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Phased campus reopening update

21 May 2020

A message from Nalin Thakkar, Chair of the Campus Reopening and Corporate Support Group

Phased return to campus

The UK Government reduced the Covid-19 alert level to ‘4’ from ‘5’ (highest level) on Sunday, 10 May 2020. Under this lower Covid-19 alert status, we must continue to work from home where we can but some activity in addition to what was classified as essential work will be permitted if it is safe to do so. For us, this means that we can start some scientific laboratory research but not make a complete return to normal working. All other colleagues must continue working from home where possible for now. 

One of the key considerations for us is the need to protect those staff who may be vulnerable or live with someone who is vulnerable; additionally we are very mindful that because of the Government restrictions, some will have other responsibilities such as childcare. This will be an important part of our assessment about who can start work at present. For those returning, we encourage you to drive, walk or cycle to campus where possible.

If there are serious issues that hamper your ability to work from home, then please discuss this with your line manager.

Preparation for phased reopening 

As most of our buildings have been closed for about nine weeks, you will understand that we need to undertake some essential safety checks (e.g., lifts, ventilation etc.) and carry out procedures such as treatment and flushing of water tanks and plumbing (to prevent Legionella) before we can allow access to the buildings. This work started last week with the relaxation of the Government’s restrictions and will take about two weeks to complete. Our premises will also need to be prepared to allow social distancing and this is proceeding alongside other preparations. 

There are a number of factors that may slow us down and limit activity. We will need enhanced cleaning of the premises by our Estates and Facilities staff to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission. We are currently making arrangements to ensure that we have enough staff to cover this, but this could be a limiting factor for us. Effective social distancing will also mean fewer people in the building as a whole and in the laboratory spaces and other common areas. This will impose limitations on how much activity can happen. Thus, even if the building in which you work has been reopened, it may well be that you will be unable to re-start work in that building until a later date when it is safe to do so. We will in addition, have to work much more flexibly and use our facilities more efficiently to maintain social distancing. 

The Vice Deans for Research for all three Faculties have been consulting staff and identifying what we need to prioritise in this phase. This will include laboratories working on Covid 19 but also will allow access for example, to researchers who need to complete a defined piece of laboratory work for imminent grant applications or publications as well as research necessary for the completion of a PhD for final year PhD students. We will of course also allow research to start more widely as soon as we can. Guidance will be provided on what preparations are necessary for safe restart of laboratory work. 

Timeframe for phased reopening

Detailed plans for re-occupation of space will be drawn up by the Faculties and there will be further information available locally in due course.

Our overall planning is informed by Government and Health and Safety Executive guidance. Our roadmap is based on Government ‘Covid Alert Status’ and known or likely level of restrictions and social distancing required. If the pandemic is being controlled well, with further relaxation (Covid Alert Status 3), we may be able to start some small group teaching and expand this further and return some administrative/office-based functions back to the campus as the Alert Status drops further with requirement for minimal social distancing. 

Further information

We have developed a StaffNet site with more information about the Campus Reopening and Corporate Support Group.  Over the coming weeks, these latest updates, announcements and frequently asked questions will be published there.