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COVID-19 FAQ: COVID-19 safeguards and restrictions

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Topics covered: what to do if you are sick or self-isolating; NHS Test and Trace; vulnerable groups; social distancing on campus; safety measures on campus; face coverings; student health; raising concerns.

Please note: some of the following guidance may not apply during the national lockdown (5 November - 2 December) . For the latest information, visit the New government lockdown guidance FAQs.


What if I'm displaying symptoms or need to self-isolate?

Staff, students and visitors must not enter campus if showing any symptoms of the virus. 

Please visit the government and NHS websites for the latest medical advice and immediate next steps to take if you or anyone in your household or ‘bubble’ becomes unwell.

If you are suffering from symptoms, please inform your line manager and they will report this using an online form. You should also advise if you are seeking, or struggling to obtain, a test. This information will be used to support local coordination efforts with PHE and local authorities and better assess demand for testing in the region. Please note, unlike our form that lets us know that you have tested positive, we will not be able to follow-up individually if you let us know that you have symptoms. Your line manager will support you if you need to self-isolate, so please keep them informed.

You can request a test for yourself or a member of your household from this NHS link. Those testing positive will need to follow instructions to self-isolate – please see the government’s advice on self-isolation for full details. Your line manager will support you if you need to self-isolate, so please keep them informed. You will be paid if you need to self-isolate. 

If you are self-isolating but are sufficiently well and can work from home, then you should continue to do so. Just remember to keep in regular contact with your line manager. 

If you are too unwell to work, you will need to complete the NHS self-isolation note and should follow our standard sickness reporting procedure. Please ensure you keep your manager informed. 

If you are a line manager, further guidance is available in the ‘Guidance for Managers’ section, which will help you on managing colleagues through the phased return. 

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What should I do if I get a positive COVID-19 test result?

It is important that you advise your line manager as soon as possible if you received a positive COVID-19 test result. This will enable the University to take swift action where appropriate to minimise the risk to others. It also enables us to liaise with external bodies such as Public Health England and Local Authorities, to ensure that actions are effective and proportionate.

When reporting a positive test result to your line manager, you should provide as much information as you can about:

  • when you became symptomatic
  • when you had a test and when you received the results of the test
  • whether and when you've been to campus within the last few days before you became symptomatic and where on campus you have been working
  • anyone on campus whom you think may be close contact. Find the definition of close contact on the NHS website.

Any information provided to your line manager will be shared with your HofS/F, HR and with a small number of colleagues who are responsible for managing the University's response to any outbreaks, or potential outbreaks, of COVID-19 in our community.

The information will be held securely by the University and shared on a strictly need to know basis. Where necessary, this information may be shared with NHS England, Public Health England and other bodies involved in the protection of public health.

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What if I am contacted by the NHS Test and Trace?

If you are contacted as part of the NHS Test and Trace programme please follow any instructions you are given to self-isolate. Please also inform your line manager if you are contacted. 

We may have to keep records of people using certain buildings on campus for Test and Trace purposes, so please provide your contact details if you are asked for them. 

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Where and how can I get an on-campus COVID-19 test?

A walk-through coronavirus testing facility is open in the Great Hall at our London Road campus, helping people in Reading and Wokingham get easier access to testing. 

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a free swab test that takes less than a minute. Tests are available by appointment only either online at or by calling 119

A test should be booked as soon as symptoms begin. The London Road testing site is easily accessible without a car with entry and exit via Crown Place only. Those being tested will be required to follow public health measures, including: 

  • social distancing
  • not travelling by taxi or public transport
  • practising good personal hygiene
  • wearing a face covering throughout (including travelling to and from the testing centre).

People can also order home testing kits at and the post box outside Whiteknights House has been designated as a priority mailbox for return posting kits. 

What if I am in a high-risk group?

If you are in one of the ‘high risk' groups, you may still be able to work from home - please speak to your line manager if you are concerned about returning to campus and we will consider this carefully. Where appropriate, we will agree alternative arrangements, in consultation with Occupational Health as needed.

If you are unable to work from home due to your circumstances or the nature of your role, please also discuss this with your manager and maintain regular contact with them.

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How will social distancing work on campus?

This Safety Note and Code of Conduct (Word, 785 KB) for staff outline how social distancing will work on campus. All colleagues coming to campus should familiarise themselves with the guidance outlined there. Those on campus must ensure they continue to follow the latest government advice on social distancing.

Colleagues involved with teaching and learning should also read the note COVID19 Social Distancing within Teaching, Learning & Assessment Activities.

It is your personal responsibility to maintain social distancing. We recognise that it can be difficult at times but everyone is expected to contribute to appropriate social distancing on campus.  For the safety of our whole community, action can be taken if students or colleagues wilfully disregard the guidance. It is also human to make mistakes! So please be patient with yourself and others.

Measures may vary within individual buildings and in outdoor spaces. All Schools and Functions have completed risk assessments for their individual areas and are tailoring safety measures to best fit with their local needs. You can find details of these in the Corporate-Level Risk Assessment for COVID-19.

If you have any concerns over social distancing, please speak to your line manager.

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What will happen if social distancing restrictions change?

We will continue to closely monitor the evolving government advice and will be prepared to respond as quickly as possible to changes that affect the way we operate. We'll share the latest updates with you by email and through the staff portal.

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What health & safety measures will be in place in teaching rooms for autumn 2020?

This story sets out our current plans for teaching in the autumn term.

We would like to emphasise that our commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of our students and colleagues remains our foremost priority. If individual members of staff or students raise concerns (for staff, with their line manager) about these measures not being suitable for them (for example, due to a disability or increased vulnerability to the virus) we will consider this carefully. Where appropriate, we will agree alternative arrangements, in consultation with Occupational Health as needed.

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Do I have to wear a face covering? 

The University supports the government’s advice that face coverings can be used as a precautionary measure to protect others and advises that we “Protect our Community: Wear a Face Covering”. 

There are three main points for both students and colleagues to remember:


  1. All legal requirements about face coverings apply on campus. For example, you must wear a face covering in shops, takeaway food outlets, on public transport, places of worship and in our museums.
  2. In line with government guidance, you are expected to wear a face covering where social distancing is difficult to maintain, including:
  • in enclosed spaces, including classrooms, lecture theatres and the library, or where social distancing of 2 metres is not possible (this includes corridors and outdoor spaces)
  • where you come into contact with others that you do not normally meet.

If wearing a face covering interferes with teaching and learning (for example, for practical and/or performance disciplines) the member of staff responsible for the session may advise that face coverings are not required, provided that a 2 metre distance can be maintained at all times and this measure is addressed as part of the risk assessment for that teaching session.. However, if a student wishes to continue to wear a face covering, they are permitted to do so unless the risk assessment indicates otherwise.

3. You do not need to wear a face covering if you can work 2 metres from others, so you may choose to  remove it when sitting at a desk or workstation outside a classroom setting (if you are more than 2 metres away from other people) although you should put it back on to move around inside buildings.

It is important to note that some people are exempt from wearing face coverings. This can be for a wide range of reasons, including hidden disabilities. If you see someone wearing a sunflower lanyard, this indicates that they have a hidden disability. However, wearing one is a personal choice and not everyone affected by a hidden disability will choose to do so. 

Students living in our Halls of Residence do not need to wear a face covering inside their house/flat. Students may wish to wear a face covering in communal areas inside halls where it is not possible to maintain social distancing of 2 metres.  

In general, you will need to have your own face covering and you will be able to purchase them at various outlets on campus. Face coverings can take a variety of forms but should cover the nose and mouth areas. There is helpful advice on using and disposing of face coverings on the
UK government website.

Members of staff working in reception areas, catering outlets and support areas, where a high degree of interaction is likely, will be supplied with appropriate face covering if a risk assessment indicates that this is necessary. Staff delivering face-to-face teaching will be able to request a face visor, which can provide reassurance for both staff and students as well as allowing easier communication.

We are a diverse community and we wish to take a position that is consistent with government advice and that feels as safe and reassuring as possible for everyone. Please be courteous, respectful and patient towards all members of our community.

You can read more about face coverings, including how to make your own, on the government’s website.

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What happens if there is an outbreak on campus?

In the event of a local outbreak, the University's response will be led by local health agencies. The University's activity will be co-ordinated by the MRT, the Risk Management Group and Health & Safety Services. We are finalising an outbreak plan in partnership with Reading Borough Council in case of one occurring at the University of Reading. Please find below a brief outline:

The University notifies the local authority of an outbreak and an external Incident Management Team (IMT) is created, a joint statement is published by the University and Reading Borough Council about the outbreak.

  1. Individuals directly affected by the outbreak are notified and advised on what steps they should take, with guidance from the IMT.
  2. All staff and students will be told about the nature of the outbreak and any specific guidance about immediate actions, as advised by the IMT.
  3. A mobile Testing Unit will be deployed by the IMT to facilitate testing of specific groups or whole cohorts, depending on the nature of the outbreak.
  4. All staff and students will be informed about the tiers of restriction in activities that are to be put in place, likely duration of restrictions and the plans for any necessary further escalation.
  5. Daily briefings will take place for Heads of School and Functions in order to support the management of the outbreak in specific areas.

We must all do our bit so keep our whole community safe. If colleagues or students do not comply with self-isolation requirements or safety measures on campus, this may result in disciplinary action. If you have any concerns, please raise these with your line manager.

You can find information on the number of positive COVID-19 test results reported to the University on the COVID-19 Dashboard.

Has there been an outbreak at the University?

While the number of University cases remains comparatively low, PHE is now formally treating the growth in cases at the University as an ‘outbreak'. This classification provides the University with additional support mechanisms through a joint Incident Management Team consisting of the University, Public Health England the Reading Borough Council, and chaired by the Director for Public Health in Berkshire. The Director for Public Health for Berkshire has approved the University's plans for managing this situation, including safety measures for continued face-to-face teaching.

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What do I do if a student becomes unwell on campus?

If a student reports that they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus they must go home ((to their student/term time accommodation, or where they are currently residing) immediately and:

  1. Get a test as soon as possible
  2. Stay at home until they have their test result
  3. Tell all members of their household that they should self-isolate pending the results of the test

Please remind the student that they can access their live interactive online teaching sessions for their programme while they are self-isolating and that further information and advice is published on the Essentials webpages.

There is no need to do anything further until the student receives their test result (see below).

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What should students do if they have a positive test result for COVID-19?

The University has established a COVID-19 Case Management Team to support the national Test and Trace system.

If a student receives a positive test result for COVID-19 they must:

  • Notify the University using our online form
  • Follow all government advice to self-isolate (stay at home)
  • If they live in University halls, they should use the Home at Halls app to notify the team so they can provide support
  • Follow all instructions from the Case Management Team and the NHS and engage with the Test and Trace system (including advising Test and Trace that they are connected to the University)
  • Let all members of their household know, as they will need to self-isolate in line with government advice
  • Report their absence to their School in the usual way (or contact their Support Centre or Henley Helpdesk if they're not sure how to do this)

We will liaise with our local health partners for further advice on any further action required. We will also appoint a Case Officer (Hall Warden or member of the Student Welfare Team) to liaise with the household affected and ensure they have everything they need for the self-isolation period.

Colleagues must not share information with other students or staff -- this information is personal to the student and should be treated confidentially by you. It is the role of the COVID-19 University Case Management Team and NHS Test and Trace to notify students and/or colleagues to self-isolate where this is appropriate. Taking action yourself risks giving advice that may be contrary to that of Public Health England, as their advice will depend on the broader context within the University and in the Reading area.

The University has in place procedures to manage the liaison with Public Health England and the Local Authority, to share information appropriately and lawfully, to provide welfare and pastoral support to students and to communicate with relevant groups of staff and students in an effective and timely way.

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What should I do if a student says they are struggling to manage with their self-isolation?

Please ask the student to contact our COVID-19 Support & Behaviour Team in Student Services (, or contact them directly on behalf of the student. They will either provide advice for the student directly or liaise with the Student Welfare Team to deploy additional support via the SoS (Support our Students) Scheme, our Campus Commerce Team or another mechanism.

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What should I do if a student reports that they are worried about the behaviour of another group of students who are breaching the COVID-19 guidelines?

Please ask the student to contact our COVID-19 Support & Behaviour Team in Student Services ( to report their concern. They will provide further advice.

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What should I do if a student mentions they are in a clinically vulnerable group and have concerns about their health?

Please ask the student to seek medical advice from their GP to understand the risks in relation to their condition, or contact the Disability Advisory Team for further advice.

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Will there be extra cleaning and hygiene measures in place?

Changes have already been made to cleaning regimes and protocols. This enhanced cleaning may not be visible as cleaners will mostly work out of office hours to minimise contact with other staff. Protocols have been devised for additional cleaning in the event of positive COVID-19 test results for anyone known to have come on site.

All colleagues are expected to continue washing their hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Hand sanitiser will be provided in some parts of the University, where risk assessment has identified this is appropriate.

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Will Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) be provided?

All colleagues and students will need to have their own face covering in order to comply with government requirements.

If a risk assessment identifies that individual colleagues are at increased risk of infection directly from their work activity, the University will supply appropriate PPE.

Colleagues delivering face-to-face teaching will be able to request a face visor, which can provide reassurance for both staff and students as well as allowing easier communication.

You are welcome and encouraged to use personal face coverings and hand sanitiser, particularly inside buildings, as long as these do not compromise other control measures provided for health & safety. If using a mask, it is your personal responsibility to ensure it is appropriately disposed of.

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What is being done about ventilation in indoor areas on campus?

Guidance on ventilation in a COVID-19 context, specifically for universities, was published in the Department for Education guidance on 10 September. The guidance makes recommendations for the configuration of ventilation systems and a minimum threshold for air supply.

We have reviewed the guidance and consulted with external ventilation experts, and any rooms that do not meet requirements are removed from the timetable. Rooms in our buildings on campus which are mechanically ventilated have been switched from partial recirculation to 100% fresh air.

We have also increased flow rates and run times. For teaching rooms which have no mechanical ventilation, the guidance suggests a reduction in occupancy, use of face coverings and opening windows, which we have put in place. We have taken steps to further improve ventilation by allowing fallow time between classes and adjusting our timetable accordingly.

As rooms are becoming occupied, we will regularly monitor air quality with specialist consultants to ensure teaching and study spaces continue to meet air quality targets.

Further information about the health and safety measures we are putting in place in teaching rooms is published on the Staff Portal.

As we move into colder weather it is possible that there may be some issues relating to comfort and heating in some spaces and this will be kept under review. 

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Are there extra behavioural considerations to be aware of?

Please read our Code of Conduct (Word, 795 KB) and complete the two COVID-19 induction modules on UoRLearn in preparation of returning to campus. As a community we must be constantly mindful of others' concerns and personal preferences. Please be kind and courteous of those around you and remember that we are all working through this together.

Obviously, you should feel free to say hello to colleagues and friends! However, please observe social distancing requirements and, in particular, do not gather for casual conversations or make mobile phone calls in corridors and common areas, especially where this would require others to pass close to you.

If you have any concerns over social distancing, please speak to your line manager.

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Are there extra considerations for those with disabilities or increased vulnerability?

Your line manager will support you in the transition back to campus, so please keep in regular contact with them as arrangements are made.

Any risk factors that may need to be taken into account and mitigated will be discussed before you are asked to return to campus, and this may require an individual risk assessment. There may also be scope for extended periods of remote working where possible for your role. Occupational Health can also be involved where appropriate in supporting discussions about a return to working on campus.

Hand sanitiser will be available for disabled colleagues using lifts and others who cannot easily access handwashing facilities.

Lifts should be reserved for those with a genuine need arising from disability (including invisible disabilities), injury, illness, pregnancy or a manual handling task. Only one person should use a lift at a time, and ample space should be given for those entering/exiting the lift.

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What if there is an emergency on campus, such as a fire?

In the unlikely event of an emergency, such as a campus fire or major incident, your safety is our primary concern - please follow our usual evacuation procedure. We would not expect you to follow strict one-way systems in the event of an emergency, and so may have to compromise social distancing measures if we need to evacuate safely.

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Where can I find additional Health & Safety guidance?

On the Health & Safety Policies, Safety Guides and Notes page, along with guidance on social distancing, there are additional Safety Notes on low occupancy buildings, COVID-19 First Aid and social distancing for Teaching and Learning activities. If any of these topics apply to you, please take a moment to review this additional guidance.     

If you need to log an incident or concern, please use this online form to report an accident or incident. You can use this to record details of any Health and Safety issues, such as an accident, near-miss, general concern, occupational illness or injury.   

If you have any specific health and safety queries, please contact your local Health & Safety Co-ordinator in the first instance - you can find details of these and the areas they cover on this page.

If you need further or specialised assistance please contact Health & Safety Services on or call 0118 378 8888.

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How do I raise any questions I have about returning to campus?

You should discuss your return to campus with your line manager and raise any questions or concerns you have with them. 

You may find the following risk assessment tools helpful if you have concerns about returning based on your circumstances:

  • Risk Assessment Tool 1(for those who identify they may be vulnerable due to an underlying health conditions or protected characteristic, for example ethnicity, age, gender). Download (Word, 16 KB)
  • Risk Assessment Tool 2 (Where staff have been identified as having an increased risk via Risk Assessment Tool 1). This tool helps you to evaluate the residual risk of COVID-19 transmission through work activities. Download (Word, 16 KB)


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