Coronavirus: French police threaten strike action over lack of protective clothing.

France’s biggest police trade union has given the government an ultimatum, telling it to provide officers with the face masks and gloves they need to ensure their own safety whilst enforcing a nationwide coronavirus lockdown - or risk its members walking off the job, Reuters reports.

Countries around the world are struggling to deal with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918-20 Spanish Flu pandemic, with medical supplies and protective gear in short supply.

The Alliance union said it was giving the government until Friday to provide enough face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer gel for its officers to use at their discretion, and not only under the orders of superiors.

“There is no reason why we should be victims of a government failure to plan,” Frederic Lagache, a senior Alliance union official told Reuters. “We want to carry out our duties to their fullest, but need to be able to guarantee our own safety.”

A second union, the CFDT, urged its officers to refuse tasks that put them in close contact with the public due to the lack of protective gear.

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France has some of the most far-reaching worker protections of any developed country, including the right to stop working if confronted by an imminent and grave threat.

As the number of dead from the coronavirus in France hit 264 and confirmed cases spiralled above 9,000, some 100,000 police across the country are tasked with enforcing a virtual lockdown.

The stringent restrictions on public life permit people to leave their homes only to buy groceries, travel to work, exercise or seek medical help.

At the time of writing, 207,855 cases of coronavirus have been reported globally, with 8,648 deaths.

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