Last reviewed 6 December 2021

COVID-19 guidance following 27 November 2021 government announcement

The UK government has introduced increased COVID-19 restrictions as a result of the Omicron variant.  Please note the following in relation to the University:

Face coverings and health advice

As of 1 December face coverings are mandated (unless individuals are exempt) in University libraries. They are also strongly encouraged in museums and most indoor settings. All staff should continue to follow all wider health advice, including taking part in regular testing twice a week. 

Working arrangements

There is no change to current guidance in relation to working on-site or working from home. You should continue to follow existing local working arrangements, as outlined by your department. 

Teaching arrangements

There are no changes to teaching arrangements between now and the end of Michaelmas term; although face coverings are now strongly encouraged in teaching settings. Information for students is available on student page of this site.  

Christmas parties

Christmas parties are expected to go ahead as planned. However, you will be strongly encouraged to take an LFD test before attending. 

International travel 

There are now 10 countries on the UK government’s red list. You should avoid non-essential travel to these countries and should be aware that you will need to stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days on return to the UK. The University and colleges will not usually cover this cost. Countries can be added to the red list at short notice and you should factor this into your travel plans.  

In addition, anyone arriving from any country outside the UK and Ireland must now take a PCR test before the end of day 2 after they arrive and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. Please note that the University Testing Service cannot be used for this purpose.

In line with the UK government, the University’s measures are intended to be temporary, and will be kept under continuous review. Arrangements for Hilary term will be confirmed as soon as possible.  The University’s wider health advice continues to apply, and staff and students should follow all UK government and University guidance including the new requirement for contacts of suspected Omicron cases to self-isolate as outlined by the government, regardless of their vaccination status. 

**UPDATED 6 December 2021** Omicron cases at the University
We are aware of a number of cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 at the University. We are working closely with the public health authorities and following their advice.

The University has already implemented a number of changes to its health guidance in response to the omicron variant, based on advice from its clinical medics. There are no further changes to the University’s health guidance at this stage, or any additional actions that students or staff need to take.

We continue to encourage the whole community to follow all University and Government health advice to reduce the risks of COVID-19; and will provide further information as it becomes available.


Health guidance

Coronavirus remains a serious health risk. As we head into the winter months and spend more time indoors, everyone needs to take individual responsibility for minimising risks to our community. 

  • Wear a face covering (unless exempt) in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.* 
  • Let fresh air in indoors: keeping windows and doors open increases ventilation and significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19. Please keep them open, particularly in areas which are poorly ventilated.*
  • Get your booster jab as soon as you’re eligible, and get a free flu jab if you can. 
  • Get tested and self-isolate if required. 

 *In University buildings, it will be clearly indicated where face coverings and/or additional ventilation is required.

It is important that everyone is considerate and follows health guidance. Even if you don’t feel at risk yourself, please respect others who feel more vulnerable.

Adhering to the guidance will also stop the spread of flu and other respiratory infections. This is particularly important this year because fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the pandemic; and because research shows that those who get flu and COVID-19 at the same time are more likely to become seriously ill.

Please see our Health page for more details of the updated health guidance. 

What to do if you’re a COVID-19 contact

If you’re a contact of someone with COVID-19, you’ll need to self-isolate (unless you’re exempt). Even if you’re exempt, you’ll still need to get a PCR test within 5 days of finding out you’re a contact, and you’ll be strongly encouraged to take a LFD test twice a week.

Staff and students should follow all UK government guidance including the new requirement for contacts of suspected Omicron cases to self-isolate as outlined by the government, regardless of their vaccination status. 

COVID-19 testing

Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service (SSO required)

Book a COVID-19 PCR test through the University’s Early Alert 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 (e.g. via the national NHS service), you must report your result on the Early Alert Service website, continue to self-isolate if applicable, 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. 

Regular symptom-free (LFD) testing for staff and students

Students and staff working or studying on site are able to pick up boxes of seven Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests free of charge from sites around the University as part of the ‘LFD Collect’ scheme. The distribution points are all colleges (for their own staff and students); the Weston Library (12-4 pm Mon to Fri); the Richard Doll Building on the Old Road Campus (8.30am-4pm Mon to Fri); Radcliffe Humanities in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (9am-5pm Mon to Fri, but not between 12.30 and 1.30pm); IT Services Reception Desk at 13 Banbury Road (8.30am-5.30pm, Mon to Fri – 01865 (2)73200);  Cairns Library Reception, Level 3 Academic Centre, at the John Radcliffe Hospital (10am–12noon on Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri; 2pm–4pm Wed); the Manor Road Building Reception on the Manor Road OX1 3UQ (9am-5pm Mon-Fri) and the Sherrington Building Reception off Parks Road OX1 3PT (8am and 4pm Mon-Fri).

