Covid-19: The Weeks Ahead

Covid testing

From Professor Richard Reece, Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Education & Student Experience

A warm welcome back to all of you who have returned to work this week – I hope you all had a chance to unwind over the Winter Break, and that your plans were largely able to go ahead as intended. My thanks also to all of those who remained working on campus over the break to support the 500 or so students who remained with us. 

Following yesterday afternoon’s Government announcements on the ongoing Covid-19 guidance, I wanted to send a quick reminder to everyone of where things are as we head into the next term. There has been lots of attention on the rise in case numbers nationally, which I know will be concerning for many – I want to reassure you that the safety and wellbeing of our entire community has always been, and will continue to be, our key concern. We will also be holding a Staff Webchat to discuss all of this in more detail on Friday 14 January at 2pm ahead of the start of term – you can sign up for this online

Working from home 

The current guidance remains that everyone not involved in the delivery and support of teaching and direct student services or research should continue to work from home until 26 January where possible. Non-essential on-campus meetings or gatherings should also be avoided. 

Teaching in the Spring Term 

As you know, in the Autumn term, we held face-to-face teaching sessions for seminars, tutorials, lab classes, etc but retained the majority of our lectures in an online form. We have committed to provide students with face-to-face lectures in the Spring term, and the Government continues to stress the importance of this in their sector-specific guidance. While the situation is far from straightforward, this is still our intention – we are also taking the associated safety aspects very seriously, including undertaking risk assessments to ensure each area is safe, and reducing lecture theatre capacity in a number of cases to ensure appropriate ventilation.  

Together with the expectation for all staff and students to test regularly and to wear face masks in our buildings, and particularly during teaching sessions, I am confident that returning to in-person lectures is the right thing to do at this stage. We will, of course, continue to closely monitor case numbers locally. 

Face coverings 

Everyone on campus is still expected to wear face coverings in places where social distancing can’t be maintained such as in teaching spaces and communal areas, unless they have a medical exemption. In most cases, those teaching classes will not need to wear face coverings as they will have room to be socially distanced at the front of the class. 

Elsewhere, face coverings should also be worn in shared offices and other indoor spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distancing. 

Together with the expectation for all staff and students to test regularly and to wear face masks in our buildings, including students during teaching sessions, I am confident that returning to in-person lectures is the right thing to do at this stage. We will, of course, continue to closely monitor case numbers locally. 

Testing  

Those coming onto campus should continue to test regularly and report your results to the NHS online. Take-home lateral flow tests are currently available for those on campus from either Campus Security or Templeman Library Deliveries entrance on Library Road – they will shortly be available more widely, with a further update to follow on other locations. If you do test positive for Covid, please inform us by emailing CovidSupport@kent.ac.uk and also let your manager know as soon as possible while you isolate. 

Ongoing support 

Both the national picture and the continued uncertainty as a result is difficult for all of us and it is really important you can access support when you need it. If you are worried or need further support, please do speak with your line manager or email CovidSupport@kent.ac.uk. You can also get free, confidential advice at any time via our Employee Assistance Programme

Thank you once again to all of you for the huge efforts I know all are making to keep things going while keeping everyone safe. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and I will provide a further update later in the month ahead of the current restrictions ending. 

Richard 

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education & Student Experience

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