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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.

Questions

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 the 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 and they will report it using our online reporting form. 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?

Staff and students who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 can book a Lateral Flow Test at the University's SportsPark. Please see this page for further details. You must book a test in advance - please do not arrive for a test if you have not already made a booking. 

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms should request a test for yourself or a member of your household from this NHS link or by calling 119. A test should be booked as soon as symptoms begin.

Those being tested at the SportsPark  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 nhs.uk/coronavirus 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 identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, the government advises that you follow their guidance to shield, in light of the national lockdown that came into effect on 5 January 2021. 

If you are unable to work from home due to your circumstances or the nature of your role, please discuss this with your line manager and ensure that you 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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Do I have to wear a face covering? 

The University supports the government’s advice that face coverings play a very important role in mitigating the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Our policy has been updated in January 2021, to take into consideration the increased transmissibility of the new strain of the virus and help protect our community. The new guidance comes into effect from Tuesday 26 January.

There are three main elements to our policy, which apply to everyone (unless you are exempt from wearing a face covering):

  1. Face coverings must be worn in all areas on campus where they are legally required (for example, in shops, takeaway food outlets, on public transport and in places of worship).
  2. You are expected to wear a face covering in all shared indoor spaces (or ‘common areas’), including classrooms, lecture theatres, the Library, study spaces and corridors.
  3. Face coverings are recommended to be worn at all times on campus, including outdoors where others are using the same space, to mitigate the risk of transmission when passing other people.

Face coverings in teaching environments

Face coverings are expected to be worn in classrooms and lecture theatres at all times.

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 is always maintained, and that 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 for the practical indicates otherwise.

The Library and other study spaces

Face coverings are expected to be worn in all shared indoor spaces (or ‘common areas’), including the Library, study spaces (including RUSU’s The Study) and PC study labs. This includes when sat at a desk, even when two metres away from others, given the risks associated with different people moving around in the same space indoors.   

Halls of Residence

Students living in our Halls of Residence do not need to wear a face covering inside their house or flat, however it is expected that they are worn in all communal indoor areas inside Halls.

Offices

Face coverings are expected to be worn in all shared indoor spaces (‘common areas’), including kitchens and staff rooms. In offices, where the number of people using the space at any one time is limited, colleagues may choose to remove their face covering when sat at their desk, as long as they are working at least two metres away from others. Please remember to put it back on to move around inside the building, including when you move away from your desk for any reason.

Provision of face coverings for colleagues

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

Exemptions

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.  There is no requirement for someone to carry an exemption card or badge if they do not wish to do so.

We are a diverse community, and we wish to take a position that is consistent with government advice and that is 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 on the government’s website.

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What happens if there is an outbreak on campus?

An outbreak arises when Public Health England (PHE), together with the local authority’s Heath Protection Team, agree that the number of cases, and/or related context, warrant an Outbreak Control Meeting with the University, in accordance with the Outbreak Control Plan. In general, an outbreak occurs when it appears that a cluster of cases may have a common source, but the cases are not linked by individuals living in the same household.  

In the event of an outbreak, the University’s response will be led by PHE and the local Health Protection Team, which may establish an Incident Management Team, depending on circumstances. A University Major Incident Team (MIT) will be established to respond to and manage the outbreak internally, assisting and responding to any requests from the Health Protection Team where possible. In all cases, confidentiality of the person(s) involved will be maintained and only shared where necessary in accordance with the Outbreak Control Plan or other agreed processes. 

The MIT will facilitate any investigation required, consider and take necessary action to cease activities, close buildings/areas, cancel events, identify additional support for cleaning, welfare in Halls etc, and support enhanced testing capacity if required. 

Information about an outbreak will be communicated to those directly involved by the MIT and/or the relevant Head of School/Function. Any further communications will be dependent on the nature and circumstances of the outbreak.

The role of the Major Recovery Team is to manage any subsequent disruption to University activities and work towards resumption of service, including by making use of business continuity plans as appropriate. 

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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 (covid-support@reading.ac.uk), 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 (covid-support@reading.ac.uk) 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.

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 as and when this takes place, 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 safety@reading.ac.uk or call 0118 378 8888.

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How do I raise any questions I have about working on campus?

You should discuss working on 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 working 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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