If staff are using LFD Collect or other self-testing kits, they must remember to report their results (positive, negative, or void) to both the University and the NHS

More information about LFD Collect and reporting LFD test results is available on the symptom-free testing webpage.

Testing is voluntary but we strongly encourage everyone who is working or studying on site to get tested twice a week, every week, including those staff who have been vaccinated or have had COVID-19 more than 90 days ago. 

Anyone who tests positive in any LFD tests (including those via community testing or received from the Government via another route), must self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test, preferably through the University’s Early Alert Service. If staff 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), they must report their result by using the University’s Report a Test Result page.

International travel testing advice 

If you’re travelling to or from the UK, you may need to get tested for COVID-19. Please note that you cannot use the University’s Testing Service to provide proof of a negative PCR test for international travel purposes. You also cannot use LFDs issued by the University or your college or received in the post from the NHS or collected at a pharmacy for travel testing purposes. Travel LFD and PCR tests must be purchased privately. You can find out about suggested test providers below or learn about different testing requirements for international travel on the UK government website.

Staff and students are free to use any of the government-approved providers to arrange COVID-19 testing when travelling abroad and returning to England. This is a new and growing market, and all providers may experience capacity issues, leading to challenges with achieving advertised response times and service levels. Pricing is also subject to frequent change.

Where a postal service is acceptable, we have had reports of successful use of services from Biograd Diagnostics and Qured.

For in-person testing in Oxford the following services are available and are listed without any warranty or reports as to quality of service: 

Tests should be arranged and paid for personally, with the usual processes applicable for reimbursing expenses incurred in relation to University business where appropriate.

Support for managing COVID-19 cases

Contacts for COVID-19 cases

If you're a Single Point of Contact or a staff member dealing with the response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 here are some useful contact points for any queries.

For staff enquiries related to booking a University
For medical queries from Single Points of Contact or college nurses about managing individual positive cases, including public
For staff operational queries or advice about the implementation of case management protocolsWithin office hours
Outside of office hours or in the event of a serious incident
01865 289999

COVID-19 case response protocols (SSO required)

Work-related guidance

Guidance for on-site working (SSO required)

Following appropriate risk assessments of the working environment and the wide uptake of effective vaccination, University staff are now returning to working on site in order to facilitate a return to business as usual in our core teaching, research and innovation activities. 

The University’s Return to On-site Working (RTOSW) guidance has been updated to reflect the lifting of most COVID-19 related restrictions (including social distancing). It supports departments in reviewing and updating their risk assessments and work plans, including identifying any specific areas where a significant residual risk of COVID-19 transmission might remain (eg in less well-ventilated areas), and which will therefore require consideration of ongoing additional health measures. 

HR guidance for managers has been updated to ensure they have the information they need to support those coming back to working on site, including those who are considered to be at high risk or have specific concerns.  

College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance on health measures and RTOSW.

Working in colder weather

In some parts of the University, windows and doors will need to be kept open, to increase ventilation. Naturally-ventilated spaces are likely to be draughtier, so you might want to consider bringing in more clothing as the weather gets colder. We appreciate that this is not the regular advice in relation to energy and sustainability. However, increased ventilation significantly reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and we are grateful for your understanding as we return to a more normal pattern of work. We encourage everyone to take other steps to reduce our environmental impact.

New Ways of Working

Once University staff have returned to on-site (including office) working, it will then be possible to consider longer-term changes to working arrangements as appropriate to the role, building on our experiences during the pandemic. For Professional Services staff, this includes New Ways of Working, which is now underway in some departments. 

The key determining factor when trialling and assessing whether hybrid working options are effective will be how the University’s academic and organisational needs can best be met.  

New Ways of Working seeks to help departments build on positive experiences of remote working during the pandemic – whilst recognising that any new working arrangements must have at their heart the business and operational needs of the University, its mission of teaching and research, and the needs of the academics we are here to support. The guidance also provides an agreed structure and a means to ensure that staff maintain a strong physical connection to their place of work and to Oxford.

