Our response to COVID-19
We are committed to supporting our communities, partners and the global effort to combat COVID-19.
The University of Exeter is dedicated to shaping new local, national and global systems to combat COVID-19. We are already showing our mettle in supporting the NHS, working in the community to help organisations and individuals, contributing to the national genomics programme on COVID-19, and unrelenting in pushing our expertise and values in the world.
Many members of the University community are making important contributions. Our students, colleagues and alumni are working tirelessly to support communities at this difficult time.
Share your story
If you’d like us to share your story, for example any volunteering you are undertaking, please complete the online form. If you would like to offer your help volunteering in Exeter or Cornwall, visit the Exeter City Council pages, or the Cornwall Council website for further information. We recognise it’s not possible for everybody to volunteer at the moment. Remember, everyone following the Government social distancing measures is saving lives and protecting the NHS.
You can help make a difference by supporting our academic researchers in their quest to combat COVID-19, and to understand and mitigate its effects. We know these are challenging times for us all, including our students. Any gift, no matter its size, can make a difference – all donations will go into the Exeter COVID-19 Fund which will then be distributed across these research projects.
Clinical staff volunteering in the local community
Over 30 of our Medical School staff have volunteered to support the NHS hospitals, GP practices and local communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Clinical Director for Medicine, Professor Julie Thacker, works two days a week in West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance and Associate Dean of Education, Professor Ian Fussell has also donned his scrubs to help.
Read more about our medical work in the community
Community volunteering and support
Chez Crickmere – The Single Fin Collective
Employer Engagement and Events Officer Chez Crickmere and her partner run a business called The Single Fin Collective. Usually selling surfing or sea themed art, they have designed a rainbow print to sell and raise money for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust's Covid-19 fundraiser. The print proved to be hugely popular, and by Monday 20th April a donation of £1049 was raised. Chez explained ‘the orders have come from across the south west, the UK and also France and the USA’. More information can be found on The Single Fin Collective Instagram or website.
Catherine, Michael and Miriam Leyshon
Catherine (Kate) and Michael Leyshon are co-directors of the Social Innovation Group, a research group which focuses on place-based, person-centred approaches to social innovation in communities. Both working on the Penryn campus, Kate is an Associate Professor of Human Geography and Michael is Director of Education for the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science. Along with their daughter Miriam, who is an offer holder for English at the Streatham campus for September, they are shopping for five vulnerable households in Cornwall currently self-isolating.
The Leyshon family are also collecting prescriptions and running errands for anyone in their neighbourhood who is in need. Kate told us ‘with bags, lists and gloves at the ready, we have a good system going!’
Kate and Michael can draw on their experience from @UoESIG and ensure that their volunteering provides essential support to the local community.
Jess Thomas – Environmental Science student
In these challenging circumstances it is essential that everyone has access to food. Exeter University Environmental Science student, Jess Thomas, has been volunteering alongside her housemate Lucy for Falmouth Food Co-Op Kitchen. Using her car, she has been delivering batch cooked meals to local residents who are at risk or self-isolating and unable to access essential food supplies. Jess has told us ‘It’s really nice to help out in this difficult time’.
Kate Doyle – Sandford Pulls Together
Colleague Kate Doyle, a Planning Support Officer, is part of a volunteering group within her village - delivering groceries to vulnerable residents such as the elderly and people in self-isolation. This involves shopping for food and other commodities, collecting any necessary items and delivering to doorsteps with a smile and a knock. Kate told us that ‘It’s been weird leaving food on doorsteps, knocking and then walking away but it’s nice to know everyone can get their food delivered.’ Residents in village communities can feel isolated and be unable to access food and supplies, this support is essential for both the safety of vulnerable individuals and the community spirit.
Kelly Louise Preece, Researcher Development Manager for PGRs in the Doctoral College
Kelly, by day a Researcher Development Manager, volunteers for Hospiscare in the Marketing and Communications team. She continues to support their work by writing blog posts and other content for the website, crucial to keeping everyone connected and informed during social distancing measures.
Alongside this work she has also been sewing headbands with buttons on the side for nurses to wear. These headbands allow face masks - a part of their required PPE - to be hooked on to the buttons, rather than their ears. The headbands protect their ears from getting sore, particularly important when completing long and challenging working hours. Kelly has donated some to her local hospital's renal unit and told us she is planning to make another 40 for Hospiscare nurses, making them a bit more comfortable whilst doing their amazing work.
Alumni support in COVID crisis
Our alumni community have been volunteering their time to help in the Coronavirus response in several ways. From creating online resources to help parents with children at home, sharing their experiences and tips on coping with the situation from others, donating to fund critical research and not to mention our wonderful alumni medics who are working on the front line of the healthcare response.
