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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 8 December 2020

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Key points

  • Testing for students leaving the University in the student travel window ends at 6pm today in Penryn and at midday tomorrow in Exeter
  • HALO tests will be available until 18 December for those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Postgraduate Research (PGR) students can book HALO tests to enable travel away from the University up to 18 December
  • From 18 December to 2 January our HALO testing facilities will be closed. Testing for colleagues and students will be available through the national testing scheme
  • We are reviewing our plans for on-campus research during the winter break and will update our research community next week
  • We encourage staff and students on our campuses to download the SafeZone app
  • Colleagues travelling overseas during the winter break should be familiar with current travel restrictions and also be aware that they may not legally be able to work overseas if they are unable to return to the UK
  • Our plans for the return to University in January are outlined below. Students should pay close attention to the outline of the staggered return to in-person teaching and the plans for testing on return to campuses
  • The Students’ Union and Students’ Guild are running lots of fantastic events over the coming weeks. Please join in if you can, and remember that we have wellbeing support available. Please reach out if you need support

Full message

This is the last week of the most extraordinary term any of us can remember. Each week has brought new challenges and demanded more of us as a community. We have supported and inspired each other and this collaboration has helped to protect those around us.

Most recently, we have risen to the challenge to support testing for students who wish to travel away from the University to be with loved ones over the winter break. Thousands of students have been tested using the government-provided Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests over the last 9 days. When LFD testing ends we will turn our attention to January, and the process of providing tests to all students to support the safe return to campus.

In the meantime, our HALO tests will be available until 18 December for those who experience even mild symptoms of COVID-19. If you have a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss of taste/smell – you should immediately self-isolate and arrange a HALO test via the Rapid Response Hub.

Testing for Postgraduate Research (PGR) Students

PGR students who wish to travel away from the University can do so outside of the student travel window of 3-9 December. PGR students without COVID-19 symptoms can book a HALO test on the Streatham or Penryn campuses up until 18 December to support their domestic or international travel away from our campuses for the winter break. HALO tests are approved for international travel for those who require a certified negative result. Details of how to book a test are available via the Rapid Response Hub web page.

Testing for staff

HALO testing is available for staff members who are travelling to a country or on a mode of transport where a certificate of a negative test is a requirement. Colleagues can book a test for this purpose by contacting the Rapid Response Hub.

Staff members with symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, can book a test at any time by contacting the Rapid Response Hub.

Testing during the closure period

From 18 December until 2 January our HALO testing facility will be closed.  For students who stay in their term-time accommodation over the winter break, and for University staff working to support campus operations over this period, testing will be made available through the national testing scheme, including on bank holidays. You can request a test and find your nearest testing centre online and if you test positive you should use our forms to notify the University and complete your period of self-isolation:

In addition, we have made a special, ‘by exception’ arrangement with HALO to ensure that people with symptoms of COVID-19 who need an emergency test during the closure period can get access to one, for example if it is absolutely impossible for them to get to a national testing centre, or if they have an unplanned, sudden requirement to travel overseas. Details of how to access a HALO test in emergencies will be available on the Rapid Response Hub web page during the closure period.

On-campus Research

We are reviewing the detail of our plans for the winter break period to confirm that our normal out-of-hours procedures and essential maintenance can be supported, ensuring the highest safety standards whilst recognising adjustments may be required for COVID-19 mitigations. Colleges and building coordinators have submitted plans to the Research Restart Panel for review, taking into account specific individual and group requirements, including those of our Postgraduate Research students and Early Career Researchers. We aim to share building plans with our research community early next week.

PGR students can continue their research under current arrangements until 22 December. The winter break arrangements for on-campus research will then be in place until 2 January. Full details of the services and support available on our campuses during the winter break will be shared shortly.

Staying safe if you are on campus during the winter break

We encourage all staff and students to download the ‘SafeZone’ smartphone app to help you stay safe on our Exeter and Penryn campuses if you are here during quiet periods – including the winter break. SafeZone offers a quick and easy way to alert the campus security team if you need help or assistance allowing you to send a location-based alert from your smartphone if you need an emergency response, first-aid or security assistance. SafeZone allows you to communicate with the security team via direct messaging and is accessible for everyone including those with hearing, speaking or visual impairments.

