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Overview

Frequently asked questions

 


Overview

Last updated 21 February 2020.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice and is recommending that UK nationals currently in China should leave if they are able to do so, noting that it may become harder to access departure options. Our updated advice regarding travel in the coming weeks is at the bottom of this message. Please read this closely if you have travel booked or planned.

Public Health England continues to advise that anyone who has travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province to the UK in the last 14 days should take the following steps immediately, whether or not you are displaying symptoms:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area.

They also advise that those who have travelled to the following areas in the last 14 days should follow the same steps if you develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath:

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Macau

You should also let your line manager know.

It is understandable that you may have concerns so please familiarise yourself with the official PHE advice. The current coronavirus outbreak is clearly serious, and it is a particularly anxious time for those in our community with family and friends in China. In the UK, however, it is important that we keep our response in proportion to the risk. The government advice is very clear that the risk to individuals in the UK from coronavirus remains lowEight patients in England have tested positive for coronavirus. so far; for context, thousands of people are hospitalised every year in a typical winter flu season. This short video with our own Professor of Virology Ian Jones explains why the risk to individuals is low.

While the coronavirus can develop into a serious illness, this risk primarily applies to those with an underlying health condition. There is no need to treat everyone with a cough as a risk. If the Public Health England guidance changes, we will keep you informed and you can find the latest information on the Staff Portal.

For most of us, the best advice is to take standard NHS-recommended precautions to prevent the spread of colds and flu: wash your hands often with soap, and cough or sneeze into a tissue and bin the tissue as quickly as possible. 

There are some reports in the UK where people who are, or appear to be, of Chinese heritage being treated with hostility or openly harassed. This is clearly unacceptable. Our community is a welcoming one for people of all races and backgrounds and we are committed to providing a safe environment for all our students and colleagues. We will never tolerate any form of discrimination, bullying or harassment. Indeed, I hope we will all demonstrate sensitivity towards those who may be concerned for friends and family.

If you are subject to, or witness, harassment or discrimination please speak to your line manager or one of our Harassment Advisers. You can find their details on the Harassment Reporting and Support page. For our students, details are available on our #NeverOK page and any students worried for family and friends in the region can find information about support at www.reading.ac.uk/welfare-team.

 


Frequently asked Questions

Can I travel for University activity?

Given the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice, no travel should be booked for mainland China until this advice changes. 

Anyone planning overseas travel in this academic year should, as soon as possible, complete an overseas risk assessment form (either for ‘low risk’ or ‘medium to high risk’ travel) and submit the Notification of Overseas Travel forms for staff and students required by insurance. The sooner you do this the better. It will help the University support trips to proceed, where this is possible. Holding back to “see how things turn out”, and providing late notification of travel, will actually make refusal of approval or even cancellation more likely.

Travel should be booked through the University’s travel management company CTM. 

You should also download the travel advisory app so you are kept updated with any new or urgent information. 

What should I do if you have travel for University activity booked to Hubei?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise against all travel to Hubei Province, China, and recommends that anyone currently travelling there should leave if they are able to do so. As a result, travel to Hubei for University activity is not permitted. 

If you have upcoming travel to Hubei Province booked, cancellation is very likely to be covered either via the travel management company in the first instance or by University insurance so please contact your Head of School or Function and the Insurance team immediately. 

What should I do if you have travel for University activity booked for the rest of mainland China 

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the rest of China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). The University’s Steering Group (see below for details) has decided that all University work activities should be assumed to be non-essential and trips should not proceed.  

If you have upcoming travel to mainland China booked, cancellation is very likely to be covered either via the travel management company in the first instance or by University insurance so please contact your Head of School or Function and the Insurance team immediately. 

If, in consultation with your Head of School or Function, it is considered that your travel is essential, this must be agreed by the Steering Group (see below for details). It may not be possible to secure insurance cover for such trips so this confirmation must be sought well in advance.  

What should I do if you have travel booked outside of mainland China?

If you are travelling outside of mainland China, you should check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office country information for the latest advice. The latest World Health Organisation situation report also has information about where cases of coronavirus have been confirmed. 

You should complete the risk assessment and risk management forms and speak to your line manager, Head of School or Function, who will be best placed to make a decision about whether the travel should proceed based on the risk.

If you are concerned, for example because of the nature of the activity you will be doing or any underlying health condition you have, please complete the risk assessment and risk management forms and speak to your line manager and Head of School or Function. The University insurance does not automatically apply to cancellations or change for travel outside mainland China at this stage, but it will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What should I do if I have plans to travel overseas, but not as part of my work?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise against all travel to Hubei Province, China, and all but essential travel to the rest of China (not including Hong Kong and Macao).

If you are travelling anywhere else in the world, you should check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office country information for the latest advice. The latest World Health Organisation situation report also has information about where cases of coronavirus have been confirmed. 

What is the University doing to respond?

A Steering Group remains in place and comprises of the following colleagues:

  • Katja Strohfeld, Teaching & Learning Dean and lead for the Teaching & Learning contingency planning sub-group
  • David Carter, Head of ISLI and lead for the international planning and partnerships sub-group
  • Jenny McGrother, Director of Health & Safety and lead for the health sub-group
  • Victoria Pearson, Head of Corporate Communications and lead for the communications sub-group
  • Paddy Woodman, Director of Student Services
  • Julie Rowe, Director of Legal Services.

The Steering Group will coordinate the University’s response as the situation develops. Its priorities are to protect the health of members of the University community and reduce disruption of University academic activities. If you have any queries, please contact the relevant sub-group lead listed above. 

The situation may change quite quickly, so please monitor email and the Staff Portal for the latest information.

Will visa expiration dates affect travel to China?

The Home Office have issued guidance for Chinese nationals and those in the UK who are normally resident in China who are unable to return to China at this time. This includes an automatic extension to visas until the 31st March 2020.

Students who are affected by this and have any further questions or need immigration support can contact the International Student Advisory team at immigration@reading.ac.uk. Any members of staff who may be affected should contact their line managers or HR business partners.   

Where can I find further advice if I’m worried?

If you are worried about anything arising from this advice, please contact the NHS helpline on 111 or your doctor.

We understand many of our community may be worried for family and friends in the region. Please remember our Employee Assistance Programme is here to offer support, including by phone and email.

If there are any further developments we will keep you updated on the Staff Portal so please check here for the latest information.

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