There are fears the Aberdeen police ranks could be left short due to a “snowballing” of coronavirus cases.
About 20 people are understood to have contracted Covid at a single city police station in recent days, with both staff and officers understood to be affected.
And there are now concerns the virus has established itself among the rank and file at the north-east division’s headquarters in Queen Street too.
A police source told The Press and Journal: “I don’t know the exact number of cases within the division but it is snowballing.
“Absences are double the normal level.
“There were around 20 cases earlier this week at Bucksburn but it’s starting to take off at Queen Street too.”
NHS Grampian has now confirmed a number of cases have been recorded among officers and staff in the city.
A spokeswoman for the health board said: “We are aware of cases of Covid-19 detected within the Police Scotland workforce in Aberdeen.
“We are working closely with the police to investigate further.”
Tighter measures for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
It comes as officers could be called upon to enforce more stringent coronavirus rules as the city and Aberdeenshire move to Level 3 restrictions tomorrow at 6pm.
Soaring case numbers in Aberdeen prompted the tighter measures, which include a ban on travel outside of the local authority area.
There remains some worry among police sources and politicians as to whether the force is capable of covering staff shortages caused by self-isolation and illness.
It is understood more than five officers attending a single incident in Tillydrone last week have now also tested positive for Covid.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald revealed his concerns, noting the potential for transmission was greater with officers operating in groups.
“If there are issues with others disregarding social distancing it is very often the police who end up dealing with that,” he said.
“This demonstrates that if an officer does contract Covid it can very quickly spread to their colleagues.
“The run-up to Christmas is always a busy time for the emergency services, but this year police have a particularly important job in keeping the community safe, so it’s very important any outbreak is dealt with quickly and effectively.”
Mr Macdonald added: “Police Scotland have made much in the past of their ability to move staff and resources from one area of the country to another – saying that is a benefit of the central force.
“Now we will have to see if this is the case and they are able to ensure the cover for self-isolating or ill officers in Aberdeen is adequate and at the proper levels.”
Extra officers from elsewhere will be called to north-east if needed
The police have moved to reassure the public that extra officers from elsewhere in the country could be called up to the north-east, if needed.
A spokeswoman said: “We are following Scottish Government and health guidance and where cases of coronavirus are identified, we work with the local health board and adhere to Test and Protect procedures.
“We have sufficient capacity and, as a national service, can flex resources should there be a requirement to do so.”
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman and north-east MSP Liam Kerr said it is “alarming to hear of so many cases at Queen Street and Bucksburn so close to the festive period where call-outs are likely to rise even further”.
“Our local officers are already working incredibly hard to protect communities during the pandemic but for absences to have doubled highlights the severity of the situation,” he said.
“The SNP Government must make additional resources available to cope with issues such as staff absences from coronavirus.
“Officers in the north-east are doing the right thing in following the self-isolation rules when they find out they have been in contact with someone with the virus.
“But the Scottish Government must start to recognise the daily risks our police put themselves in on the frontline.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police officers and staff have played a critical role on the frontline of keeping our communities safe during this pandemic.
“While the welfare and wellbeing of officers and staff is the responsibility of the chief constable, we support initiatives taken to safeguard the workforce, including adjustments to workplaces and working practices in line with public health advice.
“Police Scotland report that, while there are a number of officers and staff absent due to Covid, the current level of absence is causing the service no significant issues.
“We are aware of the situation at Bucksburn and that the local Health Board is engaged with Police Scotland, including reviewing the measures required to manage the situation safely.”