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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff - 20 January 2021

Dear colleagues,

We are now mid-way through the third week of this period of national lockdown, and the measures that we are all being asked to follow are critical to controlling the course of the pandemic over the coming weeks and months. Sticking to the rules is the only thing we can all do to hasten our return to normality. We all know however that lockdown is difficult in many different ways. We have support available for colleagues and students and I strongly encourage anyone who needs help to reach out. We will continue to work together as a community to help each other through.

COVID-19 cases and testing

Our COVID-19 testing has continued this week and we have seen a slight increase in the number of positive cases, although the overall rate of positive results 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 16 January when the 7 day rolling daily average of positive cases was 4.4.

There is no evidence of any cases associated with teaching or research activity in our COVID-19 secure spaces, but a number of these new cases are associated with halls of residence.

We have increased communications to residents in these halls and have sent in a mobile test unit to help identify affected households. We have also seen both Police fines and University disciplinary actions where there have been social gatherings, which will ensure our student community understand the seriousness of this situation. It is pleasing to report that we have seen the overwhelming majority of students adhere to the rules both on campus and in the city.

It remains important that all students who are in Exeter or Cornwall get two tests, three days apart, at our campus testing centres. Any student who wants a test can have one. Please encourage any students you have contact with to book tests if they have not already done so.

If you have returned to work on our campuses in Exeter or Cornwall, or plan to do so, you should get tested. Testing is quick, easy and safe with most results delivered in under an hour. You can book your test via the following links:

Those who have already tested positive within the last 90 days (i.e. since mid-October) do not need to be tested again.

Social gatherings and exercise

It is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble. The new variant of COVID-19 spreads more easily and quickly if we do not follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Social gatherings are one of the most likely sources of transmission. We must work together as a community to protect the safety of those around us and we must do whatever we can to discourage others from breaking the rules.

We should all minimise time spent outside the home, but outdoor exercise is permitted, once per day. This can be with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with one person from another household.

You can help combat the virus by letting us know about areas where we could improve compliance with safety measures, and sharing your ideas for how we might address these. Please share your suggestions at any time by emailing registrar@exeter.ac.uk.

COVID-19 safety

Remember, wherever you are:

  • 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

Support for carers and parents

We very much understand that colleagues who are carers and parents of school age children have additional pressures to manage during this period of national lockdown and we will continue to help ease these pressures wherever we can. Please stay in touch with your line manager if you have any concerns or need support to balance work and family responsibilities.

Our updated guidance at www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/employment/coronavirus/parentssupport/ includes information on the status of University staff as critical workers, and how you can obtain written confirmation of this for your child’s school. There is also advice on other options available to help you manage, including emergency leave and flexible working. Please make sure you are familiar with these and always reach out for advice and support if you need it.

Supporting your wellbeing

We know that the current lockdown is very challenging in many ways. Please remember we are still here to support you – wherever you are. Our wellbeing webpages contain useful resources which you can access at any time from home.

Taking care of ourselves can make a huge difference to our mental and physical wellbeing. The wellbeing pages have lots of tips on self-care and staying well and I recommend these to all colleagues. Please take a look and think about some of the simple things you can do, any day of the week.

Online Fitness Class Timetable

During the national lockdown, our Sport team are offering an extensive online class programme. You can book and join a class here. There is also a Facebook Health and Fitness Group where further health, wellbeing and workouts are shared.

Online security when working from home – Beware of Phishing Emails

If you are working remotely, please think about what you can do to help keep your IT account secure.

There is an increased threat from ‘phishing’ attacks –emails sent to your inbox that may attempt to replicate the sender details of your usual trusted correspondents and that may have plausible titles such as be titled ‘invoice for your approval’ or ‘document shared with you’. Often phishing emails contain spelling mistakes or poor grammar; or they may include a company name or logo that is somehow not quite as it should be:

  • Always be vigilant – phishing emails can land in anyone’s inbox at any time
  • Don’t open email attachments unless you know the content is safe
  • Don’t click on any links contained in an email unless you are sure it is safe to do so
  • Make sure your password is strong
  • Avoid using your university password for any other websites or accounts

If you receive an email that you were not expecting, pause for a few seconds to carefully check and read it before clicking links or opening attachments. If you have any concerns, or even if the email just doesn’t look or feel right, forward it to itsecurity@exeter.ac.uk so that it can be checked for authenticity.

Please continue to look out for each other and take care of yourselves. As ever your feedback is really important, so please don’t hesitate to email me if you have ideas or suggestions for how we can support you further.

Best wishes

Mike

 

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary