Manchester police say enforcing university quarantine is 'not a policing issue'

28 September 2020, 12:04 | Updated: 28 September 2020, 20:18

Police in Manchester are refusing to prevent students from leaving quarantined flats after 1,700 were told to self-isolate in their halls
Police in Manchester are refusing to prevent students from leaving quarantined flats after 1,700 were told to self-isolate in their halls. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Police in Manchester have said it is not up to them to enforce a university quarantine, after 1,700 were told to self-isolate in their halls on Friday.

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) told the students to self-isolate after 127 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the accommodation blocks.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesperson told LBC it is "not a policing issue" if students decide to leave the quarantined blocks and officers will not make any attempt to enforce the restrictions imposed on them on Friday evening.

Instead, the force said it was down to Manchester Metropolitan University to enforce the new measures.

A force spokesperson said: "GMP is aware that a number of MMU students have been advised to self-isolate and understand that this situation provides a number of challenges for all involved, including students, parents and the university itself.

"However, this is not a policing issue and it is therefore not the position of GMP to prevent students from leaving the university or their halls of residence.

Read more: Manchester Metropolitan University students in lockdown after coronavirus outbreak

Read more: £10,000 fines come into force for those who fail to self-isolate

"As such, this is being managed by the universities themselves under the guidance of public health.

"Officers were patrolling in the area of the campus but no incidents or reports of any breaches was received over the weekend.

"We will continue to work with MMU and local authorities to engage with students and offer advice surrounding the re-opening of universities and staying safe in the current climate, and will always use the 4 Es approach of engage, explain and encourage before any enforcement action is taken.”

On Monday evening, it was revealed that students stuck in self-isolation at the university will be given a two-week rent rebate and a £50 grocery gift card, as well as a care package containing toiletries.

Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of MMU, said the university was also "unable to prevent" students leaving their accommodation.

“The physical and emotional wellbeing of our students is paramount," he said.

"I recognise the impact that this situation is having on our students, particularly given the extremely short period of time we had to inform them of the decision.

"Many of them are away from home for the first time and still finding their feet. Their welfare is our top priority and that is why we have been working hard with organisations around the city since Friday evening to put in place support to help during this 14-day period.

Read more: Let them home for Christmas: calls grow to help stricken students

"We are urgently preparing a care package which we hope will ensure students will have the essentials they require in halls, plus financial support to assist them through this challenging period.

"We expect students to follow the guidance for self-isolation set out by the Government and Public Health England. Our staff are on hand 24 hours a day to provide support, guidance and deal with concerns.

"We are unable to prevent our students from leaving the halls, but our students are bright young adults and we trust that they will do the right thing.”

Students are being asked not to leave their halls campuses for two weeks
Students are being asked not to leave their halls campuses for two weeks. Picture: PA Images

It follows the introduction of tough new fines of up to £10,000 for those who refuse to self-isolate when they receive a positive test or are asked to be the Test and Trace system.

Fines for first-time offenders start at £1,000 and increase each time the rules are broken - up to a maximum of £10,000 for the most serious breaches.

People who have received a positive test must isolate for 10 days after displaying symptoms, or their test date if they do not have symptoms, while members of their household must isolate for 14 days.