Kim Moreton, Camborne School of Mines Lecturer Practitioner
Camborne School of Mines Lecturer Practitioner Kim Moreton has been using his motorbike to deliver essential medicines to local residents, that are at risk or self-isolating in the Bristol area. Kim has also been delivering prescription documentation to health centres on behalf of his extremely busy local pharmacy, providing critical support to his community.
Bogdan Chiva Giurca
Our students have been volunteering and working extra shifts to support the NHS during the COVID-19 crisis. Among the students helping is junior doctor and Exeter alumni Bogdan Chiva Giurca whose tweet went viral. Bogdan also spoke to CNN about working on the frontline during COVID-19. We are immensely proud of the effort that our students and alumni are putting in to support the NHS and local communities during this time.
Julie Mills, Senior Lecturer of Medical Imaging
College Director for Quality in teaching and learning and Senior Lecturer of Medical Imaging, Julie Mills (right) has signed up to work in the evenings and weekends as an NHS volunteer community responder, as well as marking final year Medical Imaging exams and transferring term three teaching online. Julie is also providing support over the phone to people who are self-isolating and lonely.
Student sets up a support survey for fellow students
To support the student community, the Equality and Diversity Rep of the College, Ferdinand Boucher has set up a support survey for Exeter students. It was created to facilitate a helping community for students who are stuck or self-isolating within the four localities; Exeter, Truro, Barnstaple and Torbay. To make sure that they are not alone during this period, they are offering to pick up shopping, give a friendly phone call, post mail and get urgent supplies for those needing to self-isolate.
The NHS have said that maintaining healthy relationships during the stay at home period is important for everyone’s mental wellbeing. Postgraduate Sociology student Charlotte Chivers became an administrator of a mutual aid group in Bristol and was heavily involved in building and coordinating a Facebook group, 'Bristol Covid-19 mutual aid', prior to lockdown. The page now has over 3,500 members. She has been interviewed by Heart Radio about the group and its aims, where she explained the critical role of the mutual aid group and emphasised the importance of ensuring that people who are alone during lockdown have people to ask for help, even if they just need a chat.
She has also leafleted her local area, offering help to those who are vulnerable. So far she has had requests from vulnerable people in self-isolation; collecting prescriptions and picking up groceries. Alongside all of this, Charlotte explained ‘I set up a local book swap so that people could pick up books to read whilst on their daily exercise. I am also an NHS volunteer responder and am awaiting my first task.’
Exeter student Tamir Sirkis studies on the medicine BMBS and will be intercalating in MSc Health Data Science next year, before completing the final year of his medicine course.
Tamir is volunteering at a Primary Care Response Hub in Newbury, West Berkshire. The hub has been set up to triage patients with either suspected or confirmed coronavirus, who need to be assessed. Tamir is working mainly on the IT and administration needed for the site to operate successfully, such as the creation and maintenance of patient databases. His volunteering also provides essential continuity and infrastructure within a service that has been operational for only two weeks.
Tamir told us ‘my medical knowledge has been helpful in some places, in helping to streamline the process that's being developed from one day to the next’.
Every single one of the staff, from the porters, cleaners, ward clerks, admin support, doctors and nurses are looking out for each other and our patients and keeping each other’s spirits up at this challenging time. I am very proud to have been an NHS doctor for more than 30 years, but in all that time, I have never seen our NHS family rally to the cause like they are now.
Professor Julie Thacker
Clinical Director for Medicine
Medicine students graduate early to help on COVID-19 frontline
More than 50 final year Medicine and Medical Imaging students from the University of Exeter Medical School have opted to graduate early so they can qualify as junior doctors and diagnostic radiographers to ease pressure on the NHS in the battle against COVID-19.
Academics at the University offer online tours and experiences about their research
University donates PPE to frontline COVID-19 workers in Exeter and Truro
Scientists and clinicians in Exeter are part of a group of the country’s leading institutions who are joining together to sequence the COVID-19 virus genome from patients throughout the UK. They will use the University’s state-of-the-art equipment to ensure samples from Devon patients help to combat the disease.
Read more about our work on COVID-19
In the News
Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at our Medical School has widespread experience of advising on national communicable disease control action plans at national and international level. He has been interviewed widely across the media about the latest developments in the spread of Coronavirus.
Dr Bharat Pankhania
Dr Bharat Pankhania is interview for WIRED UK
Comment pieces from our experts
Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to reduce your risk
Dr Bharat Pankhania discusses how we can reduce the risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19).
Coronavirus: Can you avoid it?