Updated guidance on international travel

A suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be completed and approved for all international travel. 

Where you plan to travel to a country or region to which the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel (either because of COVID-19 concerns, or any other reasons), your risk assessment will need to be reviewed by the University Safety Office and signed off by your Head of Department / Faculty Board Chair. Such travel must be academically essential.

Travel to other destinations must be academically justified, and your Head of Department/ Faculty Board Chair may delegate approval. There is no need for Safety Office review.

For detailed information, please refer to the Safety Office website.

**NEW 3 December 2021** Travel (to and from work) 

Bus and rail services have returned to near pre-pandemic timetables, with operators providing flexible season ticket and multi-trip products. The University has negotiated a discount of up to 8% on GWR services and 10% on local bus services.  Find out more on our travel bus pages

You can get the most up to date information about timetables online (GWRChiltern railwaysCross Country trainsOxford Bus CompanyStagecoach) and you can check how busy your bus or train operator is by looking at their apps and websites. Visit Oxford Bus Company website, and the trainline website for more information. 

Wearing face coverings is now mandatory on all public transport services.  Operators are continuing to help people travel with confidence by ensuring they have COVID-19 measures in place including enhanced cleaning regimes.

To help staff cycle to work, the University continues to offer up to 6 hours of free cycle training to build road skills in less confident cyclists, a bike loan scheme and in the New Year, a bicycle salary sacrifice scheme; find out more at  Travelling by bicycle | Travel (

Visit the return to on-site working travel page for related government news, local transport updates, travel options for returning to on-site working and details of the new pilot parking scheme.

Health and wellbeing advice and support

Information about accessing vaccines

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

You can book a COVID-19 vaccination online at the NHS website or find information about walk-in vaccination clinics in Oxfordshire on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group website.

You must continue to follow all University and government advice even after receiving your vaccination.


If you have been fully vaccinated in England, you can obtain the NHS COVID Pass and use this 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

Download the NHS COVID-19 app, which is available on smartphones from Google Play and the Apple App Store. We encourage you to use the app as it includes a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in. Tracing recent close contacts of anyone who has tested positive is important for containing the virus.

Mental health and wellbeing

The University’s Occupational Health Service promotes and supports physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace, and offers a range of services to the University, its employees and eligible students. In particular, on the Occupational Health website you can find advice and guidance about staff wellbeing and resources to help take care of your mental health.

Support for staff with ongoing health problems

Some people who contract COVID-19 continue to experience adverse effects for an extended period. The National Institute for Clinical Evidence published guidance in December 2020 which sets out the following definitions:

  • Acute COVID-19: signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for up to 4 weeks.
  • Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19: signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from 4 to 12 weeks.
  • Post-COVID-19 syndrome: signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

In addition to the clinical definitions, 'long COVID' is commonly used to describe various signs and symptoms that continue and/or develop after acute COVID‑19.

The national clinical guidance also sets out the support patients should receive from NHS doctors, therapists and staff, including an online rehab service Your COVID Recovery.

Staff experiencing ongoing issues, including long COVID, will be primarily supported in their recovery by their GP and other NHS medical professionals, and the University has a very generous sickness absence policy and comprehensive sickness management arrangements which allow extended periods of paid leave. 

Our University Occupational Health Service can advise on workplace issues, including advice for individuals who may continue to be at higher risk and advice to managers in facilitating a return to work for individuals who may have issues.

Individuals who might benefit from assessment with a clinical team member may be referred for an occupational health clinical assessment via a management referral. We would recommend full discussion with managers/ HR prior to any referrals to ensure clear lines of communication.

Staff who are concerned may make a self-referral to Occupational Health, but for general advice only, and please note that a self-referral is unlikely to generate any formal advice to managers or HR.

Support for staff with childcare responsibilities

Advice relating to staff with school-age children

Schools in England are now open, and staff who had been furloughed due to caring responsibilities linked to the schools closure will have returned to work.  If staff are unable to carry out work because of caring responsibilities relating to COVID-19 (for example due to class or school closures linked to local COVID-19 outbreaks) they should continue to explore all the options available to them to enable them to work (including those set out on the government website), and should discuss their situation with their line manager.  

Where necessary, departments should consider adjusting the working patterns, and/or the work expected of, affected staff to allow them to balance their responsibilities.   

Colleagues in colleges should speak to college contacts for advice on arrangements.

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