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

Dear students,

Key points

  • We share your disappointment at the delayed start to in-person teaching. We must all abide by the rules so we can get back to normal as soon as possible and we continue to plan so we can welcome students back as soon as Government guidance changes
  • We have seen an increase in the number of positive cases amongst students
  • One in three people may be carrying COVID-19 without knowing it, and getting tested is critical to preventing transmission. If you have returned to Exeter or Cornwall, or remained here over the winter break, you should get tested
  • Students currently in Exeter or Cornwall should complete our form so we can ensure support is in place for you
  • Social gatherings help to spread COVID-19. The rules are clear and we must all follow them
  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught students have received an email detailing our ‘No-Disadvantage Guarantee’. A new policy has also been introduced to support Postgraduate Researchers
  • Remember to book your study spaces in advance and follow the rules strictly when using any campus spaces
  • A range of our wellbeing resources are listed below along with details of student events and online fitness sessions
  • There is an increased risk of phishing attacks. Please be aware of how to avoid falling victim

Full message

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 share your disappointment about the delayed start to in-person teaching and return to campus for many of you. We spent weeks before and during the Winter break developing our mass testing service, including recruiting 70 colleagues to help us to manage it, and we had redeveloped our timetables to support the staggered return. Whilst we all completely understand the need for the Government’s decision and agree entirely with the national priority to get the pandemic under control, to reduce transmission, protect the NHS and save lives, this new period of national lockdown came as a blow to everyone within the University who had worked so hard to ensure we could continue to welcome you back to campus and to operate in a COVID-19 secure way.

I can assure you that we continue to update our plans for the rest of the academic year to ensure that when the Government guidance changes we can respond quickly to enable a fuller return to our blended approach to teaching.

COVID-19 cases and testing

Our COVID-19 testing has continued this week and we have seen an increase in the number of positive cases amongst students. 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 17 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 several of these new cases are associated with halls of residence where there have been gatherings of multiple households. We have increased communications to residents in these halls and have sent in a mobile test unit to help identify affected households.

One in three people may be carrying COVID-19 without knowing it, so even if you feel well you could be spreading it to others who may be more at risk than you. It is critically important that all students who are in Exeter or Cornwall, and all staff returning to campuses, get two tests, three days apart, at our campus testing centres. Anyone who wants a test can have one.

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

If you have already been tested, please encourage those around you to do the same. 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.

Students currently in Exeter or Cornwall

It will help us to further support those students who are currently in Exeter or Cornwall if you could complete this short form. This will help us to plan the appropriate provision for students on and around our campuses and ensure that the right support is in place for you at this time. Please do not complete this form if you are not currently in either Exeter or Cornwall.

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 majority of our community have been diligent in staying within their households. However we have seen a small number of examples of students within households forming multiple bubbles. This is not permitted under the Government guidelines. If the individual members of a household each form bubbles with members of different households, the size of the overall group increases hugely, and with it the risk of introducing COVID-19 to your own household also escalates.

The new variant of COVID-19 spreads more easily and quickly if we do not follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Parties and other social gatherings are one of the most effective ways to transmit it. We have seen a pattern of very rapid infections across households in one hall, quite possibly caused by the new variant. 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
  • Keep your kitchen appliances and surfaces clean using antiviral cleaning products

Your no-disadvantage guarantee

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught students should have received an email last Friday setting out the arrangements we have put in place to support your success and the integrity of your degree. This details our commitment to ensuring that overall marks this year will be fair when compared to those from previous year groups and sets out the safety nets in place to support you. You can read the email here, and we will share further detail over the coming weeks.

For Postgraduate Researchers a new policy on ‘Research degree theses and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions’ is introduced this week. This policy creates a mechanism for research degree students to explain, for the benefit of their examiners, the impact of disruptions to their research, and steps taken to adjust their projects. For more information please read the ‘Research Degree Theses - COVID-19 Impact Statement’ section, on the Doctoral College temporary policies page.

Book your study space

If you are at your term-time address, remember that you have to have two negative COVID-19 tests before coming on to campus. Please remember to book study spaces in advance. Unless you have a medical exemption, please wear a face covering in study spaces at all times, respect social distancing and clean your space before and after use.

Supporting your wellbeing

We know that the current lockdown is very challenging. 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. Here are a few:

Silvercloud - offers secure, immediate access to online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programmes, tailored to your specific needs such as anxiety, stress and many other areas.

Togetherall - provides safe, anonymous online support with trained healthcare professionals 24/7. You can share your experiences anonymously with your peers at any time of the day or night and find support from those experiencing similar difficulties.

Wellbeing Approaches for COVID-19 - Using these approaches may help you reduce the impact of challenges imposed by COVID-19, better manage the demands imposed by your studies and help you maintain your wellbeing.

Mind Over Natter – These short talks aim to provide quick tips and pointers which we hope all students and staff can take away and use in their own life to help them with their wellbeing. You can find out how to sign up for upcoming events and watch previous recordings.

The Fika app is available to students to download. Fika is an app designed to improve your mental fitness and you can access from your app store and register with your University email. There’s a positivity masterclass on this week – see details below.

Workshops & Webinars - Wellbeing Services offer a number of webinars that you can attend from home via your laptop or PC. These interactive online workshops allow you to participate and learn new ways to approach different areas of your life. Some previous webinars have focused on dealing with exam stress and improving sleep.

If you are unsure what support may be the best for you, please take a look at our summary leaflet.

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.

Events for students

Exeter students can get involved with your Students’ Guild Get Connected x Refreshers programme. From their virtual Fair this week which allows you to find out more about societies, student groups and sports clubs to digital events like Rebel Bingo and a Gavin and Stacey Quiz with Pete.

The Guild's virtual Refreshers’ fair runs from today, Monday 18 until Sunday 24 January. The fair is your chance to find out about all the opportunities available to you, including societies, as well as allowing you to get freebies and deals with brands. Please join the fair here.

In Cornwall the ResLife team has organised a range online of events throughout the next few weeks, helping to combat boredom, such as Bingo, Balloon Modelling, or Pictionary! You can follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

Online security when studying or working from home – Beware of Phishing Emails

If you are studying 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 ‘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.

Virtual Desktops: support available

Our virtual desktop service enables you to remotely access a huge range of learning resources that you may need for your course.

You can book 1:1 time to get help accessing a virtual desktop from a fellow student, using the Digital Hub’s book an expert service. If you have a technical problem, you should contact SID.

Guidance and video instructions are available at www.exeter.ac.uk/virtualdesktops or on the Digital Hub.

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