Health banner
Five steps to stay COVID-safe

Last reviewed 16 June 2021

Keeping our community safe and well

The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and the wider community continues to be our highest priority in the 2020/21 academic year.

Stay COVID-safe. Keep protecting yourself and the community (SSO required)

Thank you for all you have done so far to protect staff, students and the wider community from COVID-19. Staff and students are asked to remember that COVID-19 remains a real threat to many people in our community. While we hope that restrictions will gradually continue to ease, the pandemic is not yet over and we need to continue working together to prevent case numbers rising and larger numbers of people having to self-isolate again. It remains important that you continue to follow all health guidance, and remember that social distancing rules remain in place – this is true both in University facilities and when meeting people socially whether indoors or outdoors, where Government guidance continues to be that you should socially distance from anyone you do not live with.

From Monday 17 May, up to six people, or two households are able to meet indoors; and up to 30 people outdoors. (NB: these limits do not apply in the context of work purposes or delivery of education provided they are conducted in a COVID-secure environment.) There may be specific requirements around households in colleges, and your college will let you know if this is the case. The UK Government has confirmed that it has delayed the move to 'Step 4' of its Roadmap for reducing restrictions until 19 July. As such, these restrictions continue to apply and all staff and students are advised to keep following the Government’s 'Step 3' advice, and University health guidance.

It’s still vital that everyone who is in Oxford continues to follow all of the Government and University health measures as the vaccine is rolled out:

  • Continue social distancing – assume 2 metres unless told otherwise
  • Keep washing your hands
  • Keep wearing a face covering (unless you’re exempt)
  • Get tested – twice a week, and if you have symptoms
  • Continue to follow the self-isolation guidance.

We realise these measures have been in place for several months, but it’s really important that we all continue to follow all the guidance – even if you have already had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated.  This will help to create a safe environment for teaching, research and working across the University, and help to bring University life back to normal.

We also strongly encourage all students who are in Oxford, and all staff who are working on site, to take regular symptom-free Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests, twice a week. If you receive a positive result, or develop symptoms, you must immediately self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test via the University’s Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service.

**NEW 7 June 2021** Important reminder: what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms
If you experience COVID-19 symptoms you (and your household) must immediately self-isolate and assume you have the virus, pending the result of a confirmatory PCR test, which you should book as soon as possible. You must take a PCR test (not an LFD test) if you have symptoms. You should wherever possible book the PCR test through the Early Alert Service, the results of which are usually available well within 24 hours (shorter than the usual wait through NHS testing services).

The University is, through the NHS, providing Lateral Flow Devices for twice weekly routine testing to identify infectious cases before any symptoms develop. If you develop symptoms between LFD tests, you must stop performing them, self-isolate, and have a PCR test instead. You must follow the guidelines and only stop self-isolating if you receive a negative PCR test (but note that if you’ve been told you’re a close contact or are self-isolating because a member of your household is positive, you must continue to self-isolate regardless) – a negative LFD test result will not release you from self-isolation. For more information go to our testing page for those with coronavirus symptoms.


Our health campaign has been updated for Trinity 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) PCR 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 your 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).
  • If you test positive in any Lateral Flow Device tests (including those in community testing or received from the government via another route): you must self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test as soon as possible, preferably through the Early Alert Service.
  • While you wait for your PCR 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 24 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 other 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. 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 access testing through the University’s service or the NHS.

If you have symptoms or had a positive Lateral Flow Device test result and your confirmatory PCR test is 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 directly will mean they get the information as fast as possible, but 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) or have received a positive LFD test result.

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) or have received a positive LFD test result.

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.

Protect our community. Protect the vulnerable. Protect yourself.
Was this page useful?*