I hope this email finds you well. Ahead of the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday 22 February, which will detail the roadmap for coming out of lockdown, I’d like to remind you of our plans and some of the support on offer.
It is likely that the lifting of restrictions will be gradual and phased. We will have to wait and see what the implications are for sporting and leisure activities, and what the rules will be for travel, socialising and meeting with friends or family.
However, as a reminder, we have already been informed by the Government that they will not lift restrictions on education settings in England until at least Monday 8 March. Assuming universities are included as education settings alongside schools, that leaves us with only a very short window until the end of term (Friday 19 March for most courses).
If we are allowed, and it is safe to do so, we anticipate there may be opportunities for a very limited number of students to access specialist learning and teaching facilities, such as labs and performance studios, for the remaining weeks of term before the Easter break. We will follow Government guidance closely when we hear more next week and will be in touch.
For all others, guidance is likely to confirm that we will be required to continue our online provision and that there will be no other in-person teaching here in York until at least 19 April, after the Easter holiday break.
Free rapid results testing available on campus
If you do not have any Covid symptoms and are on campus for any reason, I encourage you to make use of the free testing that is available for all students - both International and UK.
One in three people with Covid-19 don’t have any symptoms. Although the risk may be low, when you or your housemates leave your home for exercise or shopping, you could pick up the virus and spread it without realising. That is why regular non-symptomatic testing is so important.
The test centres are run in a covid secure manner and do not pose a health risk as long as you follow the guidelines. People keep a distance whilst queuing, wear masks and use sanitiser. Learn more about the testing available on both Campus West and Campus East. You should get two tests a week (three days apart) if you live on campus or visit campus regularly.
University accommodation financial support
We know many students have now returned to their University accommodation on campus and are keen to hear more from you about how we can best support you now and as lockdown restrictions ease. For those who continue to follow government advice and have not returned, we are offering a rent credit. We have agreed this period of rent credit will apply until at least Monday 8 March, when the education sector starts to reopen, and we will keep this under review as we learn more.
We recognise that students in private accommodation off campus are in a different situation. I am pleased that our lobbying of Government to address this is having some effect. Along with YUSU and GSA, we asked the Government to extend financial support to students who have not been able to use their accommodation because they are following government guidance. We have now received an extra £200k - nowhere near enough, but better than nothing - which will be added to our Student Emergency Support Fund to help support off-campus students who face difficulties in paying their rent. The next round opens for applications at noon on 10 March 2021.
I have also written, again with YUSU and GSA, to private landlords in the city explaining how we are lobbying the Government for support but also asking them to be as understanding as they can of students who are in difficulty in meeting their rent. We will continue more generally to press the Government to give more support to students.
We are very much looking forward to more in-person activity and, when allowed, reopening recreational and sports activities. We are working with YUSU and the GSA to keep The Forest outdoor venue in place through to July and it will be available for students once regulations allow. We are also setting up other covered outdoor spaces, for both teaching and for social purposes, as we know having more safe spaces to learn, meet and socialise is vital for student wellbeing.
We anticipate that the Government will expect high levels of take up of testing to be an important element of resuming in-person activity on campuses, so the testing we are providing for students here in York is now an essential part of our plans. We know you want to get back to more in-person activity as quickly and as safely possible, so we all have our part to play - this means each and every one of us, including me, need to get tested regularly (I too am taking a test twice a week!).
I will email again next week once we know what the revised restrictions and guidelines are and have had the opportunity to understand what they mean for our students. Please continue to look out for yourselves and each other.