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COVID-19: Changes to our activities after 19 July

Shield

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown would be going ahead from Monday 19 July. From that date, instead of specific COVID-19 legal restrictions, the new government guidance states that universities should implement sensible and proportionate control measures to reduce the risk to the ‘lowest reasonably practicable level’, based on our particular local circumstances. The government has also announced that the “work from home” guidance ends on 19 July.

As we explained last week and in the earlier staff talks, we are planning for a gradual, phased process that enables more colleagues to work on campus in the coming weeks.

Our Major Recovery Team (MRT) has carefully reviewed our current control measures in the context of our local risks. Case numbers in Reading are still above the national average, vaccination rates are lower and many of our current and prospective students have not yet been fully vaccinated. That is why we have agreed to keep many control measures in place for the time being. We will review these measures again in late August, ahead of the autumn term.

Health & Safety measures on campus

From Monday 19 July, until the review point in August, the following will apply:

Cleaning

Our enhanced cleaning regime will remain in place in all areas on campus.

In-person attendance

You should not attend your workplace, or come to campus to collect a Lateral Flow Test, if you experience the relevant symptoms of COVID-19, even mildly. Instead you should stay home and access a PCR test through the NHS system.

Social distancing

Social distancing in all indoor areas on campus, including shared offices, will remain at 2 metres. In some areas, the nature of the work might require working at less than 2m, and here we will work with the relevant Head of Function or School, and with support from local Health and Safety Coordinators, to put in place appropriate additional control measures where it is necessary to do so. Teaching will continue to be undertaken on the current ‘1m+’ basis, with all existing control measures remaining in place (such as wearing a face covering).

Maintaining good ventilation

In offices, and other shared areas with natural ventilation, windows and doors (except fire doors) should continue to be kept open as wide as possible to enable a supply of fresh air. Rooms with mechanical ventilation will remain set at the current levels.

If you have questions about ventilation in any areas within your School/Function, please contact your Head of School/Function and your Health & Safety Co-Ordinator.

Face coverings

While the legal requirement to wear face coverings in certain settings will be lifted from 19 July 2021, we believe this remains an effective and appropriate control measure in many indoor spaces. So the wearing of face coverings will still be expected in all shared indoor spaces, although they can be removed when seated at a desk 2 metres away from others.

In the Library, given the lower demand on study spaces over the summer, and to bring the measures there in line with those in other shared spaces on campus, students will no longer need to wear a face covering when sitting at desks (which are spaced 2 metres apart) although they should be worn when moving around inside the building.

Building access

Access control to many buildings on campus will remain and colleagues returning to campus after time working remotely should ensure they bring their Campus Card. 

Lateral Flow Testing

The government continues to support regular lateral flow testing for everyone in England and we strongly encourage students and staff on campus to participate. We’ve expanded our Library Café collection point to make it as easy as possible for colleagues to collect a pack of kits on campus. From Monday 19 July, this will be open from Monday to Thursday from 13:00 – 16:00. Kits can also be collected from a local pharmacy, or ordered online for home delivery.

Positive test results and self-isolation

If you test positive from any type of COVID-19 test or if you are asked to self-isolate because of close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should self-isolate as requested and let your line manager know as soon as possible.

Perspex screens and sanitiser stations

These will stay in place and sanitiser stations will be regularly topped up. We encourage all colleagues to continue to maintain good hand hygiene as this helps minimise the spread of COVID-19 and other infections.

QR codes

The government is still encouraging the use of QR codes and we will keep these in place for everyone to use to check in, although this will not be mandatory from 19 July.

Signs

As many of our current control measures are staying in place, lots of signs currently displayed in buildings will still be relevant. We will ask Health & Safety Co-Ordinators to remove out-of-date signs in their areas as quickly as possible. One-way systems will stay in place as currently indicated.

Working on campus

If you are currently working remotely, please wait to hear from your line manager before returning to work on campus. We do not expect a sudden increase in the number of colleagues on campus immediately from 19 July and we will work closely with Heads of School and Function to manage this carefully based on local priorities, space and risk assessments. If you have any concerns about returning to work on campus, please speak to your line manager.

All colleagues returning to work on campus must complete the COVID-19 Health & Safety modules on UoRLearn. Please also consider your IT requirements, as outlined in our previous update on the Staff Portal.

Meetings: All formal meetings should continue to take place online in the first instance. We are finalising updated guidance on in-person meetings, which will be shared soon. In the meantime, small in-person meetings can take place subject to a dynamic risk assessment (checking room capacity, opening windows, ensuring participants can be at an appropriate 2m distance). Please be sensitive to the concerns of others about meeting in person and continue to meet digitally where appropriate.

Events: Our guidance for on campus events is being reviewed by MRT this week and we will publish updated advice shortly.

Plans for the autumn term

Having a strong presence on campus is integral to the delivery of many of our activities and is also beneficial for all to develop and strengthen networks and collaborative working.  As we have said previously, we are planning that the start of the autumn term will see a closer return to pre-pandemic levels of staff on campus. There will be formal arrangements in place to support a more flexible approach where this is identified for teams or individuals in consultation with their line manager. Our ‘Ways of Working’ project will continue to consider the longer-term use of technology and space to support better hybrid working in the future and will be making recommendations by the autumn.

For teaching, we are still planning our autumn timetable based on no social distancing requirements for face-to-face interactive sessions during the autumn term, although with additional safety measures in place as required for the safety of colleagues and students. These might include reduced capacities to adhere to maximum ventilation requirements and staggered session start times.

Final decisions on all health and safety control measures on campus for the autumn will be made by MRT closer to the start of term.

Invitation to staff briefing

We are looking to schedule an open session for all colleagues to find out more about these arrangements and to ask questions. An invitation to this session will follow this week.

Supporting one another

It took time for us all to adapt and adjust to the COVID-19 restrictions over the past 18 months and it is important to remember that it will also take time to get used to the easing of national restrictions from 19 July.

Throughout the pandemic, our community has come together to show patience and understanding in these difficult circumstances, and we have every confidence that this will continue to be the case.

We will all feel very differently about the coming weeks, from a personal and professional perspective. Please be considerate and treat one another with respect as we take this next step together.

Communications for students

We will shortly be sending this email to all students to explain which control measures will remain in place on campus. This is also available to view under ‘COVID-19 updates’ on the Essentials webpages. Please share this message locally with students on campus, particularly our PGT community.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. We will update our Staff Portal COVID-19 FAQs in the coming week, so please check here for the latest information and advice. If you have any queries or concerns, please speak to your line manager.

Kind regards,

Dominik & Julian

Professor Dominik Zaum & Professor Julian Park

Co-Chairs of the Major Recovery Team (MRT)

 

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