Novel coronavirus: advice and updates | University of Oxford
Radcliffe Square at twilight
Radcliffe Square at twilight
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Novel coronavirus: advice and updates

Latest information from the University.

This page has been set up to provide information for anyone at the University with questions or concerns about coronavirus (Covid-19). It will be updated on a regular basis.

Last updated 11 February 2020

View all page updates

Page published 29 January 2020

  • 11 February: updated name of the virus
  • 10 February: updated number of cases
  • 7 February: updated travel guidance for additional countries
  • 6 February: updated guidance for staff/students on self isolation
  • 6 February: updated guidance on hosting visitors from China
  • 5 February: updated message on welfare
  • 3 February: updated travel guidance to/from China
  • 31 January: page published

The health, welfare and safety of students and staff is the number one priority for the University.

Oxford has a strong history of welcoming Chinese students and staff to the UK, and they are an integral part of our international community.

We understand that students and staff may be worried about friends and family members in China, and our thoughts go to all those affected by this outbreak.

We ask that students and staff support their fellow friends and colleagues at this difficult time. Harassment and discrimination of any kind, including racial harassment, are totally unacceptable at the University.

Any instances of harassment should be reported immediately either to staff harassment advisors, or to college welfare leads in the case of students.

What is coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a type of virus which is common across the world. Typical symptoms include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Covid-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China. On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organisation declared a public health emergency of international concern, and UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. However, the risk to individuals remains low. Eight cases have now been confirmed in the UK.

Information is being updated daily on the Government website. Please check regularly for changes.

What is the University doing about coronavirus?

The University is acting on advice from sources including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, World Health Organisation, the NHS and Public Health England. We have taken proactive steps to contact our students and staff to ensure that everyone has access to the latest advice. We have been in contact with students and staff who are in China and those students and staff who may have recently returned to the UK from Wuhan / Hubei Province. We are monitoring the situation closely, have made plans to act quickly if the situation changes and will provide further updates as necessary.

Advice for staff and students in the UK

What is the current risk to the UK from coronavirus?

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organisation declared a public health emergency of international concern, and the risk to the UK public has risen from low to moderate. However, the Government has said that the risk to individuals in the UK has not changed, and is continuing to advise only precautionary measures to prevent the spread of infection.

Do I need to take any precautionary measures?

At this time of year, viral respiratory infections such as colds and influenza are very common in the community within the UK, and if staff or students develop viral symptoms they should manage these as they usually would.

The recommended steps people should take to protect themselves are the same as those to avoid flu and any other similar respiratory infections. You should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene, and:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • bin used tissues as quickly as possible

I have visitors arriving in the UK from China and the newly specified areas in the near future. Do I need to do anything?

The Government has issued health guidance for China and other areas in the region. These are:

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Macau

Currently, flights are operating between mainland China and the UK (outside Wuhan and Hubei Province) - and all other areas impacted. However, further restrictions on movement may be put in place, which could make travelling difficult for some visitors. It is also possible that the UK Government may impose further restrictions on travellers arriving from these areas. Colleagues arranging activities in the UK involving visitors from the specified areas should take a decision on the most appropriate course of action, based on the latest advice on the Government website and bearing in mind the fact that this is an evolving situation and further restrictions may be imposed in future, as outlined above. See below for further advice for those travelling to the UK.

Advice for staff and students travelling to and from China and other specified areas

What should I do if I have returned from Wuhan or Hubei Province?

If you have returned from Wuhan or Hubei Province in the last 14 days:

  • Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with flu 
  • Contact NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area.

Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.

If you develop a fever, difficulty breathing or a cough, you should continue to follow the advice above. Please do not leave your home until you been given advice by a clinician.

More advice is available on the Government website.

What should I do if I have returned from elsewhere in China, or the other specified areas?

If you feel well, you should go about your daily routine as you normally would.

However, if you have travelled from elsewhere in China or other specified areas to the UK (currently China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau) in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country

Please follow this advice even if your symptoms are minor.

I am a student and my studies have been impacted by needing to self-isolate after returning from China or other specified areas. What should I do?

You should continue to go through the usual University and college routes for requests such as extensions and dispensations. If you are not sure what to do, speak to your college in the first instance (or your department if you don’t have a college). For more information, refer to the Student Handbook.

I am a member of staff and have needed to self-isolate after returning from China or other specified areas, but I feel well enough to work. What arrangements should I make?

You should inform your immediate supervisor / line manager of your situation. If you are able to work remotely you should liaise with your supervisor/manager about this. If you are not able to work remotely you will be placed on paid special leave for the period of your self-isolation. Should you become ill during this period you should follow the government and NHS guidance and also advise your department (who will then record your absence as sick leave).

I am currently in China or another specified area. What should I do?

The FCO now advises that if you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so. Advice for other specified areas varies. You should follow the advice on the FCO website. No action is needed at present for the other specified areas.

If you are a member of staff, you should keep in touch with your department, and review your risk assessment and plans in light of the FCO’s advice. You should also contact your insurer.

If you are a student, you should contact your College (or department if you don’t have a College) to make them aware that you are in China or another specified country, and seek further advice.

Please note that the British Consulates-General in Wuhan and Chongqing are currently closed. The FCO advises that British nationals in China who need consular support should call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on +44 (0) 207 008 1500.

I have plans to travel to China or other specified areas in the next two weeks – what should I do?

The FCO is currently advising against all but essential travel to mainland China. Advice for other specified territories in the area varies. You should visit the FCO website for further details. Governments in the affected areas continue to impose further restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Some airlines, including British Airways, have suspended flights to and from mainland China.

Advice for staff

If you are a member of staff who is planning or has already planned to travel to China, you should revisit you risk assessment with your manager to establish if your travel is indeed essential. No action is needed at present for the other specified areas. All travel on behalf of the University must go through the University’s risk assessment process outlined on the Safety Office website.

Advice for students

If you are a student and are travelling as part of your course (fieldwork etc.), please contact your department to discuss whether your trip is still advisable. Please also inform your College about these discussions. If you are planning a personal trip or holiday, and consider it to be essential, you should notify your College of your plans (and your contact details) in case we need to contact you urgently.

How do I keep updated about the latest University information regarding Covid-19 (coronavirus)?

As this is a rapidly evolving situation we are asking you to check this page regularly to keep informed of the latest advice. You may also find the following sites useful: