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Five steps to stay COVID-safe

Last reviewed 28 July 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.

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

Although the UK government moved to Step 4 of its Roadmap for lifting restrictions on 19 July, Silver Group has decided to continue to maintain the University’s health measures for the time being whilst the evolving national and local situation becomes clearer. All staff and students working and studying on site should continue to follow all existing University health guidance, including current policies on social distancing and face coverings, and staff should carry on following Return to On-site Working principles.  This position will be kept under constant review in coming weeks and will adapt as the local and national situation evolves.

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 and that the pandemic is not yet over. 

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

  • Continue social distancing – assume 2 metres within University buildings unless told otherwise
  • Keep washing your hands
  • Keep wearing a face covering (unless you’re exempt)
  • Get tested – twice a week, with Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs); and take a PCR test if you have symptoms or have received a positive LFD test result or have been advised that you are a close contact of someone who has a PCR-confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • 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.

Our health campaign includes materials to reinforce these important messages, and the latest version of the campaign pack can be found on SharePoint.

**28 July** COVID update for students remaining in Oxford and staff

COVID-19 case numbers in Oxford remain high, and those in Oxford are being asked to take additional action.

Updated travel advice

The UK government is advising people in Oxford to be cautious about non-essential travel in and out of the city to help stop the spread of the virus.

Students should note that returning home from university would be considered ‘essential’ travel. As such, if you are planning to return home, you should continue to do so.  However, you should take an LFD test before leaving, to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus (please see additional information on the Students webpage).

Students who are staying in Oxford during the Long Vacation should avoid non-essential travel in and out of the city where possible – until the government advice changes.

There are no restrictions on travelling for work purposes; and pre-arranged travel, including holidays and conferences, can go ahead. The government recommends getting tested for COVID-19 before travelling to help protect those most vulnerable.

Get tested

If you live or work in Oxford and are 18 or over, you’re being asked to get a PCR test, even if you don’t have symptoms. The NHS have opened several temporary walk-in mobile testing units in Oxford. Go to the Oxfordshire County Council website for more information.

If you have symptoms, or are a close contact, you should continue to use the Early Alert Service – although if you cannot get an appointment, you can use the new NHS pods or arrange a test via the NHS website. Please note that the Early Alert Service testing pod will be closed from 31 July to 31 August inclusive. If you use the NHS service, you should still report your results to the Early Alert Service. This is to ensure that you have the support you need and to initiate a rapid response to minimise the risks to others.

Get vaccinated

Students and staff are advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible – either in Oxford or at home.

If you are in Oxfordshire, there are a number of walk-in vaccine clinics available to you, although please note that the University's temporary vaccination centres have now closed. You can also book a vaccination appointment online via the NHS system.

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.

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.

What to do if you have a positive Lateral Flow Device test result

If you test positive in any LFD 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, preferably through the Early Alert Service. You will receive further advice from the NHS and the University Results Liaison Team (RLT). You (and your household) should immediately self-isolate and assume you have the virus, pending the result of the confirmatory PCR test.

If you receive a PCR test result (positive, negative or void), through a route other than the University Early Alert service (eg via the national NHS service), you must report your result to the EAS.

If you receive your positive result notification at University you should only use public transport to return home if you have no other option. You should strictly follow the safer travel guidance for passengers; please refer to the safer travel national guidance.

Because the tests do not pick up every case, you may still be infectious even if you receive a negative result, so it is essential that you continue to follow all COVID precautions.

When you need to self-isolate (SSO required)

Prompt and effective self-isolation is a vital step in limiting COVID-19 transmission. It is very important that everyone self-isolates when asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace, the EAS Results Liaison Team or their (college, department, faculty) COVID contact.  

Staff and students need to self-isolate in the following instances: 

  • If any member of their household has symptoms of COVID-19 (mandating a confirmatory PCR): 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 the PCR test is negative then the household member with the symptoms and their household can stop self-isolating. 
  • If they test positive in any Lateral Flow Device tests (including those in community testing or received from the government via another route): they and their household must self-isolate immediately and they must book a confirmatory PCR test as soon as possible, preferably through the Early Alert Service.  
  • While they wait for their PCR test and results: they and the rest of their household must self-isolate until they have the results of their test. (Unless they have been informed they are a close contact – where they but not their household need to self-isolate whilst waiting for their PCR result.)  
  • If the result is positive: they and their household must continue to self-isolate (go to the NHS website to find out how long to self-isolate for). Their household will now need to book a PCR test.  
  • If they are a close contact they (but not their household) must immediately self-isolate: they must book a PCR test (preferably through the Early Alert Service) as soon as they are told that they are a contact by NHS Test and Trace, the EAS Results Liaison Team or their college/department/faculty COVID contact. If they test positive, or develop symptoms, they and their household must self-isolate. A negative PCR test will not release them from self-isolation - but will mean that their household members do not need to start self-isolating.

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 your 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 and book a PCR test. 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.

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

Visit the University’s Testing Service if:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19 
  • You have received a positive result from an LFD test 
  • You have been advised that you are a close contact of, or are a member of the same household as, someone who has a PCR-confirmed case of COVID-19 or 
  • You are advised to do so by public health authorities as part of the formal response to an outbreak.

Rapid identification and isolation of positive cases is essential to slow the spread of the virus. 

If you receive a PCR test result (positive or negative) through a route other than the University's Early Alert Service (eg via the national NHS service), you must report your result by using the Report a Test button on the University's Testing page, continue to self-isolate, and report your absence to your department and college. The information you provide will enable the University and/or your college to take any action that may be appropriate to protect our community, and to maintain a full picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 within the collegiate University.

**New 28 July 2021** Information about accessing vaccines

In line with government policy, we strongly encourage all staff and students to be fully vaccinated to protect their own health and the health of others. The government’s proposed change to self-isolation rules in mid-August also means that there will be a benefit to those who are fully vaccinated in that they will no longer be legally required to isolate if identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

Information about the COVID-19 vaccination and how to book appointments can be found on the NHS website.

If you are in Oxfordshire, there are also a number of walk-in vaccine clinics available to you.

**New 28 July 2021** NHS COVID Pass

The NHS COVID Pass can be used to demonstrate your coronavirus (COVID-19) status when travelling abroad and domestically at events and venues in England. Please refer to the UK government website for full details of how to get the NHS COVID Pass and what you can use it for.

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.
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