Last reviewed 10 February 2021
Keeping our community safe and well
The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and the wider community is our highest priority in the 2020/21 academic year. Things will be different this year, and we will all need to make adjustments to the way we live and work.
Keep protecting yourself and the community (SSO required)
We all worked together to protect staff, students and the wider community from COVID-19 in Michaelmas term and we thank you for all you have done so far.
We now face a new variant of the virus which is more infectious than its predecessor, increasing the number of cases and placing unprecedented pressure on the NHS. To counter this threat a national lockdown has been implemented, with many students starting the term remotely.
Our health measures remain as applicable to the new variant as to the old. It’s vital that everyone who is in Oxford continues to follow the University’s health measures in the New Year to help keep us safe:
- Keep your distance
- Wash your hands
- Wear a face covering (unless you’re exempt)
- Got symptoms? Get a test
- Contacted by track and trace? Stay at home.
We realise these measures have been in place for several months, but it’s really important that we all continue to follow all guidance in 2021. This will help to protect your community, and reduce the length of a national lockdown.
You must follow these measures, even if you have already had COVID-19. You could still be susceptible to catching the virus causing your household to be inconvenienced by having to self-isolate.
A small number of colleagues and relatives will receive the vaccine in the near future. However, it will be some time until the wider population is vaccinated, which means it’s essential to continue following the health guidance at this stage.
Our health campaign has been updated for Hilary term and includes new materials to reinforce these important messages. Communications officers and COVID Single Points Of Contact (SPOCs) have been sent an updated campaign pack.
How to report an external COVID-19 (positive or negative) test result
If you use the University testing service your department and/or college will be informed of the result. If you book an NHS test instead, you MUST report your result, positive or negative, by using the Report a Test button on the University Testing page. This is to ensure that you have the support you need and to initiate a rapid response to minimise the risks to others.
When you need to self-isolate (SSO required)
Prompt and effective self-isolation is a vital step in limiting transmission. It is very important that you self-isolate when asked to do so.
You need to self-isolate in the following instances:
- If any member of a household has symptoms of COVID-19: all members of the household must self-isolate in line with NHS and government guidance (go to the NHS website to find out how long to self-isolate for).
- While you wait for your test and results: you and the rest of your household must self-isolate until you have the results of your test. The University testing service will aim to provide results within 36 hours of the test.
- If the result is positive: you and your household must continue to self-isolate (go to the NHS website to find out how long to self-isolate for) in case any members are also incubating the virus.
- If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19: you should follow the guidance and self-isolate for 10 days. During this period you should socially distance yourself from other members of your household. If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms, you do not need to be tested (a negative test will not release you from isolation); and your household members do not need to self-isolate. But if you develop symptoms, you must seek a test and your household members should then self-isolate in line with government guidelines.
This flowchart provides more information about the process for testing and self-isolation (SSO required).
Notifying contacts (SSO required)
Containing the spread of the virus depends on responsible behaviour, and quickly notifying those who have been recent close contacts.
NHS Test and Trace
Formal contact tracing is carried out by NHS Test and Trace – whether you are tested through the University’s test service or the NHS.
If you test positive, you will be asked to provide a list of recent close contacts for tracing purposes.
NHS Test and Trace may then notify those contacts either by phone, or via the COVID-19 app that they need to self-isolate. The name of the individual with COVID-19 will not be shared.
Telling your contacts direct will mean they get the information as fast as possible, and it will not be anonymous, as it would be via Test and Trace.
What do I do if I’m told I may be a close contact?
If NHS Test and Trace contacts you, you must follow their instructions carefully.
If you are notified by an individual you should consider whether you have been exposed to the virus and need to self-isolate.
Remember, you should only get a test yourself if you develop COVID-19 symptoms (see testing and self-isolation section above).
How do you define 'close contact'?
You are likely to be considered a ‘close contact’ of someone who has tested positive (and therefore at risk of infection) if:
- You have had face-to-face contact (e.g. a close conversation or a hug), or;
- You have been within 1 metre, without face-to-face contact, for 1 minute or more; or
- You have been less than 2 metres away from them for more than 15 minutes (over the course of a single day), particularly in an enclosed space.
- The contact occurred any time from the two days before they experienced COVID-19 symptoms onwards.
Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service
If you have any of the primary symptoms of COVID-19, visit the University’s Testing Service (SSO required) to book a test and consult this flowchart for the process you need to follow.
Remember the University has finite testing capacity, so it is important that we target it where it is most needed. You should only book a test if you have any of the primary symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, persistent cough, loss of taste or smell).
Students participating in FACTs COVID-19 testing research
The University is now taking part in research to assess the use of Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs), to identify asymptomatic individuals with COVID-19. Currently students in two colleges are able use the tests on a voluntary basis. This may expand to other parts of the University in the future depending on the progress of the study.
Students who receive positive tests in the research study need to take a confirmatory test through the University’s EAS testing service (or via the NHS if this is not possible). In line with Government advice, students may not travel between University and their permanent home. Everyone should be aware that a negative test does not change this – whether a student received their result through the research project or the University testing service.
NHS COVID-19 app
We encourage you to use the NHS COVID-19 app, which includes a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in.
Important: the app directs users to the NHS testing service. However, Oxford staff and students should always, where possible, use the University’s own testing service instead. You cannot use the NHS app to book a test at the University service. Instead you should visit the Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service pages to book a test.
Protective measures in our facilities
Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all staff and students is of paramount importance and is why we have introduced a range of measures to protect you when you are in University and college buildings. These include:
- Enhanced cleaning regimes, and additional facilities for increased hand washing and hand sanitising;
- Spaces adapted to support social distancing with clear signage and markings;
- Additional measures such as Perspex screens and barriers in areas where social distancing is more difficult such as in some teaching laboratories;
- Face coverings are required during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces with exceptions being made for those students and staff who are exempt. Go to the face coverings page for more information.
The University’s measures are informed by an expert advisory group comprising Oxford clinical academics, as well as government guidance. We will continue to follow UK government advice and make detailed contingency plans in case additional measures are required.
COVID-19 impacts the way we work, study and interact with one another. These changes are not always welcome and can lead to anxiety. These feelings can be more acute if you have a mental illness. If you have worries around COVID-19, the University has a number of resource choices or options available to offer to staff and students. It’s important not to suffer in silence. If you’re a student, help and information can be found on our student welfare and wellbeing page. There are also online resources and guidance for staff.