At yesterday evening’s Virtual Town Hall, Oxford’s universities, students’ unions, the City and County Councils, and the police presented their COVID-safety plans for students’ return to Oxford.
Thames Valley Police have set aside a portion of the force to respond to breaches of coronavirus regulations, while balancing “normal policing duties”.
Along with neighbourhood police, they will be “proactively patrolling… hotspot areas” in the evening and through the night. They will respond to “spontaneous reports” of COVID regulation breaches.
The police’s focus is on large gatherings as “they present the greater risk to wider public health”. They have a “Four Es” strategy to deal with large gatherings: engage with members of the gathering, explain the regulations, encourage the gathering to disperse, and enforce the regulations with fines if necessary.
The City Council will also be ensuring coronavirus regulations are being followed. From 8pm to 1am, there will be “proactive inspections” of businesses to ensure they are complying with the Rule of Six. These will be focused on the pubs “primarily frequented by students”.
This ‘Out of Hours’ Service will also respond to complaints about student parties, carrying out early intervention alongside the police.
These measures come as Oxford Brookes has been under scrutiny for student parties since students returned on 14th September. There have been 30 recorded cases among Brookes students so far, stemming from off-campus student gatherings.
Pro Vice-Chancellor of Student and Staff Experience at Oxford Brookes, Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, told the Town Hall that the university has issued “150 fixed penalties” for breaches within halls of residence.
Professor Kilday states that the universities “do not have enforcement powers off-campus”, but that they had been working with Thames Valley Police and other partners to “disperse groups meeting outside of halls”. She encouraged residents to contact the police on 101 or report online if they believe students are breaching coronavirus laws.
Professor Kilday stressed that the majority of students are taking regulations seriously and the university has communicated extensively with the student body to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities.
Ahead of the start of term, Karen O’Brien, Co-Chair of Michaelmas Coordination Group at Oxford University, told residents the University would learn from Brookes and other universities across the UK, and apply those lessons upon students’ return.
Image credit: Dick Elbers/ Wikimedia Commons.