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DUP Lagan Valley MLA and Chair of Stormont’s Justice Committee Paul Givan has welcomed support by the Home Secretary Priti Patel for the campaign to prioritise access to the Covid vaccine across the United Kingdom for the police and other frontline workers.

Commenting, Mr Givan said:

‘‘Early roll-out of the vaccine in Northern Ireland has rightly focused on the most vulnerable and our dedicated health and care staff. This will enable to us to protect those at highest risk and deliver the greatest level of protection in the shortest period of time. However, the Home Secretary is right to acknowledge that for many frontline workers not working in the NHS, there is also an increased risk of exposure from Covid-19.

Our police officers and prison staff in particular are more likely to come into close contact with members of the public, including those engaging in reckless behaviour. In recent weeks these workforces have also come under pressure from the rising numbers of officers off work because of the virus. Legitimate concerns have also been raised by teachers and school staff.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to looking at how we can prioritise these workers within the vaccination programme. There is obviously a need for a clear and consistent approach across the United Kingdom and any steps taken should be underpinned by strong scientific and medical evidence.

Now that the Home Secretary has confirmed her support for this call, I would encourage the Health Minister to engage proactively with his counterparts to the UK in order to ensure that public services are protected and vital frontline staff in Northern Ireland are able to benefit from this protection in a timely fashion.’’