Monday 30 November 2020

All staff and PGR email

Subject: Covid-19 update: local York restrictions and rapid results testing for staff and PGRs

Dear Colleagues,

Local York restrictions

As you will be aware, the Government announced last week that York will be in local area Level 2 (Tier 2 - high) when we move out of national lockdown on Wednesday 2 December. You can find general information about this level of restrictions on the government website.

As a City, we have all worked hard to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases. Many other parts of the country are facing much stricter measures.

We know that the situation can change rapidly, so we continue to encourage everyone to follow the guidance, focus on good covid safety practices and remain vigilant in this gradual step out of lockdown.

Assuming we remain at this level into next year, we will continue with our current arrangements for research and teaching. Students will continue to engage in blended learning and we will be able to resume the student social opportunities that were so successful prior to lockdown, including organised sport and the Forest venue, which we have now agreed to fund for the rest of the academic year. We will continue to provide additional bookable study and social spaces through marquees on Campus West and Campus East.

We have also committed to further rounds of the Emergency Student Support Fund, to provide support to students, including Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs), off campus who have poor wifi connectivity, and to give enhanced support to students who may need to self-isolate (though we hope new mass-testing capabilities will help us minimise covid cases). We also have the new Writing Up+ Fund available for PGRs who are writing up and have exhausted their funding.

We still await Government guidance for January, including how they will work with us to deploy mass testing capabilities to support a safe return of students for the Spring Term. I hope we will see that advice from the Department for Education this week, so we can share it with staff, PGRs and students before the end of term. In the meantime, I can share some good news about our testing capacity over the next fortnight.

Extending testing to more members of our community

I have been updating you about our free rapid results covid testing for students with no symptoms, who plan to leave York in the Government’s student travel window (3 to 9 December).

We are pleased that more than 4,200 students so far have booked tests, to help make informed decisions about when and how to travel for the holidays. Testing commences today.

Last week, we were able to confirm with the Department of Health and Social Care that we will extend our rapid testing period to Friday 11 December. We now know also that we have sufficient capacity to extend this testing to more members of our community, including staff and PGRs.

This is to help check against any potential asymptomatic transmission and to provide further reassurance for our community.

The rapid results testing is focused on those working regularly on campus, so we want to make sure that staff and PGRs who have been engaged in campus-based work are prioritised. If you predominantly work from home, please think about whether or not you need a test at this time.

You can find out more and book your test on our staff testing web page. Testing is taking place in the Sports Arena in the Sports Centre on Campus West.

Please note, for colleagues considering travelling abroad the rapid results testing may not be adequate if you are booked on an international flight. This testing will not cover you to be declared 'fit to travel', as required to travel to some countries, so you should refer to the requirements of your destination, and the advice provided by your airline, to arrange a suitable test.

I will write again soon with any update following the anticipated Department for Education guidance. In the meantime, while the end of lockdown must come as a relief, we must all remember that now is not the time to become complacent. We all need to keep following the government guidance and stay smart, supportive and safe - thank you.

Best wishes