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Coronavirus Covid-19 Updates

Information and advice following the global coronavirus outbreak

The safety of our staff and students is the number one priority for the University.

 

We took the decision to move all face-to-face teaching online from Monday 16 March and following the Prime Minister's announcement on 23 March, all University academic buildings are now closed. Halls of Residence remain open for those students who are unable to return home.

 

We are working hard to ensure we can continue to deliver our operations in the best interests of our staff, students and partners, as well as the local community. We are monitoring the situation closely and we are endeavouring to provide as much advice, care and support as we can to our University community. 

 

The University is working with Public Health England who are taking the lead nationally and we are taking direction from them in all aspects of this situation.

 

All relevant public health information, including regular updates, can be found on the Government's Coronavirus website and on the Student Portal and Staff Intranet

 

We will continue to provide updates as and when we have them on this page.  

 

Answers to questions you may have are provided below.  

When will the next academic year start?

The new academic year will start in September as planned. New students will be welcomed from Monday 21st September with continuing students starting their teaching from Monday 28th September.

What action is the University taking?

We took the decision to move all face-to-face teaching online from Monday 16 March and following the Prime Minister's announcement on 23 March, all academic buildings are now closed. All accommodation buildings will remain open.

We are working hard to ensure we can continue to deliver our operations in the best interests of our staff, students and partners, as well as the local community. We are following all PHE advice and guidance and we are communicating regularly with our staff and students. 

A small group, led by University Executive, and supported by Assistant Director Health, Safety and Sustainability, Head of Student Life and Wellbeing and the Head of Student Progress and Ask4Help, are ensuring coordination of all relevant activities, in liaison with PHE. 

Our Student Portal and staff intranet are being updated continuously with the latest guidance, information and answers to questions you may have. This website has also been developed to share details with parents, applicants and members of the public. Students should visit the Student Portal for the latest information while staff should visit the staff intranet.

We are monitoring the situation closely and we will continue to provide advice and support as it becomes available to our University community. 

Is the University open?

Following the latest update by the Government, all buildings - including libraries, Digital Commons and learning zones at both at City and Coach Lane - are now closed.

The only exceptions are:

  • The Security Office in Trinity Building will remain open. A limited service will be provided in the Mailroom.
  • Access to Pandon Building for essential maintenance and IT provision will be through arrangement with Security.
  • All accommodation buildings will continue to operate as normal, with continued catering provision in Claude Gibb. Residents will be encouraged to use the provision on a takeaway basis.

I am a current applicant and due to start my course soon. How will I be affected?

We are working quickly to determine what the changes to UK-wide examinations will mean for applicants. We will be sharing all updates specific to current applicants here.

Has the University cancelled any events, open days or activities?

Following the government announcement on 23 March, the University and its academic buildings, facilities and Students' Union are closed until further notice. We will share details of future events and activities as soon as we are able.

We know how important it is to be able to make the most informed decision about which university to choose and we are working on a series of virtual events and information for applicants and offer holders. You can read more about these here.

Campus tours and organised school/college visits to the University are also postponed until further notice.

My son or daughter is studying at the University. What advice is there for parents?

This web page has been developed to answer questions that parents, partners and members of the public may have in relation to the University. Please be assured that all students will be receiving regular updates on the latest developments via the Student Portal and their University email. We ask you to encourage them to check these channels regularly.

We are also making regular updates to this site and our social media channels to ensure any new developments are reflected and communicated quickly.

I'm really worried, what do I do?

What can I do to minimise the spread of COVID-19? 

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why, on 23 March 2020, the government introduced three new measures which will initially last for three weeks. At this point the government will look at them again and relax them if evidence shows this is possible.

  • Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  • Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

 

 

1. Staying at home

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded.

If you work in a critical sector outlined in this guidance, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school.

 

 

2. Closing non-essential shops and public spaces

The Government had already ordered certain businesses - including pubs, cinemas and theatres - to close. This requirement is now extended to a further set of businesses and other venues, including:

  • all non-essential retail stores - this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.
  • libraries, community centres, and youth centres.
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
  • communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
  • places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
  • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).

 

 

3. Stopping public gatherings

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  • where the gathering is of a group of people who live together - this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
  • where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.

In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.

 

 

4. Delivering these new measures

These measures will reduce our day to day contact with other people. They are a vital part of our efforts to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus.

Every citizen is instructed to comply with these new measures.

The Government will therefore be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply.

They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

 

Those over 70, or who have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, are strongly advised to follow these measures as much as you can for the next 12 weeks, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interactions with friends and family if possible.

Some people, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of an underlying health condition should follow the guidance on shielding. These individuals are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face to face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day they receive their NHS letter. Full details on shielding and those conditions it covers, which includes solid organ transplant recipients; people with specific cancers; people with severe respiratory conditions and other conditions is available at this link.

Basic hygiene advice to minimise the spread of the disease is also available from the NHS and Public Health England (PHE).

 

 

There is helpful guidance on the Gov.uk website on queries you may have such as getting assistance with foods and medicines if you are reducing social contact; what you should do about any pre-arranged hospital or GP appointments; advice for visitors including those who are providing care for you and specific advice if you live with a vulnerable person.

