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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 22 February 2022

Dear Colleagues and Students

Following the latest announcement from the Prime Minister, I am writing to update you further on the changes to Government measures including the end of the requirement to self-isolate and the end of the Government’s testing programme.

We have now had chance to reflect on these changes and taking account of the still relatively high case numbers across our region, we have made the decision to take a phased and gradual approach to the removal of COVID-19 measures on our campuses. This approach will allow colleagues and students the time to adjust to the changed environment as well as providing time for anyone who remains concerned to consult with their manager and, where appropriate, make any necessary adjustments. This approach will also allow the University to remain flexible should infection rates increase and restrictions be reintroduced.

I have outlined our approach in detail below.

Key changes

  • The Government has ended the programme of regular asymptomatic testing in most education and child care settings.
  • From Friday 1 April, the Government will end the free testing programme for most people. Tests will become available commercially available and free tests will only continue to be available for those who are vulnerable or older.
  • From Thursday 24 February, there will be no requirement to self-isolate if you have a confirmed infection, but anyone who tests positive is advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five full days.
  • From Thursday 24 February, NHS Test and Trace will no longer be contacting those with a confirmed infection, or their close contacts.
  • From Thursday 24 February, close contacts will no longer be recommended to test for seven days and those who are not vaccinated will not be required to self-isolate.
  • We continue to expect everyone to wear face coverings in shared indoor spaces that are crowded and enclosed and where you may meet people you do not usually meet.
  • Measures will remain in place on our campuses until further notice and we expect all colleagues and students to continue to follow these.
  • Our on-campus vaccination clinics will continue – dates will be available on our website
  • Support remains available via our Rapid Response Hub in Exeter and Penryn, and our Here to Help team in Exeter

Changes to rules on testing

The Government has announced the end of the LFD asymptomatic testing programme in education settings with immediate effect.  However, at this time, we continue to provide access to asymptomatic testing through home test kits for colleagues and students. These will be available from any of the collection points on all of our campuses.

We also continue to provide free PCR tests to students and colleagues who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms – information on how to access a PCR test can be found on our Rapid Response Hub website.

From Friday 1 April, the Government will be stopping free testing (for both those with symptoms and those who are asymptomatic), unless you are vulnerable or an older person experiencing symptoms.  

From Thursday 24 February, if you have a positive test result, you will no longer be contacted by NHS Test and Trace. However, please continue to let us know you have a positive result by completing the online form for Exeter or Cornwall. You can also continue to seek support from the Rapid Response Hub if you need any help or advice. 

Changes to rules on self-isolation

From Thursday 24 February, the legal requirement for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate will end. Instead, until 1 April, if you have the infection, Government advice is to stay at home, avoid contact with others for at least five full days and then continue to follow guidance until they have received two negative tests on consecutive days. After 1 April, people with COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to exercise personal responsibility. 

The University is continuing to take a cautious and community-focused approach. In line with the Government advice at this time, if you have COVID-19, you should continue to stay at home.

For colleagues, if you are well enough to do so, and with your manager’s approval, you can work from home. If you are not well enough to work or are unable to work at home, you should follow the usual sickness reporting process and you will receive University sick pay. 

Students should follow the University’s student absence or mitigation process depending on the length of time you are unwell.

We will keep this under review and update you with our position on the stay at home recommendation before 1 April. 

If you have a health condition or another factor that makes you more vulnerable, there is additional guidance available on our website, and you should continue to speak to your GP and line manager who can support you.

For anyone working or studying in a healthcare setting, please be aware that the guidance around healthcare settings has not changed. We will be contacting all students on healthcare programmes this week with further information. Please also continue to check the Government website for the most up to date advice.

Changes to the rules on close contacts  

From 24 February, if you are a close contact of a person with COVID-19 you will no longer be required to test daily for seven days and unvaccinated close contacts will no longer be required to self-isolate. 

We ask that you take a sensible and cautious approach if you know you are a close contact - consider your symptoms every day before coming onto campus and do not come onto campus if you have COVID-19 symptoms, however mild. Stay at home and get a PCR test. 

Please continue to wear your face covering

Wearing a face covering continues to be one of the most effective ways of preventing transmission of COVID-19 – this will be even more important once the requirement to self-isolate has ended on Thursday.

The University continues to expect colleagues and students to wear face coverings in shared indoor spaces that are crowded and enclosed and where you may meet people you do not usually meet. Free face coverings remain available on campus, however, we aim to move away from providing disposable coverings in order to reduce our environmental impact - please continue to bring your reusable face covering with you when coming to campus. We will review this approach regularly.

On campus measures remain in place

The measures detailed below will remain in place on our campuses until further notice and we expect all colleagues and students to continue to follow these. If you are based in NHS or other premises, please follow the local rules for the building.

  • We expect everyone to wear a face covering in shared indoor spaces. Please bring your reusable face covering with you when coming to campus.
  • The 2m teaching zone will remain in our teaching spaces for the remainder of the academic year. Our teaching protocols and guidance will also remain in place.
  • Hand sanitiser stations- colleagues and students are encouraged to continue to use these when entering or leaving buildings and shops, as well as regularly throughout the day.
  • Enhanced cleaningcleaning stations willremain and these should be used for all shared equipment, touch points and surfaces. Our cleaning teams will continue to carry out enhanced cleaning in communal areas throughout this term.
  • Ventilation - window signage will remain in place in teaching rooms, please continue to follow instructions and open windows where needed.
  • Perspex screens –where already in place, and appropriate, screens will remain for the rest of the term and their use will then be reviewed.
  • Booking systems and our responsible PI approaches will be incorporated into general practice to support our teaching and research activities.

NHS COVID-19 app  

The NHS COVID app will remain available to enable travellers to show their vaccination status where required.

Supporting colleagues in returning to campus

Our current approach for more colleagues to return to campus will continue. Managers should have conversations with their teams about their work location. Guidance for managers remains available online and HR colleagues are continuing to review the guidance and keep it up to date.

The Government continues to communicate to people most vulnerable to COVID-19 about available clinical interventions including vaccinations and treatments as well as testing and public health advice. Managers should ensure risk assessments are completed with individuals who are more vulnerable and where necessary, work with Occupational Health to consider any adjustments that may be required. More information is available on the Government website

Students who are most vulnerable should seek advice from their GP and discuss their on-going requirements with the Student Wellbeing Team.

Vaccination clinics will continue

The Government will be recommending additional boosters to older or vulnerable people in the spring.  We will continue to hold vaccination clinics in Exeter and Penryn throughout March and dates will be confirmed shortly. The clinics will provide first and second doses as well as booster jabs for anyone that is eligible. The dates of our upcoming clinics can be found on our website

Support on campus

If you have any questions relating to COVID-19, our Rapid Response Hub in Exeter and Penryn, will remain in place for this academic term to support you.

Our Here to Help team will also remain

in key areas across our Exeter campuses to support a variety of teaching and general activities. They will also support our vaccination clinics.

Public Health Liaison

We will continue to maintain our close working relationship with Public Health teams across the region.

Your wellbeing

As restrictions begin to ease once again, I know this may cause concern for some and it is important that we remember that everyone’s circumstances are different. Please look after yourselves and look out for each other. Our wellbeing support is available for you if and when you need it.

Best wishes

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary