More than 350 police personnel are currently absent or self-isolating due to Covid-19, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister has said.
Naomi Long said 51 officers were off having tested positive for the virus while 308 officers and police staff were self isolating. She said one staff member was off on compassionate leave due to the virus.
The Minister was asked about the impact of the pandemic on police resources during Assembly question time.
DUP MLA Maurice Bradley said it was vital police were not diverted away from tackling “drugs and criminality” to enforce coronavirus regulations.
Ms Long stressed that it was an operational matter for chief constable Simon Byrne to determine how resources were deployed.
But she added: “There has been a challenging time in terms of both policing the response to Covid-19 and very much reflecting I think the demands of this chamber that they would be part of that response where people are breaking the rules around this.
“That does take up time from a limited resource.
“But it is, of course, always important that they continue to deliver against their vision of being a police force that as responsible, visible, accessible and victim-focused.
“And so I think that we have to accept that the police have been pulled in a number of directions, as have we all during the Covid 19 pandemic.
“But I have no doubt that they remain committed to serving all communities rural and urban and on all issues, including regular crime.”
The Minister said the pandemic had also had an impact on the working of her own department.
“With respect to the department, it is always difficult when staff are absent,” she said.
“Our department is a small department but it is very much outward facing. So most of the people within the department work in contact facing roles with the public.
“Their engagement has also been curtailed as a result of Covid-19, because they would normally be out on site working with people, out engaging with communities and doing much of that work, so it has been much more challenging.”