Statement - Monday 23 March 2020 (update 18:00)
Today marks the first day of restricted campus operations and a new way of working and engaging with each other – whether you are working from home, juggling remote access with caring for children or vulnerable dependents, or carrying out essential activities on campus to ensure that our critical research, support for students who remain on campus, and essential infrastructure continues to operate.
Significant progress has been made in reducing activity on campus - with 95% of research now being carried out remotely or in the process of being temporarily suspended until campus returns to normal operations. 100% of teaching is now being delivered online and substantial work is being carried out around our approach to next term’s exams and assessments; plans will be shared with staff and students later on this week.
Cases of COVID-19
We recognise that there is significant interest and concern in relation to COVID-19 amongst our community of staff and students. This is an unsettling time and we should be prepared for the number of cases in the UK and globally to increase and impact our community.
We have now been advised of two (unrelated) confirmed cases within our wider University community and understand that this development may cause some anxiety. Our immediate concern is for the affected individuals and their families along with the health and continued wellbeing of our staff and students. In communicating any cases we do of course have to have due regard to individual confidentiality.
As soon as we were made aware of each of these cases the staff and students in the wider Division/Department/School were contacted by email. In addition, we carried out contact tracing and alerted everyone identified who may have been in contact with them and provided further advice and steps to take. If you have not been directly contacted about either of these cases this is because it is our understanding that you have not been in contact with the individuals.
Both of these cases have occurred since Public Health England (PHE) changed its approach to testing and contact tracing. This means that PHE no longer inform the University about a confirmed case nor do they carry out the contact tracing.
We will continue to notify you of confirmed cases where we become aware of these until the University closes for Easter on Thursday 9 April. After this date we will only carry out notification and contact tracing if a case is confirmed amongst those essential workers who have been identified to continue to come onto campus. This is because by that time 14 days of Restricted Campus Operations will have been in place.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation and implement appropriate measures in line with the latest PHE advice.
The majority of staff should have tested their ability to work remotely over the last couple of weeks and hopefully are managing to log on and access emails and files etc. If staff are having challenges then please follow the instructions in the homeworking guidelines and the IT Service Desk knowledge bank before you contact the service desk in order to help them prioritise and manage queries.
Students supporting the community in the fight against COVID-19
In addition to the pioneering research being carried out by researchers at the University, our wonderful students are volunteering their services and skills to support the community. From Computer Science student Ben Sassoon who has created a website to help people calculate how much loo roll they actually need in order to reduce panic buying, to students who have set up a food bank to support both students and locals in Selly Oak who will be self-isolating. The student group called, Selly Oak Response to COVID-19, will also pick up and deliver prescriptions and contact elderly and vulnerable citizens in the area to make self-isolation feel less lonely.
Our medical students have also been setting up a number of volunteering groups – one for UoB Medical students who are interested in working in hospital trusts in the West Midlands that are affiliated with the University over the next few months and the other is for final year medicine students, who have had their clinical placements postponed, to help out front line NHS workers with everything from school pick-ups to dog walking and running errands so they can continue to work. There are already more than 1000 students who are volunteering through these groups.
These are just a few examples of the remarkable things that our University community is doing to support each other and the wider community. Please continue to stay safe and follow the very latest guidance from the NHS and UK government.