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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 27 October 2020

Dear Colleagues and Students

Key Points

  • Case numbers in Exeter continue to decrease, and remain very low in Cornwall.
  • We continue to review the restriction on student households in Exeter mixing and will update later this week.
  • As we spend more time online, it is vital that we are all aware of the associated risks so we can protect ourselves and our community. The full message links to a range of helpful resources. 

Full message

Thank you once again for your continued collective actions to protect our community from the spread of COVID-19. Once again the official figures have shown a decrease in the number of cases at the University.

The latest Devon County Council (DCC) data is up to 24 October 2020 and shows that there have been 512 cases in the last week for Devon and 241 cases in the last week for Cornwall, with no deaths in either county. Note that these figures do not include Plymouth or Torbay.

The DCC website provides data for Exeter which has recorded 177 of the cases in Devon over the last week. By working with our Public Health England (PHE) colleagues we know that around 40% of those cases are attributable to the University, which is a significantly lower proportion than over recent weeks. There remain very few cases linked to our Cornwall campus. We have had one new positive case amongst University staff, relating to a colleague who has not been to campus for several months.

We are now publishing a daily update of new positive cases in the University community on our COVID-19 statistics webpage. This should be viewed alongside the official published data – for reasons explained on our website the data is not directly comparable.

I said last week that if we saw a continued reduction in case numbers then we would hope to be able to relax our advice on students in Exeter meeting indoors with those who are not part of their household. We are reviewing this as the week goes on and I will update you in my message on Friday.

Staying safe online

As so many aspects of our personal and University lives have moved online over recent months, we all need to pay extra attention to additional risks that this can pose. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the resources that are available to make sure you can make connections and undertake your online work as safely as possible. 

The University offers specific advice on staying safe on-line and dealing with social media and online abuse or harassment on the Exeter Speaks Out webpages. The University does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and if you've experienced or witnessed such abuse we encourage you to report it and to get the support you might need.

It is also important for all of us to be aware of the risks posed by ‘negative influencers’ and online groomers, who have sought to exploit the increase in online activity associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by using social media and online gaming to spread extremist ideas and draw people towards their ideologies. This is rare, but it can happen slowly and subtly, and it’s vital to be able to recognise when this may be happening.

The Let’s Talk About It webpage has some useful guidance on how to stay safe online, particularly in the context of COVID-19 social distancing and self-isolation. This includes advice on sharing information and checking the information that you are receiving, alongside insights into the key signs that an individual may be vulnerable or being taken advantage of.  This can help you to recognise that someone you know may need support, or to identify if you yourself are being targeted.

The University has a support process in place, and guidance on what to do if you are concerned about someone you know. Please be assured that a referral in to the University process is confidential and can be the first step to obtaining support for someone who needs it.

In a university setting, some individuals may have a genuine academic need to access information that could be construed as illegal, raise suspicion of criminality, or potentially be in breach of the regulations relating to the use of IT facilities. The University has a code of conduct for this situation, and which is designed to aid and protect such academic research as far as possible. It’s important that you follow this process if you are in this situation, as this will ensure that the University is aware of and can support your activity should an investigation be triggered.

Our online lives give us access to limitless information and connect us with a vast digital community. However, just as we have done with COVID-19, we must all take responsibility for understanding the risks and for pulling together as a community to support those who are most vulnerable.

Best wishes

Mike Shore-Nye

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary