in isolation out of a total of 690 crew and call-handlers. A further 34 employees are also in self-isolation.
And in neighbouring Cheshire there are 41 workers in self-isolation out of a total of 847.
Now the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) is calling for fire and rescue personnel to be tested for coronavirus to see whether they should be in work or kept away from their colleagues.
Similar tests have already started in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Nationally, nearly 3,000 fire and rescue staff are currently in self-isolation – with just under 2,600 of them operational firefighters and control room staff.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “The Westminster Government is playing with fire by not testing firefighters and control room staff for coronavirus. Currently, crews are maintaining services, but this will become increasingly difficult as the virus spreads.
“There are already thousands of firefighters and control staff in self-isolation, and only a fraction of them will have the disease. If we aren’t able to find out exactly who is infected, and more staff isolate unnecessarily, services will be put on a dangerous knife-edge.
“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.
“The Government failed to secure test kits in sufficient numbers early in the pandemic and now front-line services are paying the price.
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“Devolved governments have begun to take steps in the right direction, but in Westminster time is standing still. Ministers need to get to grips with this crisis and ensure that all emergency service personnel are tested as soon as possible.”
The testing of emergency services workers has been a thorny issue for the Government during the coronavirus pandemic.
Testing finally started at the Royal Stoke University Hospital late last month. But it was limited to accident unit and critical care staff and only 15 were being carried out each day.
Union leaders at Staffordshire Police Federation have also called for the force’s officers to undergo tests.
A Government spokesman said: “Firefighters and our front-line emergency services are doing incredible work responding to the coronavirus outbreak, and are leading community efforts to support the most vulnerable.
“We are prioritising the testing of the most acutely ill and vulnerable patients in hospitals and those on the front-line to help them get back to work as soon as possible to support our NHS.
“We are working very closely with fire chiefs to ensure they have the resources and support they need to carry out their vital roles and to keep people safe.”
Staffordshire’s police, fire and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis said: “So far Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has not been very significantly affected by the virus.
“The firefighters and staff are very chipper and really keen to support communities, so are volunteering to help where they can outside their core roles.”
StokeonTrentLive has contacted Staffordshire Police regarding the FBU’s concerns.