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COVID-19 update for staff and students - 8 December 2021

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Key Points

  • From Friday, face-coverings will be a legal requirement in most indoor areas;
  • From Monday, working from home is advised where possible. However, research, teaching and student support are expected to be designated as ‘essential’ services, and those involved in delivering these critical services, or those staff who cannot do their work from home, should continue to work as normal, in accordance with our COVID-19 guidance;
  • Teaching will continue as planned;
  • From next week, COVID-19 passes will be required for entry to large venues;
  • Winter Graduation will go ahead as planned, with the introduction of additional safety measures to ensure graduands and their families can enjoy this important occasion;
  • We await further guidance and I will update you on Friday once we have been able to review this fully.

In response to the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Prime Minister has announced this evening that the Government will be phasing in ‘Plan B’ COVID-19 measures from Friday 10 December.

This plan sets out three measures: a requirement to wear a face-covering in indoor settings; advice to work from home where possible; and the requirement for the NHS COVID-19 pass for large indoor events.

This is a concerning time, and the introduction of these measures is not what we had hoped for as we approach the winter break. I can reassure you that case numbers at the University remain relatively low, although positive cases are higher in wider Devon and Cornwall. For this reason, we must continue to work together to help keep our community safe.

Below are the key changes that we all need to be aware of and abide by. We await further guidance for Higher Education, and we will review this as soon as we can to understand any additional impact on the University. I will aim to get a further update to you on Friday. Once again, I want to thank all the teams involved in the work of assessing and implementing these measures to keep our community safe.

Face-coverings

From Friday 10 December, face-coverings will be a legal requirement in most indoor areas.
Our rules regarding the wearing of face-coverings remain the same. Unless exempt, all staff and students must wear face-coverings when in shared spaces inside all buildings, including all teaching rooms, laboratories, meeting rooms, shared offices and communal areas. It is mandatory to wear a face-covering in all shops on or off our campuses and face-coverings are also mandatory on public transport, including University minibuses.

Working from home

From Monday 13 December, the Government are advising people to work from home where possible. Government has previously stated that the delivery of teaching, research and the support of students would be exempt from this requirement. We await further guidance which we will share with you as soon as we can.

Until then our research and student-facing activities will continue as planned, including in-person teaching and other essential services, and those who are involved in supporting these activities, or those staff who cannot do their work from home, should continue to work on campus as normal. Most teaching on our campuses will end this week as we come to the end of term.

If you have any concerns about working from home, or you are unsure whether you are required to continue working on campus, please discuss this with your line manager as soon as possible.

Anyone working on our campuses must abide by the guidance on face-coverings, and regularly take LFD tests, including before coming to campus. Getting your COVID and flu vaccinations and boosters remains extremely important.

COVID-19 passes

From Wednesday 15 December - subject to parliamentary approval - people will need an NHS Covid Pass - or a negative lateral flow test - to gain entry to:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people
  • Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
  • Any venue with more than 10,000 people

This will mean that anyone wishing to attend these venues will be required to provide proof that they have received two doses of a recognised vaccine or have a recent negative LFD test, by using the NHS COVID Pass.

We are reviewing this guidance and will update you if we expect it to impact on our operations.

What does this mean for Winter Graduation?

Our Winter Graduation ceremonies will go ahead as planned, but we will review our plans tomorrow and introduce further measures to ensure they can go ahead safely. We know that many families have already travelled safely to the UK, abiding by the quarantine and testing requirements, to attend graduation.

Further updates

Once we have received and reviewed the HE guidance I will email you again with further details. You will also find full details of these changes and everything we are doing to keep our community safe on our COVID-19 web pages.

Please look after yourselves and remember that you can reach out for support at any time. Full details are available on our Student Wellbeing website and our Colleague Wellbeing website.

Best
Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary