Keeping you safe and well | University of Oxford
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Keeping you safe and well

Last updated: Thursday 29 October 2020

The health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we will all need to make adjustments to the way we live and work. There are certain actions that are crucial for all of us to adopt to make things as safe as possible for everyone in the community. In particular, you are asked to:

  • Keep your distance
  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a face covering
  • Got symptoms? Get a test
  • Contacted by track and trace? Stay at home

Stop the Spread. Protect the community

Cases of COVID-19 in Oxford are on the rise. To stop these numbers growing and to help avoid extra restrictions being brought in, we’re asking all students to support our efforts by:

  • Following the rules on testing and self-isolation
  • Maintaining social distancing from people in other households
  • Following the behaviours in the student responsibility agreement

While many students are asymptomatic, if you have COVID-19, you are likely to pass it on to vulnerable members of the community – including the teaching and support staff who work closely with you.  Thank you to everyone who is continuing to follow the rules.  Don’t forget that support is available through the University and Colleges and the Oxford SU’s Student Advice.

COVID-19 Student Responsibility Agreement

At the start of this academic year, all students are being asked to sign the COVID-19 Student Responsibility Agreement to affirm your commitment to protecting the health of everyone within the University, colleges and wider Oxford community.

The agreement outlines the new habits and adjustments that are needed in light of the pandemic, all of which are to enable academic and social activity to take place as safely as possible.

Why this matters

Protecting the vulnerable

These measures are essential for controlling the spread of COVID-19. Failing to adhere to them is likely to put the lives of vulnerable people at risk.

This includes fellow students with health conditions, teaching and support staff who you come into contact with, and the wider local community of which we are a part.

Preventing lockdowns

Increased numbers of cases will increase the likelihood of lockdowns – which will significantly impact student experience. We need all students to work with us to help keep Oxford open.

What to do if you develop COVID-19 symptoms

If you are an Oxford student and develop COVID-19 symptoms:

1. Return to your accommodation

If you develop symptoms that could be coronavirus, return to your accommodation right away as COVID-19 is most infectious just after the onset of symptoms.


2. Book a test

You should book a test as soon as possible through the Testing for COVID 19: Early Alert Service.

The service is:

  • A dedicated testing service for all University students and staff
  • Managed in collaboration with the UK’s national health service, the NHS
  •  Free to access
  • There are two testing sites – one in central Oxford and one in Headington, with an online booking service available
  • Results will in most cases be available within 24 hours

Go to the Testing for COVID 19: Early Alert Service webpage to book. 

Important: if you receive a positive test result through another route (e.g. via the national NHS service), you must complete the form for reporting external coronavirus positive results.

When to book a test

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).

Please do not book a test if you do not have any of the primary symptoms. 


3. Notify your college and department’s designated COVID-19 contacts

So that welfare support and alternative teaching arrangements can be put in place if needed. 

When you need to self-isolate

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.

We know that self-isolation is not always easy, but there is support to help you

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 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 members are also incubating the virus.
  • If one member of a household is identified as a close contact of a confirmed case but is asymptomatic: only that member needs to self-isolate, and should socially distance themselves from other household members. They should only get a test if they develop symptoms. They should self-isolate for 14 days from the date of last contact with the confirmed case – even if they receive a negative test result.
    If they go on to develop symptoms, then at that point the whole household needs to self-isolate.

This flowchart provides more information about the process for testing and self-isolation (SSO required).

Notifying contacts

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.

In some cases the University will support this contact tracing.

Other actions you can take

In addition to NHS Test and Trace, there are additional steps you can take:

  • Inform those who you think might have been recent close contacts (see definition below)
  • Speak to your college (they will be notified along with your department if you get a positive case and may be able to support you in notifying others)

We all have a responsibility for stopping the spread of COVID-19.  Acting quickly will help reduce the spread of infection. 

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.

You can ask your college or department to notify contacts anonymously on your behalf if you prefer.

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 or by a college, you should consider whether you have been exposed to the virus and need to self-isolate.

Your college will be able to help you with this decision, and will provide support if you 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

Why contact tracing is important

Among young people, as many as 80% of those with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic and will have no idea they have the virus - but they can still infect others.

Through contact tracing, people who have been exposed to the virus are alerted and can avoid unwittingly infecting vulnerable individuals.

Keeping your contact details updated

So that you can be contacted as quickly as possible, it is important that your mobile phone number is included in the Student Record. Please log in to Student Self Service and check your mobile number in the ‘my contacts information’ section is up-to-date. 

You should also be registered with a local doctors' surgery, and ensure your address and contact details are up-to-date on their systems.

FACTS research pilot 

The University is now taking part in a new pilot scheme to assess the use of Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs), a new COVID-19 test designed to identify asymptomatic individuals with the virus.

FACTS is a research project developed by the University in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and Durham University.

Currently students in two colleges are able to trial the tests on a voluntary basis. Students who receive positive tests in the pilot will require a confirmatory test through the University’s Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service (or via the NHS if this is not possible).

NHS COVID-19 app

We encourage you to use the NHS COVID-19 app, which is available to download from Google Play and the Apple App Store.

What is the app?

The app includes a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing and local area alerts.

Venue check-ins

Public places such as shops, cafes and bars – as well as certain public parts of the University and colleges will be required to display QR codes for you to check-in to venues. Non-NHS app users will need to sign a register.

Important – testing and the app

The app directs users to the NHS testing service. However, Oxford students should always, where possible, use the University’s own testing service instead. 

