Calls have been made for police officers in Dorset to be on the priority list for the Covid-19 vaccine amid rising staff absences.

The Dorset Police Federation said around 12 per cent of Dorset Police's total employees (police officers and staff) are currently off work either because they had a positive test or were self isolating – and there is a danger this figure is likely to escalate quickly.

The number absent equates to about 300 people if the total number employed by Dorset Police is 2,590 (undated force figures).

The case for operational staff to be given the vaccine is vital in order that the force can maintain its service to the public, it says.

It made its comments after a group of people broke lockdown rules and gathered in Bournemouth at the weekend for a protest.

Chief Constable James Vaughan called the protesters 'selfish' and said their 'reckless actions' come as Dorset faces its highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Officers attended the protest to disperse smaller groups. Three people were arrested on suspicion of breach of the Covid-19 regulations for failing to provide details to officers. At least seven fines were issued to individuals for breaching coronavirus regulations and more than ten section dispersal orders were issued.

The Federation, which represents rank and file officers, labelled those who broke lockdown rules to take to the streets as 'utterly irresponsible' for risking both public and police officer safety.

Federation Secretary Ian Roe said he supports the stance taken by the Chief Constable and also appreciates the support of PCC Martyn Underhill in lambasting the protesters.

And he emphasised the Federation’s call for police officers to be on the priority list for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Mr Roe said: “Our members are being put at risk of coming into contact with this virus every day they are on duty and despite PPE being available the risk of contracting Covid-19 is real.

“Protests such as these are utterly irresponsible and yet our officers have to provide a presence and where necessary enforce the coronavirus legislation and issue dispersal orders to protect the wider public.

“This reiterates why police officers need to be prioritised for vaccination."

He added: “Police officers have to deal with a wide variety of incidents where they will be exposed to, and in physical contact with, people carrying the virus so should be protected. Vaccination is a necessary addition to the PPE currently in use. The number of our members absent due to Covid and self-isolation is rising, which is a real concern.”