MORE than a 1,000 Greater Manchester Police officers and staff are self-isolating or off sick with the 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 percent of the GMP 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 and crime on the city region's bus, train and tram network, is being prepared to deal with deaths in Covid-19 deaths in the community.

"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," said Mr Hopkins.

"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 front line 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.

"The face masks we are getting them are surgical type masks," said Mr Hopkins.

"What we actually need is fluid resistant face masks and we are not getting those in yet. This is a national logistical issue.

"We are working really hard with national police chiefs and I had a personal telephone call with the Home Secretary on Sunday evening raising it all with her and she's given me an assurance they are working on the logistics.

"I'm hoping we will be able to have those masks by the end of the week as well as further supplies of antibacterial wipes and gels.

"At the moment we are giving them (officers) basic equipment to protect themselves but we want then to have the higher standard of equipment as soon as possible.

"Clearly it's a concern for me and my colleagues that they are protected as much as they can be. This virus, it is a concern for all of us and we are doing all we can to protect ourselves."

Police are now patrolling around supermarkets, pharmacies, town centres and open spaces and the Chief Constable stressed that people still need to ring them in an emergency, such as when someone is in danger or being seriously assaulted.

Mr Hopkins said people have been calling with questions such as "can I pick my daughter up at Manchester Airport?" and "can I take my car for its MoT?"

He added: "Please don't ring us with those calls. Use common sense. There's a lot of information on By ringing us with that sort of stuff you are stopping us dealing with the things that we should be."

If it is not an emergency, use GMP's live chat line to report a crime through their website at rather than dialling 101.