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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff - 3 March 2021

Dear Colleagues

Key points

  • From next week, a limited number of additional students will be able to return for in-person teaching activities. Timetables will be updated to reflect the changes
  • Travelling between areas is still not permitted. Students should only return to University if they have permission to do so
  • Students who have returned to their term time accommodation are currently encouraged by Government not to make any further travel during the Easter break
  • Our ongoing participation in regular testing will be an important factor in any Government decision to open campuses further. To enable this to happen, and to keep our community safe, we need everyone to get tested twice a week
  • COVID-19 cases on our campuses remain low
  • Further support has been announced for Postgraduate Research Students
  • Remember that a range of services and resources are available to support your wellbeing

Full message

Next week sees the first step in what we all hope will be a phased return to some sort of normality. In time we hope to be able to recover many of the freedoms we have had to forego in our collective drive to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This process begins on 8 March when primary and secondary schools will reopen, and universities will be able to offer some additional face-to-face teaching to students on programmes that require specialist facilities.

Later this week timetables will be updated for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students in the following subject areas, to show which in-person activity will recommence after 8 March:

  • Archaeology
  • Biosciences
  • Drama
  • Education (placements will continue as normal)
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Maths and Computer Science
  • All College of Medicine and Health programmes
  • Mining Engineering
  • Natural Sciences
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Renewable Energy
  • Sport and Health Sciences

For activity that will be offered in-person from 8 March, the event description will change to ‘This activity will be on campus from 8 March to the end of term’. The location of the activity will be visible to students and staff on the Friday evening in the week before the activity is due to take place.

Please note: this is a limited return to in-person teaching for a small number of additional students, as outlined in Government policy. Those who do not have on-campus teaching sessions scheduled should not come onto campus, unless they have exceptional reasons to do so.

Travelling between areas is still not permitted, unless in exceptional circumstances.

We have published some guidance on travelling back to University, whether students are travelling within the UK or returning to campus from overseas.

When returning we must all ensure we know how to play our part in keeping our campuses and community safe by fully engaging with the COVID-19 secure measures in place, including

  • observing social distancing
  • regularly washing your hands
  • wearing your face covering
  • taking a test twice a week and self-isolating if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19.

Full information on campus COVID-19 security can be found here.

Easter holidays

The Department for Education are currently encouraging students who are in their term-time accommodation NOT to return home again for the Easter period in April.

Whilst we await final confirmation of Government policy we are in the process of establishing the approach that will be taken for our catered students who are on campus and will be writing to them shortly.

Book your free twice weekly tests now

We expect everyone who is taking part in in-person activities or using facilities on our campuses to book free twice-weekly tests, to protect those around us and to ensure that we can continue to offer in-person activities.

If you are coming onto the campus irregularly, please get a test each time you come.

In Exeter, as well as the major test site at the Streatham Sports Hall we now have a daily testing site at St Luke’s sports hall and a weekly pop-up site at Cornwall House so it should be easy to get a test wherever you are.

In Penryn, twice-weekly testing is carried out in the sports hall.

Visit the staff COVID-19 testing webpages for further information and booking forms.

To enable us to open campuses further, to offer more in-person activities, and to keep our community safe, we need everyone to get tested twice a week.

Play your part: Get regular tests and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19, YOU MUST SELF-ISOLATE AND 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.

COVID-19 case numbers

The overall rate of positive results on our campuses 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 28 February when the 7 day rolling daily average of positive cases was 1.0.

Further support for Postgraduate Research (PGR) Students

UK Research and Innovation announced earlier this week some measures to further support PGR students. We await full details on the level of funding to Exeter and further information on how we can use the funding allocated to us.

The announcement indicated a three-part approach: additional funding of £7m to be distributed to universities for the UKRI Covid-19 Phase 2 Extensions process; funding of £11m to be distributed via Research England to help universities support their postgraduate research communities; and consultation with UKRI training grant holders on greater flexibility in the redeployment of funds earmarked for training and future recruitment, to support extensions for current students.

Our process to award the UKRI Covid-19 Phase 2 Extensions funding is in progress already, and we aim to continue with this to our planned schedule. We anticipate that any further funding we receive for this scheme would enable us to support a greater number of the applications we have received.

We will want to consider how our allocation from Research England can best contribute to the measures that we have implemented in support of all of our PGR students. We will set out our plans as soon as we can.

Wellbeing

Over the last few days I have seen the herculean efforts of many teams involved in the response to the discovery of the WW2 bomb so close to our Streatham campus. This has inevitably created additional stress and pressure for many of us during what was already a particularly unsettling time. It is perfectly natural to feel a range of emotions during unpredictable times like these. A range of wellbeing information, tools and support is available at www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/wellbeing should you feel you may need additional support. You can also email the Occupational Health team at occupationalhealth@exeter.ac.uk for confidential advice on choosing the right support for you.

I would like to thank those who were involved in supporting our students through this unexpected emergency, and once again to thank everyone who has helped our community through the exceptional challenges of the last 12 months. We are now coming towards the end of what I suspect will be the hardest winter many of us have lived through, and we can hope that spring is not too far away.

Best

Mike

 

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary