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COVID-19 update for staff - 10 December 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Key points

  • From Monday, colleagues not critical to the delivery of teaching, research and support of students and staff on our campuses, should work from home where possible – managers should discuss this with staff.
  • Guidance for clinically vulnerable colleagues states that shielding is not a requirement due to the successful vaccine rollout.
  • Face coverings – updated guidance
  • Self-isolation rules currently remain the same for the Omicron variant.
  • Planning continues for in-person teaching in the new term.
  • Examinations will take place as planned
  • Graduation will continue as planned.

I am writing to you with an update following the Government announcement on Wednesday that COVID-19 Plan B measures are being introduced in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

In addition to the measures announced by the Prime Minister, we have now received specific guidance for Higher Education, and this is outlined in detail below.

We are continuing to review our measures and will update you with any changes as soon as possible. Please look after yourselves and each other, and if you need any support, please speak to your line manager and visit our wellbeing support pages.

Working from home

From Monday 13 December, the Government requires all colleagues who are able to work from home, should. However, as a Higher Education provider, we are expected to continue to provide in-person teaching, and academics and postgraduate research students, research and support services (such as Technical Services, Hubs, Wellbeing, Libraries) and colleagues who directly support the students and staff who are on our campuses, including in accommodation, estates, sports and facilities, should continue to work on campus.

Colleagues who undertake office-based working that does not fall into the categories above, are asked to work from home after a discussion with their line manager. Where colleagues are unable to work from home due to individual circumstances, staff will continue to be supported to work on our campuses.

Managers should support colleagues to work from home wherever possible including, ensure they have access to relevant equipment. Managers should also continue to have regular 1:1 meetings and ensure colleagues are aware of the wellbeing support that is available to them if needed. A home working prompt list is available to ensure other impacts of home working are considered

As, for the majority of students, the term ends today, Friday, 10December, it may be possible for some operational services to further decrease their proportion of on campus working during the winter break period, returning in January for the start of term. I would ask the college and service senior leadership teams to ensure this is carefully considered and that colleagues are clear on any changes.

Please also note, that services and colleges with teams working on campus are expected to have a leadership and management presence on site to provide support to those teams.

If there is still a Government requirement to work from home in the New Year, the number of services needed on campus to support the return of students alongside staff undertaking teaching and research, will increase. I will circulate an update on this as soon as early as possible.

If you are working on our campuses, you must abide by the guidance on face-coverings, and regularly take LFD tests, including before coming to campus and continue to use the QR codes to check in at locations when you are on campus.

If you have any concerns about working from home, or you are unsure whether you are required to continue working on campus, please discuss this with your line manager as soon as possible.

Advice for clinically vulnerable individuals

Due to the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, anyone who is vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), and high or higher risk is not being advised to shield again. There may be some circumstances where individuals have received personal advice on additional precautions from their doctor – if this applies to you, you should continue to follow that advice and discuss with your manager where required.

Face-coverings update

From today, Friday 10 December, face coverings are a legal requirement in most indoor settings.  Unless exempt, all colleagues and students must wear a face covering in shared spaces inside all buildings including all teaching rooms, laboratories, meeting rooms, libraries, study spaces, marquees and communal areas.

If your role is critical to the delivery of teaching, research and the support of students, and you are remaining on campus to work, please ensure you wear a face covering in shared offices unless you are a safe distance from other occupants. You do not need to wear a face covering in individual offices but if you are moving around your building or other campus buildings, please put one on. Ventilation and cleaning practices must be maintained at all times.

You are also be required to wear a face covering in communal areas in student accommodation - receptions, laundries, utility rooms, and in areas including sport centre reception areas, changing rooms and spectator areas. Face coverings do not need to be worn when outdoors. Please use a re-usable face covering. If you forget or lose your covering, you can collect a disposable face covering from the stations around our campuses.

Changes to self-isolation rules

Anyone who has been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status and age, will continue to be required to self-isolate and asked to book a PCR test. You will be informed by the local Health Protection Team or NHS Test and Trace if you fall into this category and will be provided with details about your self-isolation. If you are contacted, please report this to the Rapid Response Hub.

The Government is planning to introduce daily testing as an alternative to self-isolation for contacts of positive Omicron cases who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and 6 months. We await further detail on the planned introduction of this alternative and will update colleagues as soon as possible.

Winter Graduation update

Our Winter Graduation ceremonies are going ahead today and I would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation of these. We have introduced further measures to ensure these ceremonies can take place, safely, including the new instruction that graduates are now required to keep their face covering on at all times, including whilst crossing the stage to greet the Vice-Chancellor.

Regular testing must continue

Colleagues and students should continue to LFD test twice a week, every week at home, using home testing kits, or by using our assisted testing centre in Car Park B, Streatham Campus (available until 23 December).

Please test before you travel and please continue to test regularly over the winter break. You should also plan to test before your return to campus after the winter break.

It is very important that test results are reported online to NHS Test and Trace whether positive, negative or void. Reporting results helps the NHS monitor the spread of the virus, combat the virus and save lives.

If you receive a positive LFD test result, you should self-isolate and take a free PCR test – you can do this at our campus test centre on Streatham, until Thursday 23 December (reopening 4 January), or using delivery of PCR tests within a five mile radius of Penryn Campus. You can also order a PCR test via the Government website or book to attend an NHS testing centre.  You must continue to self-isolate whilst you wait for your PCR test result.

Please ensure you let us know your results via our online results form:

If your result is negative, you’re free to come out of self-isolation. If you are positive, you will need to continue self-isolating for 10 days.

Visitors to campus - testing

Please ensure that if you are inviting a visitor or contractor to our campuses, you request that they take an LFD test prior to their arrival.

Returning to University in January

We continue to plan for the start of Term 2 and the continuation of in-person teaching.  If Plan B measures remain in place, many colleagues will remain working from home with the exception of anyone critical to the delivery of teaching, research and the support of students and staff on our campuses. Should guidance change during the winter break, we will update colleagues and students as quickly as possible via the channels outlined below.

COVID Certification (NHS COVID Pass)

From Wednesday 13 December, certain types of events will be required to check COVID passes. Higher Education providers are not required to use the NHS COVID Pass, unless they are holding a specific event (such as a reception, concert or party) that meets the attendance limits. We are in the process of developing a policy on this and I will update further once this is in place.

Examinations

Exams and formal assessments will go ahead as planned in January as they are currently timetabled and students should continue to prepare for these. We will continue to monitor any changes to guidance over the winter break and update colleagues and students before the start of term where required via email, and if necessary using our emergency text system (SafeZone) to advise that an update has been circulated.

Further information

We must continue working together to protect our University community, as well as our loved ones. Please abide by the measures outline above and if you have any concerns, speak to your line manager.

Further updates will be available via the Weekly Bulletin and I will email again following any changes or updates to the guidance.

Information is also available on our COVID-19 website.

Best
Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary