Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in relation to Covid-19, Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable Ian Hopkins agreed to answer questions from representatives of the local media.
Q. Can you confirm GMP’s transport unit will deal with Covid-19 deaths?
“We would normally get a number of deaths in the community and if they have been seen by a GP they would send off a death certificate. If not there’s the coronial process and we work on behalf of the coroner. We have been working very, very closely with (coroner) Joanne Kearsley and (senior police officer) Jon Chadwick who is an expert in disaster victim recovery and who led all the work around the Arena attack and they have worked up our plan on how to deal with deaths in the community, if we do start getting significant deaths in the community.
“Everything we are doing is based on a worst case scenario. We are making sure the transport team have all the necessary personal protection equipment to be able to deal with deaths in the community going forward and that will enable us to get on with local policing and deal with other priorities.
“They will be given all the equipment they need to be able to fulfill their role in a safe way. Front line officers already carry rubber gloves but they are getting face masks and plastic bags to be able to seal it up in if they have used it if they have had contact with someone who we suspect has the virus.
Q What jobs are you attending and what jobs are you no longer attending?
A: “We have been very clear, contact us in an emergency or if it’s a serious crime. I think most people get what an emergency is, someone in danger or somebody being seriously assaulted. We will still attend those. If it’s not an emergency, please if you can use our live chat online to report a crime or record it through the website rather than ringing us on 101. We have seen levels of calls coming in, up to this morning, dropping off which has allowed us to patrol supermarkets and pharmacies. Today we have seen a spike in the number of calls, 180 between 7am and 10am with people ringing up for advice like ‘can I pick my daughter up at Manchester Airport?’ and ‘can I go to work?’. Please don’t ring us with those calls. Use common sense. There’s a lot of information on www.gov.uk. By ringing us with that sort of stuff you are stopping us dealing with the things that we should be.” Asked for any other such calls he mentioned ‘can I take my car for its MoT’ and ‘I’m a gardener - can I go to work?’ You should only be going out to get food once a day or caring for an elderly relative or somebody that’s vulnerable. There were a lot of calls from people saying ‘can we go to work?’ In my opinion it’s only key workers who should be going out to work.”
Q How many of your staff are off?
A: He said that as of this morning 1,066 police officers and staff were self-isolating for seven or 14 days depending on their home circumstances or were sick with coronavirus. He said this was about ten per cent of his work force. Additionally, he said 300 others were also off because of other kinds of sickness absence. He said his officers could still respond to 999 calls. My plea to the public is please continue to do what you have been doing, . Only ring in an emergency and that will enable us to protect everybody. The vast majority of people are doing that, which is just brilliant.
Q Will rough sleepers be arrested if they refuse to accept accommodation?
A: The Prime Minister has issued some very stringent restrictions and it will be local police who enforce those were necessary. The restrictions are there to save lives but we can only do that with the support of the public and the vast majority will support those restrictions. There will be a minority, I have no doubt, of very selfish people who flout those restrictions and we will have to deal with them. Rough sleepers are some of the most vulnerable people in society and the last thing I want to be doing is arresting them.”
Q What areas will you be patrolling.
A: around supermarkets, pharmacies, town centres and open spaces.