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Update from MRT: New Tier 4 restrictions

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The following message was sent to all colleagues from Professor Julian Park and Professor Dominik Zaum, Co-Chairs of the University of Reading Major Recovery Team.

Dear colleagues,

As you will already be aware, the Prime Minister announced tougher COVID-19 rules for England, coming into effect from yesterday morning (Sunday 20 December). Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, where our Whiteknights, London Road and Greenlands campuses are located, are now under new ‘Tier 4' (‘Stay at home') restrictions.

Universities can stay open in Tier 4, while adhering to the government guidance to ensure strict measures are in place to minimise the spread of the virus.

As today is the University's last working day before the Christmas closure period (from 22 December to 4 January), the immediate impact is limited but we have carefully reviewed the new Tier 4 regulations with regards to our plans for the start of the spring term. The Tier 4 restrictions are due to be reviewed on 30 December. If they remain in place into the new year, we can confirm that term will still start on 11 January (with a small number of programmes starting in the week of 4 January). Most of our university activities will continue as planned under Tier 3, with some exceptions explained below.

University activities from 4 January

Under Tier 4, people must not leave their homes unless it is for a reasonable excuse, including for work and education. If we are still under Tier 4 restrictions when we re-open from 4 January, all colleagues should work from home unless it is necessary for you to be on campus to perform your role. If you have any queries, particularly if you have any health conditions that mean you are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, please speak to your line manager before travelling to campus.

  • Testing

We are strongly encouraging all students to book a Lateral Flow Test in January, whether they have travelled away or stayed in Reading. Students who come back from overseas will need to self-isolate in line with government guidance.

We also encourage colleagues who will be on campus on January to book a test now.

  • Teaching

The government has confirmed universities can stay open in Tier 4. As the situation currently stands, we will therefore continue to follow our previously published spring term phased return plan, continuing with our blended approach of online and face-to-face teaching.

Academic timetables for the spring term have been published, which show when face-to-face teaching will resume on each module. Institute of Education students can expect to hear directly regarding planned activities in the week commencing 4 January.

Given that the national and local position remains changeable, we are actively monitoring the situation and will keep our approach, including our safety measures, under very close review over the coming days and weeks. We will communicate any changes to colleagues and students early in the new year.

  • Research

Colleagues should work from home unless research cannot feasibly be conducted away from campus. Any research activities that involve face-to-face contact with members of the public, or members of the public coming onto campus, should be postponed if this is feasible and, if not, need to be pre-approved by your Head of School following a risk assessment.

  • Library, museums and collections

The Library will remain open for study space and Click & Collect. Our museums and special collections will operate a Click & Collect service.

  • Study Space

Students will be able to access pre-bookable study space in the Library, as well as non-bookable space in the URS building, The Study at RUSU and other locations around campus such as in Halls.

  • Student support

Our student advice and support services will continue to be available remotely. Our reception desks will be open for drop-in queries and students can still make bookings for face-to-face appointments where needed for welfare reasons.

  • Food, sport and recreation

We will offer takeaway services in our catering outlets including for students resident in halls. Students on catering packages will still be able to access their catering needs. Dine-in provision for residents in halls will not be available.

While under Tier 4, all fitness facilities at the SportsPark will be closed, but outdoor sports fields and grass pitches will remain accessible.

  • RUSU

The Students' Union will move most of its services online, with only essential services being offered in person. Takeaway service will continue in food outlets and The Study will remain open. Social activities will continue to be offered online only. The nursery has now closed and will communicate any changes directly with parents.

Support for students over the Christmas closure

We are sending an email to our students with further advice about the Tier 4 restrictions.

Our halls will remain open over the Christmas closure, with welfare services and takeaway catering available to support students. The changes to rules on ‘Christmas bubbles' mean that we will no longer be able to permit visitors to halls, or for students to form a ‘Christmas bubble' with other households. However, those students who are living alone, even if only temporarily over the Christmas period, can form a ‘support bubble' with one other household until their housemates return from the Christmas break.

The Co-Op on campus has closed temporarily until 4 January, but The Marketplace at Park Eat will stay open for those with a campus card, as we are restricting access to the University community only.

Christmas lunch and dinner will still be available to all students who have booked by Monday 21 December to collect their meal on Christmas day from the takeaway collection point at Park Eat.

While the University is closed for the Christmas break, the COVID-19 hotline will transition to an email-only service for urgent COVID-19-related questions that cannot wait until we return on 4 January. This includes access to testing or self-isolation support for students, and they can email covid-hotline@reading.ac.uk. We will check the inbox daily, apart from 24 - 26 December and 1 January, to respond to urgent queries only. All our online resources, including Essentials, remain available throughout the closure period.

Students living in halls should contact the Halls Hotline on 0800 029 1984, which is available 24/7.

The COVID-19 phone line will re-open at 9.15am on Monday 4 January (0118 214 7813). If there are any major external developments between now and 4 January, we will keep colleagues updated through email, the Staff Portal and social media.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you a restful break.

Best wishes,

Dominik and Julian

 

Professor Julian Park & Professor Dominik Zaum

Co-Chairs of the University of Reading Major Recovery Team

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