July 28th, 2020
This week I would like to update you on our plans to mitigate potential future outbreaks of COVID-19.
It is very clear that we will be dealing with the impact of the coronavirus for some time to come. Parts of our city may be subject to local lockdowns, like neighbouring Leicester, or we may face situations where we have members of our staff and student community fall ill.
Because of the need to act quickly to minimise the impact of any such outbreak, anywhere in the country, Public Health England (PHE) is required by the Government to have formal response plans in place for every region.
We are working with partner organisations, including Nottingham Trent University, to put together our outbreak response plan that will form part of this regional strategy.
The plan will enable us to limit the impact of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the University and takes into account how we will carry out close-contact tracing, support students with isolation and how we will liaise with the appropriate partner agencies.
Depending on the circumstances of any outbreak, second wave or lockdown, we are not anticipating the mass evacuation of staff or students that we saw in March. Instead, it is more likely that students would remain in Nottingham and our plans are being designed to support them and the wider community directly.
In order to protect the health and safety of all, we need to know as soon as any member of our University community has contracted, potentially contracted or been in contact with someone with symptoms of COVID-19. Staff must contact HR immediately via a COVID-19 Absence Notification form or via the Staff Helpline 0115 748 4800. Students will be required to contact Student Services via a dedicated webform or telephone number and we will provide students with detailed guidance as part of their return to campus.
Anyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19 is required to use the NHS coronavirus testing process, requesting a test by post or attending a dedicated testing site. In order to expedite this process, we are exploring the procurement of testing kits for student use at the University. Where tests are confirmed as positive, cases will be automatically enrolled into the national track and trace scheme. This is designed to help identify anyone who has been in contact with the confirmed case and who must also isolate and undergo testing.
We will also support students with isolation, recognising that this will be a challenging time for them, ensuring they have access to food and other essential items as well as being able to continue with their studies remotely should they be well enough to do so.
In tandem, the University’s Testing Taskforce is considering how we might approach a level of routine testing for staff and students. This is particularly important, as many people with COVID-19 – particularly those who are younger – can be asymptomatic.
Routine testing of students and staff, utilising University expertise, can allow us to prepare for potential outbreaks, manage them quickly and effectively and therefore mitigate the impact on those involved. It can also inform the research the University is progressing into vaccines and therapies to fight the virus as well as our understanding of how the virus is transmitted. Most importantly, I hope it can also provide further reassurance that we are prioritising the health and safety of our community.
We will pilot the first stage of this testing pathway with our newly returned Vet School students, who recommenced on-campus teaching this week. We will work in conjunction with Public Health England and the national testing process and I will share more details on our progress.
I hope that details of these important pieces of work serve to reassure, rather than alarm. I am ever grateful for the way our community has responded to this crisis and I know that, along with all the measures we are introducing to keep you safe, preparedness for future outbreaks is essential for all of our wellbeing.
Professor Andy Long
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor
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