Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s blog: reflecting on the start of term

September 30th, 2020

In this week’s Recovery Blog Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Andy Long shares reflections on the start of term and highlights some of the latest elements of our outbreak response plans.

I would like to start this blog with some reflections on our first week of term.

I think many people would not have believed that, under current circumstances, we could have welcomed our new starters so smoothly nor helped our returning students adapt so quickly to a new and different University experience.

Some of our teaching colleagues have shared their experiences, which I would encourage you to read, explaining how they overcame some of the challenges this pandemic has presented and found real pleasure in being able to resume teaching in person once again.

This is extremely encouraging and testament to the enormous amount of hard work that has taken place over the summer from teams across the whole of the University.

I am well aware that we are all working hard, and often at pace, to respond to changes brought about by the coronavirus but I hope that reading some of the positive feedback of our staff and students will help to show that our efforts are effective and appreciated.

Latest social distancing measures
In his most recent statement on social distancing measures, the Prime Minister clarified that schools, colleges and universities will remain open. The Education Secretary made a subsequent statement on 29 September to confirm the government’s expectation that universities should continue a blended learning approach, with teaching conducted in person where safe to do so.

I have written to Senior Leaders to confirm that we are therefore not planning to make significant changes to our Return to Campus plans, and that staff should continue to maintain current approaches to teaching and travelling to campus.

However, given that the latest government restrictions are likely to be in place for six months, the original return date for staff who were due to return to campus in January (‘Phase 3’) has been extended to March 2021 to reflect this. In addition, in line with those off campus our licensed premises will require the use of face coverings and will become table service only.

You can read the updated guidance on Return to Campus on the CV19 Recovery Planning webpages. If or when we need to make any further changes, we will of course communicate these to you.

Outbreak Response
Further details on our Isolate, Notify, Test process have been added to the University’s Coronavirus Information webpages and we are continuing to share this important messaging with all staff and students.

The Outbreak Response Plan is also now published and our high level business continuity plans are also available for staff via the CV19 Recovery Planning webpages. This is a living document that is kept under constant review as we understand more about the impact of the pandemic on each area of our University.

Last week the NHS Covid-19 App was launched to help with contact tracing and limit the spread of the virus. The app offers a QR code check-in capability along with other helpful features including an isolation countdown timer to remind people to quarantine.

We will be displaying QR codes in buildings and temporary structures across campus and encouraging staff, students and visitors to download the app and ‘check in’ as they move across the University. If an outbreak is identified the location ID will be sent to all devices that have the app downloaded. It will then check if users have visited that venue and, if they have, provide an alert with advice on what to do. The information collected by the app is not shared with the University, so we will continue to support contact tracing by also running our own WIFI tracing programme.

In addition to these measures we have launched the webpage to help maintain social distancing on campus. This can also be accessed directly via the MyNottingham app. The tool allows you to search more than 200 spaces, including teaching rooms and cafes, and check how busy they are to help plan your movements around the University. Each space is continuously monitored and then rated according to the maximum safe capacity for that space, with social distancing regulations in place.

An update on testing
On Monday a new coronavirus test centre opened at University Park as part of a pilot for new walk-through sites. The new site, in the grounds of the Visitor Car Park, is a national resource hosted by the University. It is designed for people to access either on foot or bike.

Tests still need to be booked by either ringing 119 or booking via the NHS website but it is hoped that having this facility locally will increase the chances of staff and students being able to gain prompt access to tests. A second site will be opened at Jubilee Campus next month.

Later this week we will begin the first steps in our Asymptomatic Testing Service. In contrast to the national testing centres like the one outlined above this is a targeted, voluntary, programme aimed at testing those who display no symptoms of the virus. We will be starting with a pilot for staff and students in Lincoln Hall before using as part of our outbreak response activity more widely.

Respecting our community
Our University is a vibrant, supportive and caring community. To protect the wellbeing of that community – and those around us – we all have our part to play. We, as a community, will trust others to follow our shared rules and values. This is not about enforcement but about emphasising personal and shared responsibility, to ensure that we are keeping each other healthy and safe.

We also understand that there are legitimate reasons for people not wearing face coverings, and I would encourage you to read Professor Ellen Townsend’s blog on the need to show kindness and compassion for those who might not wear a mask.

However, in instances where you feel things need to be improved or you think there has been a health and safety breach, please do raise it with your line manager or engage in conversation with the person involved, if you feel able. A central reporting system is available for issues that cannot be resolved locally.

Now more than ever we all need to work together to ensure our campus environment protects the most vulnerable among us.

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