Dear colleagues and postgraduate researchers,
I‘m sure you will have heard about the Government announcement last night, which has delayed the final stage of the route map out of lockdown from 21 June until 19 July. This is disappointing news, but not unexpected given the challenge of the Delta variant.
Increasing protection through vaccination and reducing the link between infections and hospitalisations is going to be key to this ‘final stretch’. In the meantime, I urge everyone in our community to continue to do their bit by following all the guidance on hands, face, space and fresh air and help ensure restrictions can be eased in July.
While many of the current Covid rules will have to remain in place for this extended time, there are positives to focus on.
More and more people are being vaccinated, as well as receiving second doses. The NHS has stated that all adults aged 18 and over should be eligible for vaccines by the end of this week. We hope that this will enable many of our students to be fully vaccinated before the start of the next academic year (perhaps most if the gap between jabs is shortened and vaccine supplies hold up).
Earlier this week, when the 25 - 29 year old age group became eligible for jabs, many of our students and PGRs were able to attend our own NHS pop-up vaccine clinic on campus - a fantastic outcome of our collaboration with Nimbuscare who run the local vaccination service in York.
We are hoping to offer more pop-up vaccine clinics on campus before the end of term, as well as in September. So any postgraduate researchers interested in getting vaccinated on campus, no matter what your age or nationality, please complete the Student Covid Vaccine Pre-registration form with your york.ac.uk email address.
The vaccination roll out does give us optimism that universities will be able to operate much closer to normal in September. The latest delay to unlocking restrictions is a sharp reminder that we still have some way to go, but we will continue our planning to prepare thoroughly for next term.
We have been told there will be no specific guidance for the university sector until at least the end of June, so we’re continuing our twin track planning; firstly, a near-normal scenario without social distancing, and secondly, a restricted scenario with 1m+ restrictions. Our priority is to open up as much additional space as possible to maximise safe in-person opportunities and engagement in research and teaching.
Working arrangements and reconnecting on campus
For staff and PGRs still working remotely, the Government has extended the guidance to continue to work from home if we can. I know that this is a problem for many of you, either because it is difficult for you to work effectively at home, because of the requirements of your role, or because of your personal wellbeing. In these circumstances, you are eligible to work on campus, and should discuss your situation with your line manager.
We continue to work with Covid-secure leads to manage a safe return within the space we have available on campus. If your normal work or study location is not available, please do take a look at how you can book different types of spaces. We have some fantastic new outdoor spaces, including our new pop-up park near Market Square, and lots of colleagues are enjoying the opportunity to hold walking meetings, too (I have found walking meetings a big advantage in boosting my steps on the Great York Walk!).
While we have good news on vaccines, cases are now rising again across the UK, including in York, so please do take regular tests at our testing centre at York Sport Centre on Campus West, where you can also collect home testing kits. Thank you for playing your part.
For now, I hope you are keeping well and have been enjoying the excellent weather over the last couple of weeks. Campus is certainly looking beautiful in the sun - and it’s been great to see the sun shine for so many of our final-year student events - take a look at some of the celebration highlights from our departmental farewells.