FIREFIGHTERS will help to deliver food and medicines, drive ambulances, and retrieve dead bodies during the coronavirus outbreak.

In an agreement the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), fire chiefs, and fire and rescue employers, have agreed a joint national approach to tackle the virus.

The organisations say the measures reflect the scale of the crisis and the urgency of the response required.

Firefighters will be able to deliver essential items such as food to vulnerable people drive ambulances and assist ambulance staff collect bodies in the event of mass casualties.

Firefighters will continue responding to emergencies but under the agreement they will now be able to provide additional services specifically related to COVID19.

The extra work will initially be in place for two months but can be extended or shortened depending on demand.

The organisations will meet weekly to discuss where they can help in terms of requests from local resilience forums, and firefighters and other personnel will be given any necessary additional training and the appropriate personal protective equipment.

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FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, said: “We face a public health crisis unparalleled in our lifetimes.

"The coronavirus outbreak is now a humanitarian emergency and firefighters rightly want help their communities.

"To get through this, we must find ways to work together with other emergency services.

"Firefighters are fantastic at teamwork, are experienced in driving emergency vehicles and, as a service rooted in the community, may be best placed to deliver essential items to the most vulnerable.

"Many fear the loss of life in this outbreak could be overwhelming– and firefighters, who often handle terrible situations and incidents, are ready to step in to assist with body retrieval.

"Firefighters and control staff have always stepped in when the public has been in danger and this crisis is no different.

"The strain on all emergency services will be great, but we can and will get through it together.”