MORE than a third of Dorset Police control room staff are currently unable to work due to having Covid or needing to isolate.

The strain on the force comes as 999 calls surge by around 20 per cent week-on-week.

There has also been an 11 per cent increase in 101 calls, which is the police the non-emergency service.

A Dorset Police spokeswoman said 35 per cent of control room staff are currently off because they Covid, coronavirus symptoms or are having to self-isolate following a request by the NHS Test and Trace app.

"Significant work has been undertaken to mitigate the impact this is having on our service and many of those who are isolating are able to work from home and respond to non-urgent calls to service that are made via our digital channels," said the spokeswoman.

"We are asking the public to help us further by using our online non-emergency channels where possible rather than calling 101. Anyone calling 101 may have to wait some time before speaking to a call handler as our 999 service must remain our priority.

"Please remember, only dial 999 in an emergency – when life is threatened, people are injured, offenders are nearby, or immediate action is required.

"We would like to thank the public for their understanding and patience at this challenging time."