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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students on national lockdown - 2 November 2020

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Key points

  • A period of national lockdown will begin on Thursday 5 November and last until 2 December
  • The University will remain open and we will continue to deliver a blend of face-to-face and online teaching
  • Students must stay at University and not move back and forth between their student home and permanent home before the end of term
  • Sports facilities and some catering outlets will close during this period. Study spaces will remain open.
  • Case numbers in Devon and Cornwall are low and we must continue our collective efforts to ensure we can see restrictions eased in early December

Full message

On Saturday the Prime Minister announced that England will enter a second national COVID-19 lockdown period, which will begin on Thursday 5 November and last for four weeks, until 2 December.

In detailing the measures, the Prime Minister made it clear that schools, colleges and universities should remain open. The Government guidance on the new restrictions confirmed this and we are expecting further comment from the Department for Education (DfE) in the coming days. We expect DfE to confirm that universities should continue to offer a combination of online and face-to-face teaching where it is safe to do so.

We have seen no evidence of COVID-19 transmission within our teaching spaces and we will, therefore, maintain our blended learning approach. We will work to continue to deliver ongoing research activity, whilst reviewing the detail of work that involves human participants. Students should continue to attend classes and colleagues should continue to work as planned, whether on campus or remotely.

The DfE guidance also confirms that students who live at university must not move back and forward between their permanent home and student home during term time, only returning home at the end of term for Christmas. Again, we await further detail and we will keep you updated, but it is important that students remain at the University at this time. Not to do so would risk spreading the infection to loved-ones and communities around the country and beyond.

In line with the rest of England, we will be required to close our gyms, indoor sports facilities, bars and catering outlets in this period. Catering within halls will continue. Libraries, study spaces and campus food shops will remain open and we anticipate that outlets such as Pret and Costa will move to a takeaway service.

Due to everyone’s hard work and commitment in reducing the spread of COVID-19 amongst University students, we had begun to reintroduce student sports and activities. It is clear that we will now have to pause these plans whilst we assess the detail of the new restrictions. We will also not be able to relax the restriction on household mixing as we had planned as this will now become a national restriction. I will keep you updated throughout and if anything changes that allows us to re-open any activities I will inform you immediately.

Throughout this period, the safety, wellbeing and mental health of our students and staff will be our highest priority. Our spaces, for our teaching and our research, are COVID-19 secure and our testing and support for isolation remains critical in identifying and stopping the spread of the disease and safeguarding those around us. We will introduce additional support for students and colleagues as required, and we will look once more at options for the redeployment or furlough of colleagues where needed.

We have become used to restrictions such as those that we now face, and it is clear that the country faces the urgent possibility that the NHS may become overwhelmed if the rate of transmission is not reduced. In Exeter and in Cornwall we have shown that our collective efforts, including reducing household mixing and supporting rapid testing and isolation, can drive down the spread of the virus and that we can support each other and our local communities to stay safe. This must be our renewed focus. The number of people in Devon and Cornwall who have tested positive for COVID -19 is lower than other parts of the UK and if we are able to maintain our vigilance and resolve, we can be hopeful that restrictions will be eased in early December.

I know this is a worrying time for all of us and for our loved ones, in the UK and around the world. By remaining committed to supporting each other, and by understanding and abiding by the restrictions, we can come through this period safely.

I will update you further when we have more information.

Best wishes

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary