FIRST responders in Somerset have all been stood down for their own protection following a number of bogus 999 Coronavirus calls.

There have been instances of people making emergency calls with fake serious complaints in order to get a COVID-19 test.

The consequence is that the first responder or paramedic attending is then taken off duty for a fortnight in case they have been unprotected when in contact with an infected patient.

One first responder told the County Gazette: "Perhaps it's idiots like this that have caused the suspension of all first responders like me who have £4,500 worth of kit on the hall floor and are forbidden to help anyone in need.

"I'm absolutely angry beyond belief."

The patients have been ringing 999 claiming they are suffering intense abdominal pains or other serious complaints.

The Somerset first responder said: "Crews will turn up at their door only to be told by the patient, 'Actually, I've got a cough and temperature, can you check me for Coronavirus'.

"If they'd have said in the call they believed they had Coronavirus, then the first responders would have gone in with face masks and protective equipment.

"By lying, they're potentially contaminating NHS workers, who then have to go into isolation for 14 days."

The first responder said anyone who suspects they may have Coronavirus should in the first instance call 111.

If necessary, an ambulance with "kitted up" paramedics will be directed to attend the caller.

The first responder said: "If a vulnerable person is genuinely seriously ill, the first responders could get there quickly before the ambulance.

"But we're not allowed to respond at the moment. It's very frustrating.

"If someone is in cardiac arrest, the whole world will go to them - but the whole world is getting smaller on a daily basis because of people lying to our control room."

The County Gazette has contacted South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust for a statement.