The face of Queensland’s police service is changing with officers being directed to shave their beards to protect them from coronavirus.
- QPS says the temporary directive is to “ensure an effective seal if they have to wear face masks while on the beat”
- Provisions had been made for police to apply to retain their beards for cultural, religious or medical reasons
- Queensland Ambulance Service directs staff to be clean shaven where personal protective masks come into contact with skin
A Queensland Police Service (QPS) spokesperson said in an email sent to all service members last week that officers must be clean shaven to ensure an effective seal if they have to wear face masks while on the beat.
“This is a temporary update in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said.
One of far north Queensland’s most senior police officers, Chief Superintendent Brian Huxley, said prior to the directive he had worn a beard since the 1980s.
“It becomes a part of your identity and I think that’s the case for a lot of people,” he said.
“But we’re in the most extraordinary of times, there are so many things which are changing, the whole way the community operates has changed.
“Losing the beard is probably the least of the worries at the moment, certainly for me anyway.”
Chief Superintendent Huxley said provisions had been made for service members to apply to retain their beards for cultural, religious or medical reasons.
“For those people we need to carefully consider how they’re deployed and that we manage the risks that are associated with that.”
Paramedics farewell facial hair
In another statement, a spokesperson for the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said paramedics have also been told to remove all facial hair.
“The QAS issued a direction, based on best practice clinical and workplace health and safety advice, that called for all staff with beards, moustaches, sideburns and/or stubble, to ensure they were clean shaven where personal protective masks come into contact with the skin so that the mask could be effectively sealed to the face to prevent infection of COVID-19.”
Queensland’s Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, Craig Crawford, who served as a paramedic prior to entering politics, said some people had strong connections with their facial hair.
“For some of those people it’s religious grounds, and some might get divorced if they shave it off,” Mr Crawford said.
“But hopefully this is only something that’s going to last for a number of months until we get through COVID-19.”
Mr Crawford admitted he, like many people now working remotely, had gone in the opposite direction and let his facial hair grow out slightly.
“It’s amazing what working from home sometimes can do,” he said.
“You notice after a few days that you start to look a bit like a woolly mammoth.”
Is it safe to wear a beard?
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki said he is advising everyone to follow the lead of emergency services.
“If I had a beard I would definitely shave it off. It’s providing extra surface area for the virus to land on you,” Dr Karl said.
“It could be that it’s the ideal incubator and makes things 100 times worse. But at this time I’m afraid we don’t know.”
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
Dr Karl said while the virus is quite small, the effective dose is quite high, and an unsuspecting beard or moustache could act as a convenient location for COVID-19 to hang out.
“In terms of this virus it’s around 500,000 virus particles you need. But if you’ve got hair on your face, they are just hanging in there,” he said.
“If you inadvertently go chewing on your beard, like I used to, then you could be bringing them inside you.”
With more members of the community choosing to wear masks, Dr Karl said the hipster beard may soon go out of fashion.
“The trouble with the beard is if you are wearing a face mask you do not get a good seal so contaminated air can come around the sides,” he said.
Sir, is that you?
Chief Superintendent Huxley said when the directive was issued he was happy to lead from the front, despite being both unrecognisable to his colleagues and becoming the butt of more than a few jokes.
“People in my office haven’t missed the opportunity to point out a few things,” he said.
“There’s a lot of fun and frivolity that goes into [my colleagues] seeing me without a beard, but there is a far more serious side to it, and that’s the reason the organisation has taken the stance that it has.
“But I like to think I’m now the youngest looking 58-year-old police officer in the organisation.”
Chief Superintendent Huxley said the fuzz would definitely make a return to his face once the coronavirus pandemic was over.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
- The hope is that the “animal spirits” will surge as the lockdown is lifted and liberated citizens eat, drink and be merry — causing the economy to “snap back”
- Control measures must be lifted slowly and with control. It must not happen all at once