 

Advice if you are displaying coronavirus symptoms:

In accordance with PHE advice anybody displaying coronavirus symptoms - these are a high temperature or a new, continuous cough, must stay at home. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you are staying at home. Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you're staying at home.

If you live alone and have these symptoms you should stay at home for 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. More guidance from Public Health England is available here.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days.

Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible. More advice from Public Health England about staying at home is available here. 

If you are self-isolating, students should contact Ask4Help via the Student Portal or telephone 0191 227 4646 and staff should contact their line manager.

Any students following this self-isolation advice should contact Ask4Help via the Student Portal or telephone 0191 227 4646. Members of staff should inform their line manager.

I have an underlying health condition - what should I do?

The government has announced that people who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures and avoiding leaving the house. This group includes those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • those who are pregnant

Note: there are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this category, the NHS in England will directly contact you with advice the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe. This is called shielding and you should stay at home for 12 weeks.

People falling into the extremely vulnerable group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

  • People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

Anyone in these groups should carefully follow the government's latest advice on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as being extremely vulnerable from Covid-19.

If you are a student on placement and are in one of these groups or care for people in one of these groups, please check the latest guidance which is now on the Student Portal. This is being updated frequently.

If you are a student in one of these at risk groups or care for people in one of these groups then you should discuss this with your personal tutor who will inform your programme leader.

If you are a member of staff, you should ensure your line manager is aware so support can be provided as required.

I am due to travel to the UK to attend my course or work but I am unable. What should I do?

All classroom-based teaching and learning activity is being delivered online. You should access learning materials through Blackboard. If you are concerned about any other aspect of your learning please contact us through the Student Portal and we will discuss how you can get the support you need.

If you are about to begin your course you may find these FAQs for applicants to be useful.

If you are a staff member, please contact your Line Manager who will be able to discuss next steps with you.

Advice for staff who have specific questions about working arrangements

We are sharing advice for colleagues who may have questions about working arrangements on the staff intranet, which is being updated daily and in line with the latest government guidance. We encourage all staff to check the intranet for the latest advice and to speak to their line manager about any queries they may have.

I'm a member of staff due to travel internationally for work, what should I do?

For the foreseeable future all non-essential UK and international travel has been stopped. 

On this basis, all travel will now require approval from a Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor or Service Director and completion of an appropriate risk assessment. Detail of the risk assessment process is on the Staff Intranet.

We ask that colleagues find alternative ways to conduct University business, for instance by phone or video conference. It is worth noting that many of our partners across the sector and externally are taking the same approach.

 

I am an international student and I am being threatened and abused. What should I do?

We take all allegations of abuse and harassment very seriously. If you feel like you have been a victim of abuse you should report the matter to the Security Team here or the Police.

In addition, anyone who witnesses any kind of discriminatory behaviour should report it to the Police or to our Security Team.

Anyone feeling concerned about their personal safety should ensure they download the SafeZone app to their phone from the App Store or Google Play.

I'm planning to travel and/or return to my home country during the Easter vacation. What should I do?

Given the changing daily situation with border controls and flight restrictions, it is likely that any international travel plans will be affected. Although we have moved most of our teaching virtually, we are still in the process of looking at other methods of delivery, and in particular assessments and examinations. We would encourage you to carefully consider how any travel may affect your studies. 

If you have any queries about this, please contact Ask4Help via the Student Portal in the first instance.

I'm worried about my tier-4 visa if I self-isolate or go back to my home country. Who can I ask?

The government has published new guidance on immigration provisions made by the Home Office for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to their home country. The guidance states that most people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak will get an automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020. 

It also provides details of the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline: Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, calls are free of charge). Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
 

If you have any further concerns about your visa, please contact Ask4Help via the Student Portal.

What is the situation for students currently on, or about to begin, placements in UK?

There are specific types of guidance for students depending on their type of placement, for example, for those working in NHS Trusts. Details of these will be sent to students and added to the Student Portal. Government guidelines have been changing on a regular basis so we encourage students to keep checking their University emails and the Student Portal.

We recognise that some placements may close; start later or finish earlier than planned. Some have already been closed. Should this happen, please contact us via the Student Portal as soon as possible. In this situation we will work with academic staff to accommodate your return to study where we can. Arrangements will be made on an individual basis.

I am on a placement overseas or study abroad option. What should I do?

We contacted all students overseas on 15 March and asked them to strongly consider immediately returning to the UK.

This decision has been made due to the recent actions of governments worldwide on border controls; the number of flights being cancelled and the changing daily travel situation. We appreciate this may not be the preferred choice but we are keen to ensure students can return safely to the UK before any further restriction on travel is imposed. We will work with all students on their return to effectively manage their academic progression and ensure they are not disadvantaged as a result.

Guidance on the steps students need to take to book or change travel and overcome any difficulties along the way, together with a claim form to reimburse expenses occurring, has been emailed to them directly and is also available on the Student Portal.

Anyone who is unable to travel should advise us as soon as possible at swi@northumbria.ac.uk 

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