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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff – 28 April 2021

Dear Colleagues

Key Points

  • Our Summer Term has begun, and it remains vital that we abide by the COVID-19 restrictions to enable further easing of restrictions
  • COVID-19 case numbers on our campuses are low, with a 7-day rolling average of 0.0 cases
  • It remains critical that everyone returning to campuses gets tested as soon as possible after returning to the University and then regularly twice a week, every week
  • We should all follow the Government guidance on travelling safely
  • We have shared guidance to support those who are resuming face-to-face tutorial sessions with their students
  • Cyber-security is a high priority as we continue to work and study online
  • As restrictions ease our feelings may change. Remember, you can access a wide range of wellbeing information, tools and support

Full message

Our Summer Term began this week and I hope that you were able to take some time to rest and relax and to connect with friends or loved ones over the break. This week sees the beginning of exams for many of our students and I would like to say a huge thank you to the many colleagues who have prepared and supported our assessments this year.

My message for this term is simple. We must continue to abide by the COVID-19 restrictions that are in place, to follow the simple hygiene measures that we have all become used to – HANDS. FACE. SPACE. FRESH AIR – and to engage with regular weekly testing and the national vaccination programme when we have the opportunity to.

Only through doing these things can we play our part in ensuring that restrictions can be further relaxed and we can return to doing many of the things we have been unable to for the last year. We hope that this will include the return to some in-person teaching of all remaining students after 17 May. We know that this decision will be based on the data, including on infection levels, testing rates and the uptake of vaccinations. We await further Government guidance and we will share any announcement with you as soon as we have it.

We are currently developing our plans to enable a further managed and COVID-19 secure return to work on our campuses for more of our colleagues. We will share more details of our approach with you all over the next few weeks.

Finally, we have all seen the news from India, where COVID-19 has surged and is having a devastating impact. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our colleagues and students in India, and those with families and friends who are affected. We know this is a difficult time for students and colleagues who are here in the UK, away from their loved ones. If you have been impacted or affected by the situation in India or any of the many countries around the world where COVID-19 is causing such distress, then please remember that you can reach out for support from our wellbeing teams.

COVID-19 case numbers

The overall rate of positive results on our campuses and across the region is currently very 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 25 April, at which time we had recorded no positive cases during the preceding 7 days, making the 7 day rolling daily average of positive cases 0.0.

Returning to campus? Get COVID-19 tested to keep everyone safe

It remains vital that everyone returning to campus, gets tested as soon as possible and then regularly twice a week, every week. It’s even more important now because we’ve worked so hard together to control and minimise transmission in our University community and we want to ensure this continues as more colleagues and students return to campus and activities restart. If you are returning for one-off activity, please ensure you get tested at one of our test centres before your activity begins.

If you receive a positive test result, let us know via the form online. Further information can be found on our dedicated student COVID-19 testing website.

To say thanks to everyone getting tested, we’re giving away vouchers at all of our test centres – book your test now, or if you are on the Streatham Campus, drop in to the new testing pod in the Forum and you could grab a free coffee.

Home testing or testing off campus

If you take an LFD or PCR/HALO test either at home or in any other testing facility and the result is positive, please let us know immediately by contacting the Rapid Response Hub.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the test you need is different

Remember, if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, such as a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss of taste/smell, you must self-isolate and request a HALO PCR test through our Rapid Response Hub

Travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak

We should all follow the Government’s guidance on how to travel safely. You should follow this guidance even if you have been vaccinated, as you could still spread COVID-19 to others. Check the guidance on what to expect after your vaccination.

You must not travel at all if you:

If you do need to travel:

  • Walk or cycle where possible
  • Avoid car-sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble, unless your journey is undertaken for an exempt reason
  • Plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. Follow the guidance on the safe use of public transport
  • Regularly wash or sanitise your hands
  • Wear a face covering on public transport, unless exempt
  • Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre while wearing a face covering
  • Download the NHS COVID-19 app before you travel, if possible, and check in where you see official NHS COVID-19 QR code posters

Guidance on face-to-face tutorials

We know that a number of colleagues are resuming face-to-face tutorials with their students in Term 3. There is no expectation for face-to-face tutorials to be delivered this academic year, however we have drafted guidance to support those who wish to do so. If colleagues do decide to run in-person sessions, these should be in accordance with our Face-face tutorials guidance to ensure the safety of the session.

This guidance is applicable to tutorials and supervision meetings with Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students. Students not presently eligible for in-person teaching should not be encouraged to return to Exeter/Cornwall if they have not already done so.

Full Guidance on delivering face-to-face tutorials is available here. If you have any questions around delivering face-to-face tutorials, please contact your Director of Education.

Stay cyber-secure

As we continue to work remotely and study online, cyber security must be a high priority for us all, and we are speeding up the roll-out of a number of measures to keep our data, research and personal information secure.

In recent weeks we have seen reports of a number of cyber-attacks on universities. These attacks typically come through phishing, in the form of fake email, SMS and voicemail messages, and through attempts to hijack our systems through the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Please play your part by being alert to phishing messages, and reading carefully any cyber-security messages you receive via our regular updates and newsletters.

Wellbeing support

As we approach the beginning of a new term, it is key that we continue to focus on our wellbeing. As the restrictions begin to ease our feelings and reactions may change over time. You can access a wide range of wellbeing information, tools and support at www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/wellbeing, including a self-care section, tips for helping someone else, links to peer support and useful resources for working safely at home during COVID-19. 

The mental health support page has a full list of resources that are available for common wellbeing concerns, including stress, anxiety, depression, work-related problems, grief and worries caused by COVID-19. 

Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) will take place this year with the theme 'Nature'. Colleagues have told us that being in green spaces has been vital for our mental health. We’d love to share some photos, quotes or examples from colleagues on how connecting with nature benefits your wellbeing and mental health. Please send any submissions through to internalcomms@exeter.ac.uk by Thursday 6 May at 5pm.

Once again I would like to say thank you to you all for your efforts in protecting our community against COVID-19 and to wish you the very best for the term ahead.

Best wishes

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary