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

Dear Students

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. Please ensure you are familiar with the arrangements in place, and that you are engaging in testing throughout
  • Postgraduate Research students will be able to access research spaces throughout the spring break
  • COVID-19 case numbers remain low on our campuses and across the region
  • There will be additional lifting of restrictions from 29 March
  • Taught students are invited to share feedback via our latest Pulse Survey
  • 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 lives as students, 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. For everyone staying in term-time accommodation, everything you need to know about what activities are taking place and what facilities are open, can be found on our website.

If you do intend to travel over the Easter period, it is critical that you observe the Government’s guidance for transport and travel.  Please also note that anyone who tests positive is legally required to self-isolate for 10 days and must not travel – these requirements also apply to the close contacts of anyone who has tested positive.

What you need to do if you are travelling to a UK destination

If you do choose to travel away from the University to a destination within the UK, you should get tested before you leave, so you know it is safe to travel.  You can book a test online and attend one of our test centres at: Streatham Sports Hall; Cornwall House; Centre Spot Bar (Exeter City Football Club, St James Park); St Luke’s Sports Hall; and Penryn Sports Centre.  Opening times and booking links are available online.

When travelling please continue to observe COVID-19 safety measures like hands, face, space, and safer travel guidance, even if you are travelling in a private vehicle. As well as the Government guidance for transport and travel, we have published some information on travelling within the UK.

What you need to do if you are travelling to an international destination

If you are travelling internationally you should check the requirements for the destination to which you are travelling as you may need to take a PCR test. Our HALO PCR tests are valid for international travel and you can book a free HALO PCR test online, via the Rapid Response Hub

You will also need to complete a copy of the declaration form for international travel, which can be found on the Government’s website, and obtain a letter from the University to show you are a member of an academic institution – which demonstrates a valid reason for travel under the current lockdown restrictions. You can access a copy of the letter via the self-service letter function on the Student Record System, also accessed through the SRS tile in iExeter.

Please ensure you have copies of both documents available when travelling (printed or saved to your mobile or other device) as you may be asked to provide evidence to support your reason for travel at the port of your departure.

Further information can be found on our International Travel pages.

Please also remember: the UK Government may update the current lockdown restrictions while you are away so do continue to check the Government’s COVID-19 web pages, which should outline any changes you need to know about.

What to do if you need to stay in University accommodation over the spring break?

If you are living in University accommodation and need accommodation over the spring break, please let us know by contacting the Rapid Response Hub

Travelling back to your term time accommodation

If you are travelling back from an international destination, you will need to be aware of the ‘testing and self-isolation’ requirements you must comply with on your return to the UK. Further information, including details on the UK Government’s test packages and the steps you must complete before arrival, can be found on our International Travel webpages.

After Easter, whether you return from the UK or from international destinations, you are expected to book a test as soon as you return to your term time accommodation, and should resume twice-weekly testing thereafter. We will be opening new test sites so please look out for further updates.

Students staying at the University over the spring break should continue to get a COVID-19 test twice a week, every week, 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.

Postgraduate Research (PGR) students

PGR students will be able to continue to access to 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 and PGRs 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.

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.

The teams in the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union have been working hard to create their roadmaps to returning safely to on-campus activities. You can read a statement from the Students’ Guild here and a statement from the Students’ Union here.

Taught students, please share your feedback

As we reach the end of the Spring Term, your feedback on your experiences continues to be extremely valuable to us. We know that this term has been an extremely challenging one in many ways, and we want to invite you to tell us what you think has worked well, and suggest ways in which we can make improvements.

We would be therefore be extremely grateful if you could take just a few minutes to complete our final ‘Taught Students’ Pulse Survey’ of the term, which will be open until 12 noon on Monday 29 March. All undergraduates and taught postgraduates will have received an email to your Exeter email address, with a unique link to complete the survey.

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

 

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary