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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff - 24 March 2021

Dear Colleagues

Key points

  • This week marks one year since the first period of lockdown began
  • It is vital that we continue to observe COVID-19 hygiene and safety measures to ensure we can continue to progress towards the further easing of restrictions
  • A ‘travel window’ has been created to allow students to travel away from university and back once during the spring break
  • Postgraduate Research students will be able to access research spaces throughout the spring break
  • If you are working alone or in a high risk area we encourage you to download the SafeZone app, particularly during the Easter break when campus will be quieter
  • COVID-19 case numbers remain low on our campuses and across the region
  • There will be additional lifting of restrictions from 29 March
  • We have published a roadmap for sustaining our research activity over the coming months
  • Please continue to be mindful of your wellbeing, and to reach out for support if you have been affected or impacted by recent announcements
  • Congratulations to Maia Thomas on the success of the ‘Feed Our Community’ scheme!
  • This will be the last weekly update until the Summer Term. However, we will update you if there are important announcements during the next few weeks

Full message

This week marks twelve months since the UK entered its first period of lockdown. For most of us this will have been the most challenging year we have lived through, whether due to disruption to our working lives, uncertainty in our personal lives or the ever-present concern and worry for our loved ones and those around us. We have all faced difficult days, weeks and months and, sadly, some of us have lost friends and family members.

Throughout this time, I have been humbled and inspired by the way the University of Exeter community have pulled together to support each other. We have developed new ways of working, created COVID-19 safe teaching and research spaces, established a program of testing and engaged in our thousands to play our part and keep each other safe. I cannot let this moment pass without once again thanking you all for your extraordinary efforts.

Now, as the vaccination program progresses, as case numbers continue to fall and as the days grow longer, we can hope to progress towards reversing the restrictions we have lived with these last few months, and to a return to something more akin to normal life. To get there, we must continue to abide by the guidelines, and in doing so, to protect each other, as we have done with such commitment over the past twelve months.

Student travel during the spring break

A ‘travel window’ has been created to allow students to travel away from university and back to their term-time accommodation once during their spring break. This includes international students who are allowed to travel overseas in order to return home during this time.  At the University, the spring break runs from Friday 26 March until Monday 26 April.

Although the travel window is in place, the Government is still strongly advising students to remain in their term-time accommodation wherever possible, especially those students who have returned to resume in-person teaching from 8 March, in order to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 through travel.

Postgraduate Research (PGR) students

PGR students will be able to continue to access research spaces (as approved through Research Restart) and study spaces during the Easter period.  This includes the University closure days (2-7 April). Whilst we strongly encourage all of our colleagues, including our postgraduate research students, to a take a well-earned break over this period, we recognise that some essential activities will need to be maintained, and that some PGRs will wish to continue to make use of campus facilities. Approved/booked access during this period will continue through swipe and/or PIN access.

On-campus working during the spring break

Many colleagues will continue to work on our campuses in critical roles over the spring break. Your safety is our priority so please consider downloading and using the SafeZone app, particularly as our campuses will be quieter during the closure dates.

SafeZone can register your location so, in the event of an emergency, we’ll be able to keep you updated. SafeZone can also be used to request help should you need it. Please note, SafeZone is not part of a ‘Track and Trace’ system at Exeter, nor is it a way of monitoring who is on campus, and you are not visible on the system unless you call for help or do not log out at your predetermined time.

If you would like to find out what is open on campus during the Easter Break, please visit our Campus Activity planner.

COVID-19 case numbers

The overall rate of positive results on our campuses and across the region remains low. The daily numbers of confirmed positive cases for students and staff can be found on our COVID-19 statistics web page. Data is available up to 20 March when the 7 day rolling daily average of positive cases was 1.3.

Further easing of restrictions and restarting activities

From Monday 29 March outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the “Rule of 6”) or 2 households will be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside. Social distancing should still strictly be observed between members of different households.

Please be mindful of the concerns that can be caused by apparently large gatherings, and consider how you can minimise these. Equally, we should all recognise that some households can be large, and gatherings between two households, regardless of the size of each household, are safe and permitted within the restrictions. We know how hard students and colleagues have worked to comply with the COVID-19 guidelines throughout the last year and this moment is no different.

The ‘stay at home’ rule will end on 29 March, but many restrictions will remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible.

Additional restrictions may be lifted, no earlier than 12 April, depending on continued progress to drive down the spread of COVID-19.

In line with the lifting of restrictions, a small number of outdoor sport and social activities will resume from Monday 29 March. You can find these listed alongside the opening of facilities and services during the spring break, on our website.

Research roadmap

Following the Government roadmap for recovery, we have mapped out plans for sustaining our research accordingly, and created a high level roadmap for research at Exeter which is available online. This is intended to guide and support staff and PGR students in planning their research over the coming months. Please note that plans will be adapted as necessary in line with any government guideline changes or institutional policies.

Your wellbeing

This week we have shared information regarding two serious assaults which are being investigated by Devon and Cornwall Police. This will have been distressing and concerning for everyone within our community. We must continue to support each other and work to keep all members of our community safe and feeling safe and to change the misogyny and violence against women which is a daily reality for women and girls in our society. We will be participating in further dialogue across our community and with our partners over the coming weeks and months as we work together on this issue.

If you are affected or worried by these reports, then please reach out for support; you can access our Exeter Speaks Out web pages as well as our wellbeing support for students and staff or the Students’ Guild Advice Service or the Students’ Union Advice Service.

Supporting our communities

I know many of you will have seen University of Exeter student Maia Thomas make the news this week, talking about the ‘Feed Our Community’ scheme she set up in the midst of the pandemic to deliver food and emergency supplies to people in need. You can read the full story on the BBC website. I’d like to add my voice to those congratulating Maia on the success of the scheme and for epitomising the community spirit that our students and colleagues have shown right throughout the last year. We’re all proud of you at Exeter Maia.

Further updates

Finally, we will be pausing these weekly updates during the spring break, but we will update you if there are any significant announcements of updates before the start of the Summer Term. In the meantime, I wish you all a restful break when it comes.

Best wishes



Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary