Police patrol student areas in Newcastle until Christmas to enforce Covid rules

Patrols have been added to the local lockdown to ensure students aren’t flouting regulations

Following the restrictions put in place across the North East on Friday, there will now be police patrols in student areas to crack down on large groups of students drinking and partying.

It has been announced that there will be “high visibility” patrols carried out by the police in student hubs every night until Christmas.

The two universities are footing the bill, with Newcastle and Northumbria universities saying they would provide the additional funding as part of their Operation Oak community initiative, which already costs them £125,000 a year.

The police presence will be strongest in areas with high student numbers such as Jesmond, with police already having been called to the area several times following reports of large student gatherings. These sorts of ‘COVID patrols’ are being undertaken in universities across the country to try and minimise the spread among students. 

Newcastle student Tamzin has already been on the receiving end of one of these patrols. Police entered her house last night after they heard loud music playing. She told The Newcastle Tab: “It was just me and my housemates – six of us – drinking and the police came in and went through all the rooms. It was proper scary like they were opening the doors to all our rooms and looking in.”

But Tamzin is just one of the 54,000 students set to return to Newcastle and Northumbria Uni, travelling from across the country, to begin their new uni life amidst a local lockdown.

Elle, a Marine Biologist studying at Newcastle, is among the students returning. She believes the restrictions won’t fly with Newcastle students, and will just force them out of bars and into cramped student houses. “No ones gonna conform,” she said, “deffo just gonna encourage more house parties. Definitely the right decision overall but only if people are going to stick to it”

Ellie, who studies Politics, agrees. “Student will carry on as normal regardless of restrictions,” she told The Newcastle Tab. “By shutting bars early it’s just encouraging people to go back to student houses to drink. I think a lot of people are desperate to just go back to normal. As the death rates are really low, a lot of people don’t see the need for restrictions. The penalties/sanctions were minimal last time and they don’t have the police numbers to properly enforce it so people will just break the rules until someone gets caught. It’s ignorant but not surprising.”

Charlotte, another Newcastle student, feels that the measures are almost too harsh for students who very rarely mix with older people – those more at risk of suffering from the virus. ““It’s really bad timing for all the freshers that are coming it just makes getting to know people even more difficult. Whilst I understand it has to be done, it’s frustrating for us as most of us live in houses with other students and will rarely if not ever mix with older people who are more at risk.

“We were unfairly blamed when we did what we were told and went out, I think this is going to go on for a while so instead of blanket measures that will have huge effects on the mental health of so many young people, they need a better more targeted approach to protect people who are more at risk. We’re already unfairly disadvantaged by this whole thing as we’re most likely to work in hospitality where obviously job security is non-existent, and with our education being messed up through GCSEs to uni students.”

Meg, who studies History, thinks the restrictions are entirely unjustified and encourage isolation amongst young people. She told The Newcastle Tab: “I haven’t been able to see my partner in a while due to distance and I was expecting to see him on Saturday as we were going to form a social bubble, but within these new restrictions, these social bubbles are not valid. I am living with people that I don’t know due to a contract falling through because of COVID, and these restrictions stop me from socialising with literally anyone I know.”

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