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Important update following the raising of COVID-19 alert level - 22 September 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am sure you will have been following the recent news on the increase in COVID-19 cases across the UK. The national alert level has now been raised from 3 to 4 and the projections from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer yesterday could not have been clearer. If we do not take action now to suppress the spread of the virus, we will be facing a significant second wave during the winter months when our health services are under the greatest strain.

The Prime Minister has this afternoon confirmed the raised alert level and announced a range of additional measures. He also made it clear that schools, colleges and universities would stay open, because nothing is more important than the education, health and wellbeing of our young people.

He stressed throughout that unless we all do everything we can to reduce the infection rate then, as a nation, we are likely to face a further severe lockdown with everything that entails.

I am writing to you today to reiterate this critical message.

You have all worked incredibly hard over these last months to ensure that we would be able to come out of the first lockdown and return to our campuses. The provisions we put in place were to allow us to teach, research, work and live on our campuses safely, provided that we were meticulous in following the guidelines.

We have designed our model of blended learning to allow flexibility, and we have made it clear that a raised alert level may entail changes to our teaching. We await further guidance today from the Department for Education. Now that the alert level has been raised, the senior team are meeting to determine the steps now necessary and I will update you on these changes by email later this evening.

In the meantime I am asking everyone to redouble their efforts and strictly to abide by the guidelines at home and at work.

If we cannot, then it is clear that our ability to continue to teach face-to-face, to meet in groups of 6, to socialise safely and to go about our daily lives in and around the University is now directly threatened.

Since March we have been in constant dialogue with our partners in Public Health England, the NHS and local authorities, working with them to introduce all necessary measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our community, which has been and will remain our highest priority. I can confirm that we have seen a small number of COVID-19 cases amongst students emerge from our HALO testing programme over the weekend. We have subsequently been in communication with their close contacts and self-isolation arrangements are in place for those students.

We must all pull together, to ensure the safety of our friends, loved ones, colleagues, students and neighbours, and for us all to be able to continue to live and work with some degree of freedom. Please ensure you know what this entails, and that you are playing your part.

Best

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary