You will have seen news over the last few days of Omicron, the new Covid ‘variant of concern’, including confirmation of cases in the UK. There is much that we do not yet know about this variant, but we do know there are concrete steps we can take, both on campus and beyond, to reduce the risk of Covid transmission.

What UK Government rules have changed?

  • Travel: more countries have been added to the UK Government’s red list over the weekend. Please check this list, and the rules in place, before making travel plans. Anyone entering the UK will need to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival; they will need to self-isolate until they have a negative result.

  • Self-isolation: Since Tuesday 14 December, contacts of suspected or confirmed Omicron cases can take daily LFD tests for seven days, if they're fully vaccinated. If not, they must still isolate at home for 10 days. NHS Test and Trace will call contacts to advise them.

  • Face coverings: In England, face coverings will be required in shops and on public transport from tomorrow (Tuesday 30 November) although not in hospitality venues.

What do we need to do as a University community?

  • Wear your face covering: please remember to wear your face coverings indoors and when moving around buildings. We’re doing our utmost to remind students to do likewise, but it helps reinforce the message when we’re all on the same page. Today, we are also reminding our student community of the rules in place, including asking them to co-operate when asked to wear a face covering.

  • Test and test again: we have all read about the significant number of people who have contracted Covid but without getting symptoms. This means that it’s crucial to keep taking lateral flow diagnostic (LFD) tests, at least twice a week, particularly when you’re coming to work in University buildings, and before going to events indoors. We have tried to make this as easy as possible – you can pick up your test packs at four sites on campus. It takes a matter of minutes to test. Some colleagues have found it helpful to set up reminders on their phones or Outlook calendars. It’s an easy and practical step we can all take to prevent putting our community at risk.

  • Coronavirus symptoms: If you have coronavirus symptoms, or are self-isolating, you must not come to campus, to University buildings or events. Please follow the guidance for colleagues online. Find out how to get a free NHS PCR test to check if you have coronavirus. If you are a line manager and your staff member has reported symptoms or a positive test to you, please follow the guidance for line managers online. This includes what to do if someone your team member lives with is self-isolating or tests positive.

  • Get your vaccinations – and your booster when eligible: Getting fully vaccinated gives you the best protection against coronavirus (Covid-19). We encourage all members of our student and staff community to get vaccinated as soon as possible, in line with World Health Organisation and UK Government advice. And, when you become eligible for a booster, we’d encourage you to get that booked in as soon as possible too. The NHS is currently offering booster vaccinations to those over 30 or those over 16 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk from Covid-19, and who had their second dose three months (91 days) ago. The eligibility criteria for boosters may be extended, so keep checking for updates.

  • Follow your local risk assessments: It’s getting a little wintry, but it’s still vital to ensure adequate ventilation in our work and study spaces. Colleagues in Estates can help advise on keeping temperatures reasonable. Please follow your local risk assessments on ventilation, wiping down surfaces, hand hygiene etc.