Liverpool's returning university students face massive fines if they overdo the partying this weekend in the face of new lockdown rules - police warned today.
The warning comes amid deep concern over the city's raging coronavirus infection rate which has reached close to 200 cases per 100,000 residents.
The government has already imposed new national and local lockdown measures here and across the whole Merseyside region.
Those restrictions came in on Tuesday, but the levels of infection have continued to surge and are threatening to get out of control.
Further restrictions for the city could be discussed in the coming days.
And as we approach the first weekend under the new rules, Merseyside Police had this message for returning students.
Superintendent Chris Gibson said: "This weekend is normally a busy time with students coming into our region and enjoying what it has to offer – whilst we welcome them to Merseyside, we are also reminding them of the need to follow the regional and national restrictions in place."
Local rules include a ban on socialising with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens, hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service and venues including restaurants, pubs, and cinemas, required to close between 10pm to 5am.
They are in addition to the tightened nationwide rules including limiting weddings and wedding receptions to 15 people, the 'rule of six' extended to indoor sports teams and all taxi and minicab passengers must wear masks, as must all retail and hospitality staff, and hospitality customers except when they are seated to eat or drink.
And police said fines of up to £3,200 would be issued to anyone flouting the rules aimed at driving down the infection rate.
Superintendent Gibson said: "“We recognise these latest restrictions mean more sacrifices for our residents and that they affect every single one of our daily lives. I hope however, the people of Merseyside will come together, to follow the new rules and act responsibly so we can drive the current infection rates down.
“It’s clear now more than ever we all have a responsibility to keep doing what we can to protect our loved ones and ourselves. If we don’t, we risk more people in Merseyside catching this virus and the stark reality is we will see more deaths. We also risk the potential for more severe restrictions in future, which one of us wants to see.”
He added: "We will have additional policing resources in the city and across all of our local policing areas and as they have been since the start of the pandemic, our officers will be out engaging with the public, encouraging people to adhere to the new restrictions, explaining why it is so important and where necessary we will take enforcement action. If you do not follow the instructions of officers, you risk being given a £100 fine, doubling up to a maximum of £3,200 if it is not paid.
“I’d like to thank everyone who continues to stick by the rules, let’s all work together so we can drive down the infection rate. By doing the so you are reducing the strain on the NHS and other emergency services, keeping yourself and others safe and healthy and protecting the ones you love.”
If you have information on criminality, anti-social behaviour or events and gatherings planned illegally, you can contact @MerPolCC or @CrimestoppersUK, anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Liverpool Hope University and Liverpool John Moores University have moved most of their teaching online over coronavirus concerns.
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Earlier this week top scientists from The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said universities are more likely to be hit with larger outbreaks of Covid-19 towards the end of the academic term, inews reports.
These outbreaks, which would coincide with Christmas and New year experts fear, "could pose a risk to both local communities and families, and will require national oversight, monitoring and decision making."
The warnings were included in the latest minutes to be published from meetings of SAGE.
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To prevent the spread of coronavirus, Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Unit and former government special adviser to the universities minister, said the Government will be forced to tell students to stay on campus instead of coming home at Christmas.