Behera orders police officers above 50 off the field

The death of a police officer in a hospital in Kottayam, Ajithan, 54, from complications caused by COVID-19 early Saturday has prompted State Police Chief Loknath Behera to order police officers above the age of 50 off the field.

Instead, he has deployed them for office duty to lessen their chance of exposure to the coronavirus.

An initial report indicated that the intelligence officer stationed in Idukki had contracted the infection from his wife. However, his death caused concern in the department. It spotlighted the risk of coronavirus infection faced by police officers who often worked in close proximity with one another and the public.

Mr Behera also ordered officers with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and cardiac ailment off the field irrespective of their age. Immuno-compromised officers under treatment for other diseases should not report for duty and could work from home if required.

As of Thursday, as many as 95 police officers had tested positive for COVID-19. The police closed its State headquarters here till August 3 for cleaning after an officer staffing the reception desk developed COVID-19.

The spate of anti-government agitations in July had drastically escalated the risk faced by officers. Law enforcers tasked to police the demonstrations had exposed themselves to the risk of contagion greatly.

Several officers who had grappled with the protesters on the street and herded them into crowded had later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

An official said officers cooped up in crowded and climate-controlled control rooms faced a high risk of infection. Most worked for long hours and handled the same set of telephones and other communication equipment.

A senior official said the breach of physical distancing norms on a large scale as witnessed during political protests, funerals, weddings, prayer meetings, and supermarkets was perilous to police functioning in the long run.

If the public did not observe the COVID-19 protocol, the coronavirus would incrementally whittle down the number of officers available for law and order duty in Kerala, he said.

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