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COVID-19 update for staff - 21 January 2022

Dear Colleagues,

This is an update following the latest announcement from the Prime Minister on Wednesday that the ‘Plan B’ measuresintroduced to combat the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will stop. These measures include the end of mandatory mask wearing, as well as changes to working from home guidance which will come into effect next week.

We have received updated guidance from the Department for Education and we now have a clearer understanding of how these changes impact the University, and I have outlined this detail below.

Key changes

  • Face coverings are no longer a legal requirement in teaching settings, and from 27 January, will no longer be mandatory in communal spaces. However, we continue to strongly advise the wearing of face coverings in all shared indoor areas, including teaching spaces on our campuses.
  • Measures in our teaching rooms remain and colleagues should continue to use the 2m teaching zone, ensure windows are kept open and continue to wear a face covering.
  • The Government is no longer asking people to work from home. However, local case numbers remain high, and the University will therefore take a cautious approach to more colleagues returning to work on campus.
  • The emergency leave allowance will be extended until April 2022.
  • Self-isolation is still required for anyone testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Vaccination clinics are taking place at St Luke’s, Penryn and Streatham next week and through January and February.
  • Remember to keep testing regularly as this remains a crucial way to keep our community safe.

Continue to wear your face covering

The Department for Education has outlined that face coverings are no longer mandated in teaching settings, and from Thursday 27 January, the use of face coverings in communal areas will no longer be a legal requirement. However, to help reduce the likelihood of transmission, we continue to strongly advise the wearing of face coverings in all shared indoor spaces, including teaching rooms. Please follow this advice - case numbers remain high in our local communities and we must all take responsibility for keeping ourselves and those around us safe from COVID-19.

Free disposable face coverings will continue to be available at face covering stations across our campuses, and colleagues and students can choose to wear reusable or disposable face coverings.

We will keep this under continuous review and will be led by our Public Health partners in Devon and Cornwall. Should they require additional measures to be taken to further slow the spread of COVID-19 amongst our community, or in a particular setting, we will take all necessary steps.

For colleagues accessing NHS spaces or working in specialist healthcare settings that may have specific requirements, please continue to follow local policy on the wearing of face coverings.

The more we can work together to reduce COVID-19 infections, the less our lives at the University will be disrupted by illness and self-isolation periods affecting our ability to teach in-person, undertake research and maintain services and operations across our campuses. Wearing a face covering in indoor spaces is a key way in which you can protect yourself and those around you, and to show compassion for everyone in our community.

Measures on campus and in our teaching spaces

The measures in place across our campuses and in our teaching spaces will continue and should be adhered to at all times. These measures are outlined below and can also be found in more detail on our ‘use of spaces’ website.

  • Hand sanitiser stations remain in place across our campuses
  • 2m teaching zone remains in teaching spaces
  • Cleaning stations provided in teaching spaces
  • Access to free on-campus COVID 19 tests for those with and without symptoms
  • Ventilation requirements and signage remain in place
  • Enhanced touch point cleaning will continue
  • Vaccination clinics will continue to take place across campuses
  • Free disposable face coverings are available to all staff and students

Working from home

The Government has also announced the end of their advice to work from home wherever possible, with immediate effect. Building on our previous experience, and acknowledging that local case numbers remain high, we will manage a return to on-campus working for more colleagues in a gradual and phased way.

This means that for colleagues who are currently still working from home, discussions with managers should start to take place about when and how you will return to campus to work. Managers should also identify any individual circumstances where colleagues may require additional support.

We should also recognise that for colleagues already working on campus, an increase in campus numbers may cause some concerns. This is why it is essential that we all continue to adhere to the measures in place to reduce transmission and to continue to work as a community to support each other with this transition.

Guidance for managers, including a 10-step process to work through, is available online. This should then be shared with Service Directors or College Pro-Vice Chancellors to ensure there is a consistent and equal approach across the Service and/or College.

If you have a health condition or another factor that makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19, there is guidance available on our website, and you should continue to speak to your manager who can support you.

To be clear, we do not expect significant changes in working patterns from next week. You should work with your teams and managers to plan any return to on-campus working, and consider the best option for your team and you personally.

Emergency leave arrangements

At the beginning of the pandemic we introduced a temporary increase in our emergency leave allowance to 10 days, to recognise the impact that COVID-19 was having on working parents and carers. This has been regularly reviewed. We recognise that with case number still high in our region, many families and carers are still experiencing significant disruption due to illness and self-isolation periods. We have therefore agreed to extend the increased emergency allowance until the end of April 2022, which will offer additional support through to the end of the school term in Devon and Cornwall.

Self-isolation and testing – a reminder of the rules

Last week, the Government announced changes to the rules on self-isolation. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you will only need to self-isolate for five full days, as long as you have a negative LFD test on day five and day six of your isolation. You can read this guidance in full in my previous email. Please ensure you follow these rules and if you leave isolation early, continue to follow these measures to reduce the possibility of transmission:

  • wear a face covering
  • limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces
  • work from home if you can do so
  • minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19

Please note there is additional guidance for those working in health and social care settings.

In addition, under the latest Government guidance, anyone who has a positive LFD test result will no longer need to take a follow-up PCR test as long as they are displaying no symptoms. You must still report your test result on gov.uk and self-isolate immediately,

If you have COVID-19 symptoms you must self-isolate immediately and take a PCR test. You can take a PCR test on campus – find out how to do this here.

Vaccination clinics

A reminder that we are continuing to hold vaccination clinics in Exeter and Penryn. The clinics (listed below) will be providing first and second doses as well as booster jabs for anyone that is eligible.

It’s really important to get your booster vaccination because two doses won’t give you maximum protection from the Omicron variant. More information on vaccinations can be found on our website.

St Luke’s, main car park – no booking required:

  • Tuesday 25 January, 10-4pm

Penryn Campus, Ground Floor Exchange – book a vaccination slot

  • Tuesday 25 January, 10-3pm

Streatham Campus – no booking required:

  • Monday 24 January, 10-4pm, Forum Piazza
  • Friday 28 January, 10-4pm, Forum Piazza
  • Monday 7 February, 11-5pm, Innovation Centre
  • Monday 28 February, 11-5pm, Innovation Centre

Keep testing regularly

It remains really important to keep testing regularly to help stop transmission of the virus. Our Assisted LFD Testing Sites remain open throughout January on our Exeter campuses. If you would like an assisted test, please visit our test centres below:

  • Streatham Campus, Car Park B, Monday-Friday 8-3pm
  • St Luke’s Campus, Baring Court, Mondays and Thursdays, 8-11am

We also have collections points across our campuses in Exeter and Penryn, where you can pick up an LFD home test kit to keep testing yourself in your own home. Please ensure you check the instructions carefully and report your results.

Your wellbeing

As restrictions begin to ease once again, I know this may cause concern for some and it is important that we remember that everyone’s circumstances are different. Please look after yourselves and look out for each other. Our wellbeing support is available for you if and when you need it.

All the best,

Mike

 

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary