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COVID-19 update for students in Exeter - 6 January 2022

Dear Students,

This is an update following my message earlier this week, since when we have seen changes to the guidance on testing and travel, which are summarised below.

Key points

  • Please remember, you must take a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test before you travel back to University, and test regularly when coming to campus
  • Further information about examinations, including in-person and deferred examinations, is below, and we are holding an online ‘Exams Q&A’ tomorrow at 1.45pm
  • From 11 January, those who are asymptomatic and receive a positive LFD test no longer need to take a confirmatory PCR test
  • Rules on self-isolation and on testing for international travel have also been updated
  • From tomorrow, Friday 7 January, our Assisted LFD Testing Sites will be reopening on the Streatham and St Lukes’ campuses
  • We are hosting further Pfizer vaccination clinics during January and February
  • You can help with vaccination planning by completing a short survey
  • We have some tips and reminders for the start of term

Please remember that is it vitally important that you take a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test before you travel back to the University, and continue to test regularly when you are coming onto campus. Please also ensure that you travel safely. Guidance on how to do so is available here: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

January examinations

Our examinations period begins on Monday 10 January, and I know that a huge amount of hard work has gone into your preparations for assessments. We wish everyone taking exams the very best of luck.

In-person examinations

Whilst the majority of our exams will take place online, some students are required to attend in-person examinations, and we have heard concerns from some of you this week. I want to reassure you that our preparations for any on-campus exams have been carried out in consultation with Public Health Devon, and in accordance with latest government guidance.

We have designed exams to be online wherever possible, with only a minority of exams taking place on campus. This is the case only where professional, statutory and regulatory bodies require in-person exams, where electronic submission is not possible, for example practical and languages exams, or where a closed-book exam is necessary.

Our exam halls have been risk-assessed and have distanced desks, good ventilation and enhanced cleaning measures in place. All students are required to wear face coverings unless exempt, with options available for those who are exempt to use a visor. As for all students, we are requesting that attendees take an LFD test before arrival. If you have concerns about travelling to your in-person examination, please refer to the government guidance on safer travel.

All exam marks are reviewed at our Exam Boards with external oversight according to our Teaching Quality Assurance TQA policy. Our quality assurance processes will be used to ensure that marks are fair and consistent with previous cohorts and students on related modules, regardless of the conditions under which the assessment was completed. You can find more information about this and all other aspects of our examinations here.

Deferred examinations

I know that some final year students have concerns that, should they have to self-isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test and therefore miss an in-person exam, that they will be unable to graduate with their peers or to take up job opportunities later in the summer.

You will still be able to attend graduation this summer if you defer a minimal amount of credits. At undergraduate level you will need to have achieved 300 credits, with 60 credits in your final year to attend graduation with an Ordinary Degree. You will receive a temporary graduation certificate and transcript in July along with your peers.  Once you successfully complete your remaining credits your full certificate and transcript will be released in September confirming an Honours Degree. You can check with your info point for more details, or contact the Guild’s Advice Service

Join our exams Q&A – tomorrow Friday 7 January, 1.45pm

Finally, we have worked with the Officers of the Students’ Guild to schedule an online Q&A session for those who are taking exams. This will be held tomorrow, Friday 7 January, at 1.45pm, via Zoom, and will give you the chance to put your questions to senior members of the Education and Student Support teams.

Join the event from this page at 1.45pm tomorrow.

The Students’ Guild have also published a helpful FAQ on January Exams.

Changes to testing requirements

The government has announced changes to the testing requirements from Tuesday 11 January. Under the new guidance, anyone who has a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result should report their result on gov.uk and must self-isolate immediately, but will no longer need to take a follow-up PCR test.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, the requirements remain the same – you should self-isolate and take a PCR test.

Changes to Self-Isolation requirements

The government recently updated the rules on self- isolation. Anyone who has a positive LFD or PCR result can take an LFD test 6 days after the day their symptoms started (or the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms), and another LFD test on the following day (the second LFD test should be taken at least 24 hours later). If both these test results are negative, and they do not have a high temperature, they may end their self-isolation after the second negative test result. The LFD test results must be reported after taking each test.

You should not take an LFD test before the sixth day of any isolation period, and you should only end your self-isolation after you have had 2 consecutive negative LFD tests, at least 24 hours apart. You should then resume your regular testing.

Changes to rules on testing and international travel

The Government has also updated the rules on testing for international travel.

  • From 4am on Friday 7 January until 4am on Sunday 9 January, international arrivals to England who qualify as fully vaccinated, and those under 18, will no longer have to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test before travelling. On arrival in England you will have to take a PCR test, but will no longer have to self-isolate whilst waiting for your result.
  • If you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, and you will arrive in England after 4am, Sunday 9 January, you can choose to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test after you arrive in England. If you take a lateral flow test and test positive, you will need to self-isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test. You must book the test before you travel to England. You can book lateral flow tests from 4am Friday 7 January.

The rules for those who do not qualify as fully vaccinated have not changed. Unvaccinated passengers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and must self-isolate for 10 days.
Details on the pre-departure and arrivals test requirements can be found on the Government website - www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19#if-you-are-not-fully-vaccinated.

Lateral Flow (LFD) testing on Exeter campuses

Our Assisted LFD Testing Site (ATS) at Car Park B, Streatham Campus, will be reopening on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 January, from 8am-3pm, and will then be available to students Monday-Friday throughout January.

Our ATS at Baring Court, St Luke’s Campus will reopen on Monday 10 January, 8-11am and be available to students on Mondays and Thursday throughout January.

Pfizer vaccination clinics on the Streatham campus

We are continuing to hold COVID-19 Pfizer vaccination clinics at the Innovation Centre, Streatham Campus. The clinics (listed below) will be providing first and second doses as well as booster jabs for anyone that is eligible. If attending for your second dose, your first dose must have been Pfizer, and must have taken place at least eight weeks ago.

There is no need to book and doses will be given on a first come, first served basis – demand has been significant so queuing is likely.

  • Monday 17 and Tuesday 18January, 10.30-5.30pm
  • Monday 7 February, 10.30-5.30pm
  • Monday 28 February, 10.30-5.30pm

Vaccination Planning

You can help with the planning of COVID-19 vaccines this autumn.

To support the vaccination programme, the Office for Students has asked universities to survey students on their vaccination status as they return in January. This also supports us in our work with the Devon and Cornwall Clinical Commissioning Groups (these are the NHS’ representatives in Devon and Cornwall) in their planning of vaccination clinics. All University of Exeter students are therefore invited to complete a short online questionnaire regarding their current vaccination status.

Please note: completing the questionnaire is not mandatory. Your responses will be completely anonymous and you do not need to share any personal data. The data collected will be reported anonymously to the Office for Students and will be shared with the NHS to help plan their delivery of vaccinations to you and our community over the coming months.

The survey can be accessed via this link.

For more information about vaccinations please see: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/vaccinations/.

Tips for the Start of Term

We are pleased to be welcoming you back to University for our Spring Term. I am sure you will have been considering what you can do to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and to keep our community safe as we return to campus. Here are some important points for you to consider:

  1. Take a test before you return to your accommodation. If you are already in your University accommodation, test before others return and encourage each other to test before returning. Always report a positive result
  2. If you can’t get an LFD test before you return, take one as soon as you arrive and keep a safe distance from others in your household until you get your result. More information on testing
  3. Follow government requirements if you have arrived from overseas. If you are required to self isolate in Halls, there is support available
  4. Hands – remember, good hand hygiene is really important. If you are heading out, consider all the places that others may have touched and wash your hands or apply hand gel
  5. Wear your face covering – this is a requirement in many settings, including inside University buildings. Be careful how you handle your face covering and avoid touching the front. More information on how to maximise your face covering effectiveness
  6. Fresh air – consider meeting others outside. If you are inside, open the windows if you can to let fresh air circulate
  7. Cleaning – it’s important to keep your accommodation clean, including areas that you might share with others. More tips on cleaning
  8. If you are sharing a household with someone who has COVID-19, follow the government rules on testing and self-isolation. Work together to try to keep a safe distance and reduce the spread of infection in the household – consider agreeing who can use the shared facilities and when, clean shared areas after use (e.g. kitchens and bathrooms), open windows and if you can, and wear a face covering in communal areas. Keep LFD testing regularly to identify any infection quickly. For more information on what to do if self-isolating click here.
  9. Support - more information on what is available to support you when self-isolating
  10. Ensure you are registered with a GP and are up to date with your vaccinations
  11. Remember that your wellbeing is our highest priority. If you need help, support or just someone to talk to, you can find all about our wellbeing services here

Finally I’d like to wish everyone a successful start to our Spring Term and the very best of luck to all those preparing for examinations beginning next week.