The number of firefighters off work due to the coronavirus pandemic has reached a new high.

Due to recent outbreaks there are now 133 off work with symptoms or self isolating - just under ten per cent of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service workforce.

The number off work has more than doubled in two weeks.

Firefighters mainly from Rochdale and Wigan stations have been affected but also smaller numbers at Littleborough, Heywood, Whitefield, Bury, and Ramsbottom.

As reported in the Manchester Evening News, earlier this month three out of four crews at Rochdale fire station had been hit by by Covid-19. Out of 39 firefighters at the station 17 were off.

At the time - in the second week of September - 53 operational staff were off with COVID-19 symptoms, self isolating, or with positive tests. That amounted to 4.6 per cent of the 1151 station-based operational staff.

One firefighter said: "I believe the public need to know that we have now had numerous positive Covid tests at stations including almost a full watch at Rochdale and numerous in Wigan, yet high ranking officers are refusing to have stations deep cleaned because “we can’t be seen to be setting a precedent and we must think of the cost implications”.

"They are making firefighters clean the stations down instead They are also still sending firefighters around to other stations to fill gaps on appliances, despite the current climate and potential rise in infections."

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said they are "treating this situation very seriously and the health and safety of all GMFRS staff and the public is paramount."

They also said they have a 'thorough cleaning regime' at all fire stations.

But another firefighter said: "Rochdale fire station currently have near enough three out of four watches off work with covid symptoms or positive tests.

"Management are still sending firefighters from other stations to cover the shortfall.

"These firefighters then either travel back to their own stations the next day or move on to a different station. Not only does this put the welfare of those firefighters and their families in danger, it also puts the public at higher risk."

GMFRS management say throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the service has put contingency plans in place to manage sickness and to effectively deploy staff to ensure the maximum fire cover available.

"We are following guidance from Public Health England and are doing everything we can to limit the impact of Covid-19 on GMFRS," said a spokesman.

They added: “We have seen a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and related absences in the past fortnight.

"The most recent ‘spike’ in cases occurred in Rochdale, which mainly impacted on a number of personnel from Rochdale Fire Station. Earlier this week, a further ‘spike’ occurred at Wigan Fire Station. However, by refining how firefighters are deployed across Greater Manchester, the test and trace impact was contained to Wigan.

“We have a thorough cleaning regime at all our fire stations and we continue to carry out cleaning of common touch points (door handles, etc.) at each change of watch. We are following guidance from Public Health England and are doing everything we can to limit the impact of COVID-19 on GMFRS.

“As of Friday September 18th we have just under 10% of our uniformed staff absent as a consequence of COVID -19. We are supporting those affected and have put measures in place to ensure we maintain the appropriate number of fire engines ready to respond across Greater Manchester.”