Support for health and wellbeing

We recognise that these are unsettling times and we will support the wellbeing of all students – regardless of their personal circumstances, or any disadvantage or disruption they may have faced as a result of COVID-19. 

Please refer to the welfare and wellbeing page to find out about the support that is available to you.

If you are an international student with a general question about healthcare arrangements, please refer to the new international students page on the Oxford Students website.

For more information about self-isolation, please refer to the colleges and accommodation page.

Face coverings

You are required to use face coverings across all University and college buildings as set out in the face coverings policy

Why face coverings matter

There is increasing evidence that wearing face coverings can reduce transmission of COVID-19, and is a helpful mitigation measure, particularly in higher risk areas like indoors and when socialising outside your household.

Tips for using face coverings effectively

  • Avoid the covering itself touching you or any surfaces once you have taken it off, and store reusable coverings in a plastic bag when finished: if you have the virus, your mask will be contaminated with virus particles, which will spread quickly over you and any surfaces you leave it on
  • Wash reusable face coverings after each use: either in your laundry according to the manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric, or by handwashing with soap that is suitable for handwashing items, and hot water
  • Wear a face covering at all times except when seated to eat - if you were infected you could be walking around breathing out virus all round the room!
  • Don’t touch the face covering and don’t put it on the table or bench – put it away in a bag or pocket. If you do have the virus (and remember you could be unaware that you do), it will be contaminated with virus particles that will spread to your fingers and then onto shared surfaces
  • Sanitise your hands directly before you eat, as you will have been touching items such as pay cards, face covering and bag.

Face covering exemptions

Please respect that some people are exempt from wearing a face covering. They may choose to wear a badge or sunflower lanyard to indicate this, but these are not compulsory.

Protective measures in our facilities 

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all staff and students is paramount is why we will have introduced a range of measures to protect you when you are in University and College buildings. This includes:

  • Enhanced cleaning regimes, and additional facilities for increased hand washing
  • Spaces adapted to ensure social distancing and appropriate ventilation, with clear signage and markings
  • Additional measures such as Perspex screens and barriers in areas where social distancing is more difficult such as in laboratories
  • University libraries have enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures in place, with a ‘seat-finder’ app to find spaces in reading rooms
  • Face coverings are required during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces with exceptions being made for those students and staff with health conditions which mean they can’t wear them. Go to the face coverings page for more information.

The University’s measures are informed by an expert advisory group made of Oxford clinical academics, as well as government guidance. We will follow UK government advice and make detailed contingency plans in case additional measures are required. More detail can be found on the University coronavirus health page.

If you (staff or student) receive a positive test result through a route other than the University Early Alert service (eg via the national NHS service), you must complete the form for reporting external coronavirus positive results, continue to self-isolate, and report your absence to your department and college. 

Health and wellbeing FAQs

A selection of FAQs for all students and offer holders about health and wellbeing.

For more detailed information, please see the FAQs section of this site.

Do I need to wear a face covering?

All students and staff are required to wear face coverings during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces, with exceptions for both individuals and settings where they are not appropriate (for example on grounds of disability). For more information about face coverings, please refer to the face coverings policy.

What will the University do if there is an increase in cases of coronavirus?

Should restrictions or alert levels increase, the University and colleges will put in place contingency plans in order to adapt rapidly as necessary – ensuring we are able to operate safely while maintaining excellent standards of education for students. For more information, refer to the University status and response page.

Will I be tested on arrival in the UK?

No. At the present time, those arriving in the UK are not tested for COVID-19 on arrival. You will instead need to self-isolate for 14 days unless you are travelling from an exempt country. For an up-to-date list of exempt countries, visit the travel corridors page of the UK Government website.

Do I still need to self-isolate if I have a COVID-free certificate?

COVID-free certificates are not valid in the UK. You will still need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival unless you are from an exempt country (see previous question).

What should I do if I feel anxious about coronavirus?

It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry during a crisis. There are some great resources out there to help support your mental health, whether you are in Oxford or away, and especially when self-isolating.  Student Minds has a list of advice and tips on their website and further links. The University's Counselling Service website has a range of supportive resources and information about managing mental health conditions.

If you have an existing mental health condition, then we know this may be a particularly challenging time. You can find public health advice for supporting your mental health on the PHE website. A 24/7 NHS mental health helpline has also recently been launched to take pressure off 111 for mental health advice in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

If you are a current student, you can still access Student Welfare and Support Services. Although our physical building is closed, all services are presently offering online telephone appointments. Current students can now also access free online support 24/7 through  Togetherall. Togetherall is a free service giving you access to a global welfare community. To join, simply visit the official website and register under "I'm from a university or college" with your Oxford e-mail address.

Why has the University adopted its current testing policy?

Further detail about the University’s approach to testing is available in a white paper published by Professor Chris Conlon, Chair of the University’s Health Measures Advisory Group, and on the University testing webpage

I consider myself to be vulnerable (for example, I have an underlying health condition). What support will be available to me?

The University is implementing a range of measures to ensure that students can be safely taught in person, where government guidance and local health and safety circumstances allows. We will ensure that all learning can be conducted remotely if necessary – at least for the first term – for the health and safety of individual students. This includes students in high risk categories who are not able to return to the University. If you have any concerns, you should speak to your GP and/or hospital specialist in the first instance, and discuss with your college or department as appropriate.

Are there any additional safety measures in place for part-time students?

The same safety measures will apply as for full-time students. However, you should wait for information from your department about how your teaching will be delivered as there may be some adaptations (such as the ability to participate remotely in teaching that would normally only be delivered face-to-face).

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