NEARLY 200 members of staff were absent from work over the Christmas period as Hampshire Constabulary dealt with staff shortages in the face of Covid-19.

The force recorded its highest number of Covid absences since the start of the pandemic from December 2021 to January 2022.

A freedom of information request by the Echo has revealed a total of 195 staff were absent from work during this time.


The data, which is specific to Southampton, shows that over a nine week period, 109 officers and staff posted to five locations in the city were absent due to Covid sickness, while an additional 86 were self-isolating and working from home.

This includes police officers, PCSOs and police staff posted to Southampton Central, Southampton City Council, Southampton East Neighbourhood Police Office, Portswood and Shirley Neighbourhood Police Office.

However, the force's chief inspector says the Covid absences are "not impacting our ability to deliver for the public at this stage."

Chief Inspector Sharon Woolrich said: "Our current absence rate is below the national average and we have consistently maintained one of the lowest rates amongst all forces across the country.

"The number of officers and staff absent due to Covid-19 and self-isolating is being carefully watched as it has grown but is not impacting our ability to deliver for the public at this stage.

"[The data] indicates that on a week-by-week basis there were small numbers of staff absent at each location, making that absence more manageable at each site.

"This was particularly important during the initial spread of the Omicron variant as these figures represent the highest absence rate that we have faced since the start of the pandemic.

"In addition to officers and staff posted to these locations within the city, we routinely utilise resources from specialist teams across the force in the district."

Data obtained from the freedom of information request also revealed that as of February 1, 49 members of staff remain absent from work due to coronavirus.

Of those 49, 14 officers and 12 staff members are absent for Covid sickness, while the remaining 23 are self-isolating and working from home.

Chief Inspector Woolrich said: "As we entered the new year, there have been some important things we have been doing to maintain our low absence rate across the force.

"This includes continuing to emphasise to our officers and staff the importance of national police guidance, including using face masks, social distancing, working behind screens at our sites and undertaking regular testing.

"We are also continuing to do a lot of other work to limit the spread of infection and protect staff across all of departments including our control room, and making the most of equipping staff to be able to work remotely.

"Like any other big organisation with a requirement for people to work together in buildings, the impact of self-isolation is a concern.

"To help us, we are asking the public who do not need an emergency response to please use our online reporting tool to ensure that if this happens emergency lines are free for people who need immediate help."