December 9th, 2021
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long has written to all colleagues and students today following the introduction of new restrictions to combat the spread of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant in the UK.
Last night, the government announced new measures to restrict the spread of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant in the UK. I am writing to update you on what these new restrictions mean for our university community.
Guidance published by the Department for Education expects education settings to remain open for in-person teaching as planned. Colleagues who need to be on campus to enable this should continue to work on campus whenever necessary. This includes staff engaged in in-person teaching and those working in libraries, student services, hospitality, retail and domestic services, for example.
The established campus safety guidelines we have had in place since the beginning of this year have kept Covid-19 transmission rates low. Face coverings are mandatory in all indoor spaces, unless at least 1 metre separation can be maintained, full vaccination and weekly Covid testing is strongly encouraged.
However, in line with government guidance to help slow the spread of the virus, those who are able to fulfil the requirements of their role at home should discuss this with their manager and prepare to work from home where they can from Monday 13 December. Professional services hubs will remain open for those staff who would find it more effective for their work or wellbeing to work on campus.
Further advice on how the guidance applies to you, will be provided by your manager.
Where research needs to be conducted on campus it should continue, and all research facilities and laboratories will remain open to support this. Staff and students conducting research on campus should follow all Covid safety measures including the wearing of masks and weekly testing.
Research students and their supervisors should decide whether research activity needs to be conducted on campus or can be continued at home. On campus research facilities remain open for research students.
Guidance published by the Department for Education states that in-person teaching and student support services should continue. The university will retain the current blended approach to teaching both in-person and online for the remainder of term, and staff and students should continue to attend their timetabled sessions.
Whilst plans for in-person teaching operations in the new year currently remain unchanged, we will keep these under review and update staff and students as soon as is practicable after the point the government reviews the national restrictions, currently expected to be Thursday 30 December 2021.
The national restrictions requiring face coverings, unless exempt, will be extended to most indoor venues from Friday 10 December. Exemptions include restaurants, cafes and canteens, and gym and exercise facilities.
Face coverings are already mandatory in all indoor spaces on campus where you cannot socially distance to at least a metre, unless you are exempt.
Staff and students should continue to test for Covid-19 at least weekly, using the university’s asymptomatic testing service. The test is quick, simple and identifies infection at the earliest possible stage so that you can avoid transmitting illness to others.
Students are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test before returning home for the seasonal break – and to take another test before their return to campus.
Please ensure you take up full vaccination and register for your booster vaccination when you are called by the NHS.
If you do develop symptoms, test positive, or are required to isolate because a close contact has tested positive, please complete our reporting form. This information is essential to help us track infections and manage potential outbreaks.
Students travelling to the UK will need to check and comply with border measures that have been introduced to help prevent transmission of Covid-19 on their arrival on campus. For more detail on requirements for students travelling to the UK, please refer to the government travel advice. Make sure you check restrictions again before you travel to ensure you have the latest requirements.
Individuals identifies as close contacts of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 – irrespective of vaccination status and age – will be contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace. They will be required to self-isolate immediately and to book a PCR test.
Otherwise, isolation rules are unchanged. Close contacts of non-Omicron positive cases are not required to isolate if they are fully vaccinated, or under the age of 18.
From Wednesday 15 December, larger-scale entertainment venues and events with a capacity of 500 or more will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 or over are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative Covid test within the last 48 hours, or are exempt.
This does not apply to smaller scale settings such as pubs, bars or restaurants and as such will not apply to on-campus venues. However, face coverings remain mandatory in all indoor spaces, and weekly Covid testing and vaccination is strongly encouraged.
Please visit the government website for more details on where Covid Passes are required, and how to access yours.
The new restrictions do not suggest that seasonal events and parties should be cancelled, however, organisers should consider their guests’ views and exercise due caution. If your guests feel comfortable in attending planned celebrations, please observe all relevant restrictions including wearing of face coverings and encourage lateral flow tests prior to attending.
I appreciate that colleagues may be anxious about socialising at this time, and no one should feel obliged. Should you wish to postpone your party or event to a later date, your £10 staff festive party allowance remains valid for use later in the academic year.
Cases of Covid-19 have remained low on campus this term, but we must remain vigilant as we get closer to the seasonal break. Please continue to follow our on-campus guidelines and act cautiously and considerately to help us keep our campus and community as safe as possible.
We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation and keep our policies under review. I will update you with any changes or updates to national or local guidance over the coming weeks.
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