AS the coronavirus epidemic develops, North Wales Police are urging members of the public to use their services wisely and help keep the 999 line free for emergencies only.

The force has reported a significant increase in the amount of calls they have received over the last week, in particular calls regarding matters unrelated to the police and non-urgent matters being reported through the emergency phone lines.

Superintendent Neil Thomas, who is in charge of the force’s control room in St Asaph said: “This week has been another challenging one for North Wales Police with a surge of public calls into the control room from people trying to seek clarification on various issues related to the coronavirus.

“Whilst I appreciate that people are calling us in good faith, these calls are dealt with by emergency call handlers who are already working on high demand and reduced staffing levels.

Supt Thomas added that the force have well-rehearsed plans in place to ensure that officers can continue to provide a vital public service but said unnecessary queries are preventing control room handlers from dealing with genuine calls and therefore putting people’s lives at risk.

He added: “The volume of calls has grown significantly and there has been a large increase in the amount of people contacting us via live webchat and emails.

“I want to encourage people to continue using the live webchat and email functions for non-urgent police matters. Thank you to everyone who has been doing this already in an effort to reduce the demand on our emergency call handlers, who are already working extremely hard to continue to support our response to incidents.”

The control room leader stressed that people should only call the police when necessary and not to revert to dialling 999 if someone in the control room is unable to answer your 101 calls or webchat.

He added that the force has witnessed an increase in the number of reports being made relating to potential breaches of Government guidelines on social distancing and isolation.

Supt Thomas said: “Our initial approach will be to engage with people who are found not abiding to the guidelines before explaining why these rules are important and encouraging them to follow them.

“If they are not compliant, then as a last resort we will enforce the emergency legislation brought in this week where necessary.”

The superintendent added that the force is urging members of the public that if they are seeking advice around COVID-19, and what it means for them, should refer themselves to the UK Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales websites for information and guidance.

He stated: “This will enable our call takers and officers to focus purely on policing matters and ensure resources are being utilised effectively.”