Staff travelling overseas during the winter break

Colleagues intending to travel overseas during the winter break should ensure that they are familiar with the current travel restrictions between the UK and their destination country, and should also make sure that they will be able to return to the University after the break. Some parts of the UK and some other countries may re-impose travel restrictions immediately after the New Year which may make it difficult to return.

If you are unable to return to the UK after a personal overseas trip then you may not legally be able to work remotely from outside the UK and you should make alternative arrangements to return to the UK at the earliest opportunity. If for any reason you find that your plans for returning to the UK are disrupted please advise your manager and complete the online Overseas Working Self-Reporting Form so that HR and your Director of College Operations/service Director can agree what action is necessary. For more information see www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/employment/globalmobility/   

If you are currently working outside the UK, please complete the online Overseas Working Self-Reporting Form at the earliest opportunity (unless HR have already acknowledged your circumstances).

Returning in January

As a reminder of our plan for teaching next term, as described in my message of Friday 4 December, last week we received guidance for students returning to university campuses from January 2021, and we set out our initial proposals, as follows.

Our examination period begins on 4 January and this year all our exams will be conducted online. We expect that most students who leave term-time accommodation for the winter break will choose to complete their exams away from campus. 

If you do not have a suitable space or the necessary facilities and equipment to complete your exams away from the University you can return to your term-time accommodation to complete your January examinations.

We will begin teaching on 11 January for all students. For most students, teaching will initially be online-only, consisting of a mix of live online teaching, seminars and tutorials as per your timetable. In line with the government’s guidance, the introduction of in-person teaching will be staggered between 11 January and the week beginning 1 February. By the week beginning 1 February we will have returned to our blended model of online and in-person teaching for all students.

Students who have travelled away for the winter break are being advised by government not to return to their term-time accommodation until their in-person teaching is scheduled to resume, and leaving enough time for two COVID-19 tests, as described below.

  • Those courses with placement or practical elements which cannot be delivered online will resume in-person teaching first, with most resuming from the week beginning 11 January. However, students should refer to their programme for individual arrangements
  • New Postgraduate Taught students will also begin their in-person teaching from the week beginning 11 January
  • Final year undergraduate students and returning Postgraduate Taught students will resume in-person teaching in the week beginning 25 January
  • All other Undergraduate students will resume in-person teaching in the week beginning 1 February
  • Postgraduate Research students can resume their research from 4 January, and details of the facilities available during the winter break will be shared next week

We will issue Term 2 timetables at the end of this week and these will indicate when each student should expect their in-person teaching to begin. Please pay very close attention to your timetable before making your plans to travel, which should also take account of the guidance on testing.

We will share further details over the coming days and weeks, so please remember to check your email and the COVID-19 website regularly.

Testing in January
Government recommends that all students should take two Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests, three days apart, before accessing shared teaching, study and social spaces. We will offer tests to all students in January and February and further details on how to book your tests will follow.

We advise you to allow enough time between arriving in your term-time accommodation and starting your in-person teaching sessions or using study or social spaces on campus to get two tests.

Testing will be critical for us to begin the Spring term safely and to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks.

We will make tests available for all students. Please look out for booking details and play your part by planning to get two tests before you return to in-person teaching or use study or social spaces on our campuses. This will protect you, those around you and our communities.

Stay connected
Over the next few weeks the Students’ Guild will be running lots of festive events and competitions for students to get involved in as part of their ‘Get Connected’ campaign, with an event or competition every day up until Christmas Day. From a Christmas ‘Bake Off’ to watching favourite Christmas films, there is lots of free, festive fun to be had. Stay up to date by joining the Get Connected Community Group, via the Get Connected website or by watching @exeterguild social media. You can also find out more when Liv Harvey, Vice-President Activities, takes over the University Instagram channel today.

The Students’ Union in Cornwall also have a great range of online events and activities running throughout the festive period, all organised by student-led groups. Check out their website and stay #SUTogetherWherever.

Finally

Today we reach a landmark in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, when the first people in the UK will begin to receive vaccinations to protect them against the disease. This is a day we have all waited for and the University will play its part in supporting the vaccination programme. However, for those in our community, the benefits that mass vaccination will bring will come in the future. For now we have a shared responsibility not to drop our guard and to continue to look after each other by following the COVID-19 guidelines.

I will update you again on Friday. In the meantime, I wish safe travels to those who are leaving our campuses this week, and please remember to pay special attention to your wellbeing, and that of those around you, wherever you may be.

Best wishes

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary