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COVID update: Reading to enter Tier 2 restrictions

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This message was sent to all colleagues at the University by Julian Park and Dominik Zaum, Co-Chairs of the Major Response Team

 

Dear colleagues,

The government has announced today that, following the end of lockdown restrictions in England on 2 December, the ‘high alert’ or Tier 2 level of restrictions of the local COVID alert system will apply to Reading and Wokingham (the local authorities in which our Whiteknights and London Road campuses are located) and Henley (where our Greenlands campus is situated). The government has indicated that this new system will be in place until the spring. Prior to lockdown, Reading and Wokingham had both been under ‘medium’ or Tier 1 restrictions.

The government has assured universities that we can remain open as long as safety measures are in place to minimise the spread of the virus. This email sets out some initial information about what that will mean for colleagues and students. Please also take a moment to read the full details of the high alert restrictions on the government website.

We apologise that this is another fairly lengthy message, but it is important that we are clear about the impact of these changes on the University.

What restrictions will apply in Reading and Wokingham from 2 December?

This announcement means that tighter restrictions will apply in these areas than before the lockdown in England began on 5 November.

Based on what the government has announced so far, here are some of the main rules that will apply:

  • you can only socialise indoors with people you live with or who are in your support bubble, whether it is at home or in a public place
  • outdoors, you can meet up in a group of up to six people , including in a garden or a public space like a park
  • working from home should continue where possible
  • restrictions will apply to food and drink businesses, and pubs, bars and nightclubs must close unless they are operating as restaurants
  • other businesses, including retail shops, hairdressers and cinemas, can operate in a COVID-secure way, but some may have to close early or there will be limits on numbers
  • gyms can open and organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes are permitted if people can avoid mixing with those they do not live with or share a support bubble with
  • organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can resume
  • you should try and keep your travel to a minimum and avoid public transport if you can.

What is the impact on University activities before the Christmas break?

The plans that we have previously shared for services and facilities from the end of lockdown until Christmas are within these new restrictions and so they will not change. These are set out in our one-page guidance note and include:

  • Our catering facilities that are currently open will continue to operate on a takeaway-only basis, with some dine-in capacity at Park Eat, Wantage Hall and St Patrick’s Hall for catered students.
  • Our bars will remain closed, as will the SportsPark, which is currently in use as our on-campus asymptomatic testing facility.
  • Once all face-to-face teaching has finished on 9 December, bookable study space in the Library and non-bookable study space in halls, the URS building and The Study at RUSU will remain available until the Christmas closure period (22 December to 4 January). All other study space across campus will be closed from 9 December.

What is the impact on University activities in the Spring term?

We will need to wait for any final regulations from government on the impact of the high alert restrictions, including on universities, but we anticipate that from the start of the Spring term on 11 January, we will be operating as follows:

  • Teaching - We will continue to offer a blended model of online and face-to-face teaching, with all our current safety provisions in place.
  • Research - We will operate at the maximum feasible research capacity, subject to risk assessment and social distancing, prioritising externally funded research. Local restrictions or additional safety measures may apply.
  • Library, museums, and collections - The Library and our museums and collections will be open with COVID-secure measures in place such as social distancing and additional hygiene measures. There may be some changes to opening hours.
  • Study space - Students will be able to access bookable study space in the library, as well as non-bookable space in the URS building and other locations around the campus.
  • Student support - Our student support services will continue with the current blended approach of face-to-face appointments for welfare cases, supported by online services. The student support reception desk will remain open for drop-in queries.
  • Food, sport and recreation - Services across some food and recreation services will be open, with COVID-secure measures in place such as social distancing and additional hygiene measures. We anticipate that the SportsPark will be open, but there may be some limitations on its operation.
  • RUSU - The students’ union will continue to provide a blended service, but with an ‘online first’ approach. RUSU intends that food outlets, bars, social spaces and study spaces will be open, subject to social distancing, additional hygiene measures and government rules. Social activities will continue to be offered online, as well as face-to-face activities allowed within the high alert restrictions. The nursery will remain open subject to government guidelines.

As with all other major government COVID-19 announcements, we anticipate that there will be more detailed guidance provided for universities about the tier system, and we will update our current plans if we need to.  Staff Portal COVID-19 FAQs updated with the latest information and advice. You can continue to contact our COVID-19 support line on 0118 214 7813 from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and 11am to 4pm at weekends.

Best wishes,

Julian and Dominik

Professor Julian Park (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education and Student Experience) and Professor Dominik Zaum (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation)

Co-Chairs, University of Reading Major Response Team

 

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