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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 18 December 2020

Dear colleagues and students

Key Points

  • This is the final update until the week beginning 4 January, 2021
  • We are offering free tests to all students, including postgraduate researchers, between 4 January and 5 February. Details are on our websites, including how to book your tests
  • Additionally our HALO tests have been approved for ‘test to release’ which can reduce the time in self-isolation for those arriving from outside the UK
  • Details on how to get a COVID-19 test over the closure period are on the Rapid Response Hub website
  • Plans for research during the winter break have been agreed and study spaces will be available for postgraduate researchers
  • Parents whose ability to work may be affected by the staggered return to secondary schools should discuss with their line manager
  • For colleagues, we hope that the period from 4 – 15 January can be an ‘email and meetings lite’ fortnight
  • Our Vice-Chancellor has shared ‘thank you’ videos for our students and colleagues, and I would like to add my own thanks for everything everyone has done for the University and for each other this term

Full message

This will be my last update of the year. I hope that as you read it you are preparing for what will be a restful and well deserved break.

In 2020 we have done a great deal together to control and reduce the spread of COVID-19 within our communities and I am immensely proud of the way we have faced this challenge. When we return in 2021 the challenge will remain and we must be ready to redouble our efforts.

Today’s message has important information regarding January testing, to allow us to identify any positive COVID-19 cases and to support those affected to self-isolate, and in so doing, to keep each other safe.

Testing in January

We are offering free tests to all students, including postgraduate researchers, between 4 January and 5 February 2021, using our existing test centres on the Streatham and Penryn campuses. We recommend that all students book tests over the next two weeks for when they arrive in their term-time accommodation and before starting any in-person teaching, or using study or social spaces on our campuses.

Our website has all the information you will need, including links to book your tests. Please read the information carefully and follow the instructions to book a test, depending on whether you are:

  • Arriving from the UK
  • Arriving from overseas
  • Remaining in your term-time accommodation throughout the winter break

It is essential that you allow enough time to take your test(s) before your in-person teaching begins or you need to use our campus study or social spaces. Timetables have now been updated to indicate when each student’s in-person teaching will begin.

You should book your test to be taken as soon as possible after you arrive at your accommodation.  If your preferred slot is not available choose one as close as possible to your arrival time and try to keep away from other people. Only by testing can we identify those who are positive and support them to isolate, and this is how we can keep each other safe, avoid further outbreaks and find ways to return to a more normal University life. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days, there is no need for you to take another test.

We await further guidance from government concerning plans for staff testing in January and we will update colleagues when we can.

Test to Release

The University’s testing partner, HALO, has become an approved supplier under the Government’s new ‘Test to Release’ scheme. This scheme is designed to help shorten the self-isolation period for anyone arriving in the UK from a location not on the travel corridor list.

The University will be offering testing under the new scheme at our campus test centres from 3 January. You can book a test using this form.

The earliest you can take the test is 5 full days after you left a place not on the travel corridor list. Your test will need to be booked prior to travelling back to the UK and you will be required to record this test booking on your passenger locator form.

If you require your ‘Test to Release’ before 3 January, you can access a test from any private supplier on the Government list. More information can be found in the FAQs on this web page. If your test will be after 3 January, you can book a test now.

COVID-19 testing over the winter break

Our HALO PCR testing facilities will close today, re-opening on 3 January.

If you need to take a test for international travel within this period, and you have collected a HALO test to use for this purpose, please remember that turnaround times are likely to be significantly affected by postal services delays and bank holidays over the Christmas period, so please make sure you plan accordingly.

The ‘Test and Rest’ service is also available if you would prefer to book an airport hotel stay and test in one package.

Full details on how to access a test during the winter break can be found on our Rapid Response Hub page:

Research during the winter break

Plans for research during the winter break for colleagues and postgraduate students have been agreed with Colleges and essential services. These build upon the out-of-hours operational models which would normally be in place during the winter break, which have been updated to reflect the need to maintain the highest safety standards, and recognising adjustments that individual members of our community may need. Colleges have gathered local requirements and will communicate the agreed arrangements to their communities. Unless a member of staff or postgraduate student has been given explicit permission to use facilities and offices, you should not come onto campus to use those facilities.

Postgraduate research students are reminded that study spaces will be available during the winter break in the Library in the Forum in Exeter, and in the Library or Exchange in Penryn (opening hours/days may vary from normal term-time provision).

Opening times and details of how to access facilities and support during the winter break can be found on our student web pages:

Staggered return for secondary schools

Yesterday the government announced a staggered return to the spring term for secondary schools in England, beginning in the week of 4 January, 2021. In this week, children in non-exam year groups will be learning online at home with face-to-face education in school resuming on 11 January. We appreciate this may impact on some colleagues who are scheduled to work on campus in week-commencing 4 January 2021. If you are unable to arrange supervision for your children, please speak to your line manager at the earliest opportunity to discuss how we can support you. If you are unable to work at home, emergency leave may be appropriate. See the ‘Working Here’ website for more information.

Your questions answered

At my most recent staff talk I answered a number of questions on COVID-19 and lots of other topics. Answers to the questions I was not able to get to in the limited time available have now been posted for colleagues, along with a recording of the talk, on our Staff Talks webpage.

Staff and student wellbeing

Throughout this term, your wellbeing has been our highest priority. As we wind down for the winter break and think about next term, we will continue to look for ways to support you.

For students, we will continue to look carefully at the local restrictions in place and where possible, working with the Students’ Union, Students’ Guild and Athletic Union, we will seek to allow the reintroduction of sports and society activities where these can be done safely.

Many colleagues told us that they had benefitted from the ‘email lite’ week we had earlier in the term. As the Vice Chancellor confirmed in her all staff talk yesterday, we would like to repeat this by asking colleagues to consider holding an ‘email and meeting lite’ fortnight where possible from Monday 4 to Friday 15 January. We have also worked in consultation with colleagues to develop an Email Charter, introducing some ways through which we can all help each other to keep email under control.

Finally, so many colleagues commented on how touched they were to see the ‘Thank You’ video from the Students’ Guild. Today I would like to share a message to our students from our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lisa Roberts. Colleagues will also have received a ‘Seasons’ Greetings’ message this morning from the Vice-Chancellor with her message to staff. I would like to add my own voice to Lisa’s to say an enormous ‘thank you’ to you all for everything you have done this year, for each other and for the University. Thank you also to those who will be working over the winter break, looking after our students and keeping our campuses safe and secure.

This has been a term like no other, and the way we have all pulled together to support each other has been humbling and inspirational. I wish you all a peaceful and happy break, and I will see you all again in the New Year.

Best wishes



Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary