MORE than a 1,000 Greater Manchester Police officers and staff are self-isolating or off sick with coronavirus, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has revealed.

But the police boss believes the under-pressure force can cope if the public only call them in a real emergency.

In addition to the absences of 1,066 people — roughly 10 per cent of the workforce — a further 300 people are also not in work due to other kinds of sickness.

“My plea [to the public] is please continue what you have been doing — use live chat or the website to record a crime,” said Mr Hopkins.

“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.”

But the grim reality of what officers are being primed for is hitting home as GMP’s transport unit, more used to clamping down on anti-social behaviour on the bus, train and tram network, is being prepared to deal with deaths in Covid-19 deaths in the community.

The force has been working closely with the coroner’s service and disaster victim recovery experts to formulate a plan to deal with deaths in the community.

Mr Hopkins added: “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.

“Up to 4,000 frontline officers already carry rubber gloves but they are also being issued with face masks and plastic bags to seal them up in if they have contact with anyone suspected of having the virus.”

* Use GMP’s live chat line to report a crime at rather than dialling 101.