Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 16 October 2020
Dear Colleagues and Students,
- The number of positive cases in Exeter over the past 7 days have declined but continued vigilance is needed
- We are extending the request to Exeter-based students not to mix households indoors for a further 7 days, until 26 October
- The Students’ Guild and Students’ Union are beginning the phased reintroduction of COVID-safe student sports and society events
- We await further details on the Government’s plans for students returning home at Christmas and we will do everything possible to ensure everyone can enjoy a restful festive period with loved ones at the end of this exceptionally challenging year.
At the end of a week which has seen the Government introduce a new three-tier system of COVID restrictions, I want to thank you once again for your collective efforts to minimise the spread of the infection. We know from our close working with Public Health England (PHE) that the measures we have introduced and the fact that our colleagues and students have responded so well have been a major factor in our regions being placed in the ‘medium’ (lowest) rather than ‘high’ risk level with no further restrictions introduced at this time.
We also know that this is a fragile position and that we must remain steadfast in our commitment to prevent the virus spreading. The latest Devon County Council COVID-19 dashboard, dated 14 October, shows that there were 262 positive cases in Exeter over the preceding 7 days, and PHE tell us that more than 70% of these are linked to the University. We also know that in the 7 days up to 13 October there were fewer than five cases related to our Cornwall Campus. We have seen no increase in the small number of staff cases.
The case numbers related to our campuses in Exeter have fallen over the past 7 days. We continue to discuss the data and the underlying picture with our PHE colleagues and we are hopeful that we now see signs that the numbers of cases are no longer rising. This is due to the efforts of all of you in adhering to the guidelines and in doing so showing respect and compassion for all members of our local communities.
These are very early signs, and for this reason I am once again asking students based in Exeter to continue not to meet indoors with students who are not part of your household for a further 7 days, until 26th October.
If we can establish a clear trend in the reduction of cases associated with the University then we can hope to reduce these restrictions and increase the amount of teaching and activities we are able to deliver on campus. To achieve this we must all continue to follow the COVID-19 rules.
For us to be able to control the spread of the infection, it is absolutely vital that we continue to test. No matter how mild your symptoms, if you have a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss of taste/smell, you must contact the Rapid Response Hub to request a test. The process is quick, easy and efficient and it ensures we can get you the support you need, and protect the health of our community.
Sports and Events
This week, in recognition of the low number of cases attributed to our Cornwall Campus, the Students’ Union have been able to begin the phased reintroduction of COVID-safe, in-person student society events. We are working with the Students’ Guild and Athletic Union to begin the reintroduction of COVID-safe indoor sports activities next week, if we see no evidence of an increase in positive cases. We are also asking students not to join sports teams based in the community at this time, to further reduce the risk of community transmission.
The Government has restated its commitment to ensure that all students who wish to do so will be able to safely return home at Christmas. We await full details of these plans. We are contributing to the consultation via the Russell Group and Universities UK and will keep you updated. We will do everything we possibly can to ensure colleagues and students can enjoy a restful festive period with loved ones at the end of this exceptionally challenging year.
Finally, we will all be aware of the more restrictive measures being placed on some other areas of the country as they move into higher tiers. We must all continue to play our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Devon and Cornwall, by following the guidelines at all times, washing our hands, covering our face and giving each other space.
Let me wish you all a restful weekend. I will update you again next week.
Registrar and Secretary