Last reviewed 20 January 2021
Despite the significant upheaval caused by coronavirus, the University has continued to perform its vital role of delivering world-class teaching and research. As we continue the 2020/21 academic year and adjust to new ways of delivering teaching and undertaking research, our first priority remains the health, safety and well-being of our people.
The University will continue to review the measures to keep our community safe and its COVID-19 emergency response status in light of Government and local health authority advice.
Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and understanding during this challenging and uncertain time.
**NEW 6 January 2021** National lockdown – implications for Hilary Term
On Wednesday 30 December, the UK Government published new guidance about which students are allowed to return to universities in the New Year. This was updated on 4 January with the announcement of a national lockdown. Information about our Hilary term plans can be found on our student coronavirus webpages. In light of these developments the University has moved to Stage 3 of its business continuity planning framework from 5 January 2021. This means that while University and college buildings will remain open for on-site working and research, teaching and learning will need to take place online for the time being, apart from the courses outlined in government guidance where in-person teaching is permitted.
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 email@example.com.|
|For queries from Single Points of Contact or college nurses about managing individual positive cases, including public firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|For staff operational queries or advice about the implementation of case management protocols||Within office hours|
Outside of office hours or in the event of a serious incident
COVID-19 case response protocols (SSO required)
- If you are a line manager or a department COVID-19 point of contact read the latest department case response guidance. It includes ‘action cards’ that explain the process to be followed if a student or staff member informs you of symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test result. If you are a college COVID-19 point of contact read the latest college case response guidance. A full list of Department and College COVID-19 single points of contact is available.
- We have now also highlighted two key documents found in the wider protocols. These are the definition of a close contact and expanded guidance on self-isolation.
- If you still can’t find what you are looking for, please review the FAQs.
Guidance and advice
Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service (SSO required)
- Watch our video about the University-wide Health Campaign, which promotes the behaviours we must adopt to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Remember not everyone can comply with certain measures such as face covering. Please be considerate;
- Visit the University’s Testing Service if you have primary COVID-19 symptoms. Consult this flowchart for the process you need to follow. Rapid identification and isolation of positive cases is essential to slow the spread of the virus. Anyone with one of the main symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home or immediately return home and book a test;
- If you receive a positive test result through a route other than the University Early Alert service (eg via the national NHS service), you must report your result by using the Report a Test button on University 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 15 January 2021** Keep protecting yourself and the community
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 our 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.
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.
**NEW 15 January 2021** Guidance for on-site working (SSO required)
Information on the UK lockdown and how it impacts on-site working for staff
On-site working and research
• There is no requirement to close buildings and on-site working is permitted where it cannot be undertaken remotely.
• On-site research is allowed and encouraged where it cannot be carried out remotely, enabled by the availability of a COVID-secure environment. Research which requires on-site facilities will continue subject to practical arrangements set at Departmental level to ensure COVID-secure facilities.
• Gatherings of staff and students are only permitted where essential for teaching and assessment to take place. Only small gatherings are allowed, with preference for continued use of video conferencing even for staff in the same buildings.
• Our Health Measures Advisory Group has confirmed that the new variant of COVID-19 spreads in the same way as the previous variant, and that strict adherence to COVID-secure working will help to minimise the risk of transmission. Colleagues minimising the number of people they interact with, regular handwashing, wearing face coverings and maintaining a two-metre distance remain essential. The experience from last term shows that these measures kept working and teaching environments safe.
We are aware that there could be a range of health vulnerabilities and additional concerns about travelling to work for those with caring responsibilities. For line managers whose staff have concerns, please refer to our guidance. Staff members can access the COVID-vulnerability self-assessment tool for more information.
Please be aware:
- A limited number of Bodleian Libraries are open for University card members; please see the Libraries' Hilary term guidance for details. A wide range of resources remain available online.
- The Ashmolean Museum, Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum and History of Science Museum are closed until further notice. Visitors are welcome to explore the museums’ online resources and collections.
- The Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum are both open; please book before visiting. Wytham Woods is currently closed. The University Parks remain open; please practise social distancing while using the space.
**NEW 20 January 2021** Updated government advice around international travel
The Safety Office has provided the following updates about international travel:
- Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, international travel can only take place where there is a legally permitted reason, as set out in UK lockdown restrictions. Heads of Department will need to approve any international travel at this time, and in doing so satisfy themselves that the trip is essential and urgent, as well as balance the need for the travel against the risks involved. Prior to approval by the Head of Department, risk assessments for international travel should also be sent to the Safety Office for review at this time.
- If travel is permitted, those travelling must first check relevant Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice. Some countries have closed borders, and may further restrict movement or bring in new rules including testing requirements with little warning.
- In addition, from Monday 18 January, any travellers to England must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to three days before departure. Travellers must also provide journey and contact details and self-isolate for 10 days.
New government guidance concerning travel was issued on 4 January 2021.
If you are travelling to and from work, please review the guidance to help keep you safe and have a look at the dedicated travel web page. This contains practical support on bus and rail travel as well as car parking and a number of schemes to help staff start cycling.
Mental health and wellbeing
Go to one of our many mental health services if you’re feeling anxious for example:
- the Department of Experimental Psychology’s Oxford Anxiety disorders and trauma group resources;
- the anonymous online support community togetherall (select I’m from a university or college when you register for free);
- the staff telephone counselling service Care First;
- TalkingSpace PLUS, an Oxford-based NHS mental health self-referral service, offering free therapy courses, including on how to manage worries around COVID-19, and how to connect with others if you are feeling alone as a result of having to isolate yourself;
- the University’s staff disability network has information for staff with pre-existing mental health conditions and for those in the neurodivergent community in light of COVID-19.
Support for staff who might be suffering with long COVID
Increasing medical evidence and patient testimony is showing that a small but significant minority of people who contract COVID-19 cannot shake off the effects of the virus months after initially falling ill. This is being referred to as long COVID. New national clinical guidance is currently being developed on the medical 'case definition' of long COVID and on the support patients should receive from NHS doctors, therapists and staff, including an online rehab service Your COVID Recovery.
Staff suffering with 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.
The clinicians in our in-house Occupational Health Service can provide individualised and specific advice on issues such as phased return to work programmes and other adjustments or adaptions required to support a colleague back to work, or on specific aspects of workplace risk against the person’s health and wellbeing. They have extensive expertise in supporting staff suffering with, or returning to work after a period of absence caused by, a range of serious or chronic illnesses and conditions and are already supporting some cases of long COVID within the University.
National lockdown childcare and nursery arrangements
Early years settings are permitted to stay open. For other childcare please check with your provider. Our nurseries and Childcare Services have a wealth of information for staff, and you should not hesitate to contact them if you have a query.
For more details on nurseries and the new national restrictions, please consult the Government Webpage, where you will also find information on childcare bubbles. In addition, there is specific guidance on nursery arrangements at the University.
Advice for staff with caring responsibilities
Staff with Caring Responsibilities
If you are a parent or caregiver, you might have to undertake caring responsibilities as schools, nurseries and other care facilities close and reopen depending on current restrictions. If this happens, you should continue working from home if possible. If working at home or making alternative care arrangements is difficult, or not possible please explore the options set out in the Coronavirus working from home guide for University staff.
It is always important to keep in regular touch with your line manager or supervisor (if you have one) so that they know when you are working.
** NEW 15 January 2021** Advice relating to staff with school-age children
The University appreciates that many colleagues will be affected by the Government announcement that under the new lockdown, schools will open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. Further information is available in the Government guidance on schools and childcare arrangements. As before, if staff are unable to carry out work because of caring responsibilities relating to COVID-19, they will continue to be paid, and they may be placed on furlough, on a full or part-time basis.
Staff members affected by the partial school closures should be encouraged 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. The working pattern and expectations of affected staff should be adjusted where necessary to allow them to balance their responsibilities.
The Department for Education has issued supplementary guidance relating to critical workers and school places and the relevant University webpage has been updated to reflect the latest situation.
Furlough, whether full- or part-time, should only be used where all other options have been explored, and for a minimum period of seven days.
Under the University’s furlough scheme, members of staff continue to be paid their full pay, and 80% of the associated cost (not including employers’ NI or pensions costs) is reclaimed from the Government. Managers should consider whether the furlough scheme may assist those with caring responsibilities related to COVID-19 and read the guidance before discussing this with affected staff members.
We fully understand this is a challenging time for many of our staff who yet again will have to balance childcare, home teaching and other caring responsibilities with work. We recognise that these additional commitments at home may require the adoption of different working patterns. We will do everything we can to support staff during this time, and we encourage all staff to take advantage of the resources we have made available to ease this burden.
Colleagues in colleges should speak to college contacts for advice on arrangements.
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.