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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 23 October 2020

Dear Students and Colleagues,

Key points:

  • The number of Covid-19 cases in our university community continues to fall and today we are publishing a website with daily figures to track progress.
  • Our advice for students in Exeter remains not to meet indoors with students who are not part of your household for a further 7 days until 2nd November, and we hope that this will be the very final week that we need to do this. Although this will be dependent on the continued reduction in case numbers being maintained.
  • The Students’ Guild is already supporting all outdoor sports and they now hope to offer indoor sports from next week - as long as we are able to achieve public health sign off of our plans. You can also see current events on their Get Connected website. The Students’ Union and Athletics Union are also offering a wide range of activities for students to enjoy.
  • Please look out for each other too in your teams or in your accommodation and to speak only words of kindness as you may not know about personal difficulties colleagues and flatmates are facing. If you need any support at all please reach out to our wellbeing services for staff and students.

Full message:

Update on cases and Covid-19 measures

As we approach the half way point in the first term I just want to give my thanks again for all the hard work, patience and resilience you have shown in difficult circumstances.

I hope you also appreciate the challenges we are continuing to overcome as we strive to deliver the highest quality education and research that we possibly can during the Covid-19 global pandemic. We take into consideration each week the wide range of views and advice, particularly on education, to balance the requirements of students, staff, the government, trade unions, public health experts and our wider community to name a few. We know not everyone agrees with the line we are walking but our focus remains to do the very best for our students, staff and the whole community.

As you know from my regular communications over the past few weeks we have been proactively managing a Covid-19 outbreak amongst our students in Exeter and through the actions we have taken together we are now seeing a significant decline in the number of new positive cases. The success so far has been down to comprehensive testing, tracing and people taking the necessary actions. It is vital that we stick to this plan so if you have symptoms then please get a test and isolate for the sake of everyone in our community.

From today we are able to publish on our website the headcount of new positive cases in our university community over the last 7 days and we will update this daily so you can track progress. This needs to be considered alongside the official published data – for reasons explained on our website the data is not directly comparable. There remain only a few cases linked to our Cornwall campus and no increase in staff cases.  

However, as I said earlier this week we must not be complacent. We can expect to see further spikes and challenges and the best thing we can all do is take personal and collective responsibility for preventing the spread of the virus. We have done well to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in teaching spaces and this week we have produced a video as a reminder of the core safety measures.

For students in Exeter our advice remains not to meet indoors with students who are not part of your household for a further 7 days until 2nd November, and we hope that this will be the very final week that we need to do this. Although this will be dependent on the continued reduction in case numbers being maintained.

As per my message on Tuesday the best option is to stay at the University this term. If you can avoid travelling to areas that are at higher risk levels than Devon and Cornwall then again that will help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our local communities. For all the latest guidance and rules visit the government website. Bringing the number of Covid-19 cases down to very low levels is in our gift and the rewards and additional freedoms can be great, including more teaching on campus in November and December as well as social activities.    

Student and staff wellbeing

A good example of additional relaxation of restrictions is the fact that while the Students’ Guild is already supporting all outdoor sports and they now hope to offer indoor sports from next week - as long as we are able to achieve public health sign off of our plans. They have already launched their Get Connected campaign to bring people together with events such as comedy night tonight and a Murder Mystery Night for Halloween. The Students’ Union and Athletics Union are also offering a wide range of activities for students to enjoy.

It is vital that all of us find a sense of joy and peace in these challenging times. We remain concerned about student wellbeing and equally the wellbeing of staff who have been under enormous strain in recent months whether in a professional service or academic role. Lisa Roberts, our Vice-Chancellor announced in her staff talk yesterday some additional measures to aid rest and wellbeing but we welcome further feedback on what more we can do support colleagues in what has felt like a tidal wave of additional work.

I urge you to look out for each other too in your teams or in your accommodation and to speak only words of kindness as you may not know about personal difficulties colleagues and flatmates are facing. If you need any support at all please reach out to our wellbeing services for staff and students. I welcome all feedback on the services and support we provide.

I hope you have a restful and enjoyable weekend.  

Best

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary