Wednesday 25 November staff and PGR email

Covid-19 update - end of lockdown and end of term arrangements

Dear Colleagues,

As we head into the last stretch of the lockdown in England it is great that we are seeing more good news accumulate about vaccines, this time about the positive developments in the Oxford University/AstraZeneca trials. It does look as if there will be a major vaccination programme under way in the next few weeks.

End of lockdown

You will also have seen the Government’s announcement and Winter Plan this week on how national restrictions in England will be lifted on Wednesday 2 December as we head towards the festive break.

On 2 December, across all of England, regardless of tier:

  • stay at home guidance will end, with travel being permitted again subject to any local area restrictions that apply

  • shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen

  • collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume

  • people will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces - the rule of 6 will now apply again outdoors

Local restrictions

The Government is also making some changes to local area restrictions, tightening restrictions generally, and putting more places under higher levels of restriction.

You will recall that prior to lockdown, York was in the second level of restrictions. Since then we have all worked incredibly hard across the city of York to reduce the number of cases. We should know whether this leads to a change in our local area status later this week.

Enjoying Christmas

We also heard from the Government last night about enabling ‘Christmas bubbles’ to be formed between 23 and 27 December. It is clear that this Christmas period will be unlike any other. I do hope that despite this, we can find some time to re-energise, enjoy time with our loved ones, and look ahead to a more positive 2021 in which we should see more of a ‘normal’ life return.

End of term rapid results testing

I am pleased to say that our free rapid results Covid testing for students is ready to be rolled out from Monday 30 November, and I want to thank everyone who has made this possible in such a short space of time.

The end of term arrangements web page has been updated to include information on testing, travel and the support available for students staying in York.

  • Students - including PGRs - who wish to take the test to make use of the travel window can book a test online now from our End of Term: Covid-19 Testing website. We are strongly encouraging students to take up this offer so they can make informed decisions about how and when to travel. We’ve had an encouraging response so far, which is likely to be especially important in helping manage the safe return of students in January.

  • There is more information about how students can plan their travel. We are also reminding students that if they are travelling abroad, the rapid results testing will not cover being ‘fit to travel’, so students should look to the requirements of the destination and their airline for the appropriate guidance.

The timing of this rapid testing is to fit with the Government’s student travel window of 3-9 December. We appreciate, however, that not all will be able to travel during this period and are therefore hoping to extend the testing period and make tests available across more of the University community, including more postgraduate students and members of staff.

All that will depend on approval (and the number of tests we receive) from the Department of Health and Social Care, and we hope to share an update very soon.

Supporting students

We are asking students to complete an e:Vision task to let us know where they will be over the Christmas break, so that we can offer appropriate support. This support extends to PGRs, as well as taught students, living off campus.

For those who are remaining in York and on campus, we have advice and guidance, including signposting to the activities that they will be able to take-part in over the holidays, as well as the support and services that will be open on campus.

I am aware of the huge amount of work that has gone into making testing, support and advice available to our students, and again I wish to thank you all for your contributions. They are very much appreciated.

In other news ...

Two more things from me today. First, some news about our Christmas stocking appeal for Care Experienced and Estranged students at the University. This is something that we’ve supported for the past few years and staff have been hugely generous with their donations. You’ve helped raise a record sum in recent days, with more than 200 members of our community donating to make a difference this year. Thank you. You can read more about the support here.

Second, a couple of weeks ago we asked our students to submit entries to our Lockdown University Christmas card competition. I wanted to share with you the winning Christmas card design and runners up designs (and there were many more brilliant entries). It was great to see our waterfowl and our architecture figuring so strongly, and for me the winner mixed the two to lovely effect. These designs will make up the official University of York Christmas card pack, available to purchase at Market Square Nisa, or online via the Merchandise Store and Design and Print. All profits will go to YourCafe and A Mentally Fit York.

I will update you again later this week once we know more about the local area restrictions in York post-lockdown, and anything new on Government guidance for the start of next term in January.

Best wishes,