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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff - 13 January 2021

Dear Colleagues,

These are difficult days for everyone and so my simple message is that we must make it our personal and collective priority to protect those around us. We do this by adhering strictly the COVID-19 guidelines and by engaging with COVID-19 testing if we are coming to campus. The vast majority of our community are following the rules closely and I want to thank you for playing your part.

Key points

  • You could be spreading COVID-19. If you are at the University, please get tested
  • Please follow the COVID-19 guidelines carefully. These are in place for everyone’s safety
  • We would like to hear your suggestions for how we could improve compliance with COVID-19 safety measures
  • It is against the law to meet socially with anyone outside your household or support bubble. Anyone breaking the rules faces significant action
  • From 15 January, all international arrivals to England, including UK nationals, will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test
  • Staff and research students are classed as ‘critical workers’
  • A wide range of our previously approved research activity is now able to continue
  • Please be aware of COVID-19 web and email scams
  • Remember to reach out if you need wellbeing or mental health support

Full message

Could you be spreading COVID-19?

COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly in the South West. You might feel fine but you could be infected and be passing it to people who might become very ill.

Testing is a critical part of our defence against COVID-19 and we need your help.

We have asked all students returning to Exeter and Cornwall, and all staff returning to campuses, to get two tests, three days apart, at our campus testing centres. Anyone who wants a test can have one.

We have completed more than 4,500 tests since the beginning of January, and we have identified a small number of positive cases.

We know there are many who have not yet come forward to take a test and I cannot stress enough how important it is that we all do so.

If you have returned to Exeter or Cornwall, regardless of why and when you may have returned, or where you may be living, or if you have stayed in your University accommodation over the break, you should get tested urgently. Those who have already tested positive within the last 90 days (i.e. since mid-October) do not need to be tested again.

To those of you who have already done so, the University and our friends and neighbours in Devon and Cornwall thank you. Please encourage those around you to follow in your footsteps.

Testing is quick, easy and safe. You can book your test via the following links:

Please remain isolated from others between tests even if your first result is negative. You will then need to remain in your household bubble and ensure you follow hygiene and cleaning measures.

Following the COVID-19 guidelines

Once again we have seen that the vast majority of our community have abided by the COVID-19 restrictions in place on our campuses, and in doing so have played their part in fighting the spread of the disease.

Our response to the pandemic has been informed by our COVID Academic Advisory Group (CAAG), comprised of experts in relevant fields. CAAG has recently reviewed the data available concerning the spread of the new variant of COVID-19 and concluded that our strict adherence to the existing COVID-19 safety measures is now more important than ever

Whilst there remains no evidence of any transmission of COVID-19 in our teaching or research spaces, the new variant passes between individuals at a much higher rate and we must be diligent at all times if we are to avoid its transmission.

This means you must:

  • Stay at home whenever possible
  • Wear your face-covering correctly, whenever required, unless you are medically exempt
  • Remind yourself and others of the need to maintain proper social distancing wherever possible
  • Limit face-to-face contact times wherever possible, when social distancing is impossible
  • Avoid eating and drinking in shared workspaces
  • Make sure indoor spaces have plenty of ventilation
  • Wash your hands carefully and often

The majority of our staff and students are working and studying away from the University. Nonetheless, we will all be in our own environments and these simple measures remain vitally important wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

Tell us how we can help

We would like you to help us to identify areas where we could improve compliance with safety measures, and suggest solutions and new measures that may help to address these. This is another way in which we can work together to fight back against the virus.

If you have suggestions, or would like to flag problem places on our campuses then please reply to this email with your comments, or email at any time.

Social gatherings

The rules on social gatherings are simple. It is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble. Once again the majority of our community have been extremely careful to stay within their households.

However we have also seen a small number of examples of students disregarding these rules and these breaches have led to police action.

Parties and other social gatherings are illegal for a simple reason: they are one of the most effective ways to spread COVID-19. Cases numbers are rising rapidly across the country and our region, as are the numbers of hospital admissions and deaths. As a community we cannot tolerate breaches of the COVID-19 guidelines which recklessly endanger the safety of others and we will not hesitate to take action against any individuals who break the rules.

Travelling to the UK

Government has confirmed that from 4am on 15 January, all international arrivals to England, including UK nationals, will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure in order to enter the country.

If you are travelling to the UK you will therefore need to arrange to take a test in the country you travel from. Passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500 on arrival in the UK if they fail to comply with the new regulations on pre-departure testing.

Passengers will still be required to fill in a passenger locator form and will be subject to national lockdown restrictions in the UK. All passengers arriving from countries not on the Government’s travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days when they arrive in the UK, regardless of whether they have received a negative test result prior to travel. You may still choose to participate in the Government’s ‘Test to Release Scheme’ to reduce your time in self-isolation.

Staff and research students classed as ‘critical workers’

The Department for Education has advised that Higher Education staff and research students in England are classed as ‘critical workers’ and therefore children of University staff and research students are eligible to attend school for face-to-face teaching, regardless of whether colleagues are working on campus or from home. However, the Department for Education is asking that parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children home if they can.

The University has prepared a letter for staff that can be presented to schools to confirm their status as a critical worker and allow their children to attend school in person. Research students can use their University ID. You can also find out more on our FAQ on this topicThe Government guidance is available here.

If your school requires further information or is unable to accommodate your request please contact

Supporting research activity

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact, Professor Neil Gow, has written to confirm that as a result of careful work by colleagues across the University we can continue with a significant number of our ‘research restart’ activities, which were previously approved. We will continue to welcome any further applications for new activities. However, colleagues and research students should note that there are some changes and additional considerations to be mindful of before undertaking or continuing any research activities. Additional guidance has been issued.

COVID-19 web and email scams

Please be wary of fake COVID-19 alerts which you may receive by email, text or phone call. We’ve already seen the following scams:

  • Fake NHS websites asking for personal and financial information. The NHS will never ask for your banking information
  • False links and Government websites relating to fines or financial suppor
  • Fake financial offers from banks

If you are suspicious, please follow this guidance.

Thank you

Once again I would like to thank everyone, staff and students, who have worked so hard to adapt to the changes and challenges we have all been faced with. Please remember that wellbeing support is available to anyone who needs it, including access to help for those who may need additional mental health support at this or any other difficult time.

Please continue to take care of yourselves and to pay special care and attention to the impact your actions may have on those around you.

Best wishes



Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary