Category Archives: Staff Covid

Aerial view of Canterbury

Covid-19 Update: What’s changing at Kent

Living with Covid

Following the recent Government announcements on ‘Living with Covid’, all legal Covid-19 restrictions in England have now ended. However, this doesn’t mean that Covid has gone away – we continue to encourage all staff to keep the health and safety of each other in mind, particularly those who are vulnerable or who have close friends or relatives who are shielding.

That means:

  • Staying at home if you have Covid-19 symptoms until you have had two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart – you can work from home during this period if you feel able to
  • Wearing a face mask in crowded indoor spaces as we have been
  • Getting tested regularly if you can when you are coming onto campus

Where can I get test kits?

Test kits can be ordered online and can also be sourced from a number of community locations such as pharmacies and libraries. Unfortunately, as part of the recent Government updates we are no longer able to distribute test kits ourselves due to changes to the licences for universities.

“Responding to the impact of Covid-19 has taken an enormous effort across the University and everyone has really pulled together to help us through the worst of it. The recent Government changes move us into a different phase, with fewer restrictions in place across the country. However, lots of people will understandably have concerns around this, particularly vulnerable staff or students – it’s up to all of us to keep on thinking of others and doing the things we can to keep each other safe.” 
Martin Atkinson, Director of HR & Organisational Development

The Gulbenkian with red flowers at the forefront of the image.

Covid-19 Update: Changes to Covid Restrictions

From Martin Atkinson | Director of HR and Organisational Development

Last night the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s ‘living with Covid’ plan, including an announcement that all legal Covid restrictions in England will end this Thursday. Further changes to testing provision will also follow from 1 April.

This will have a number of implications for us at Kent, with keeping our campuses safe still our key focus as it has been throughout our response to Covid. While we work through the Higher Education-specific guidance, for now all of our current recommendations remain in place – including testing regularly, isolating if you have Covid symptoms, and wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces.

I will be in touch with a further update shortly once we are clear on any changes we need to make in the weeks and months ahead.

With all good wishes,

Martin

Martin Atkinson | Director of HR & Organisational Development

Wing of aeroplane in the sky

Covid-19 International Travel Update – January 2022

From Mark Reed, Assistant Director of Finance (Procurement)

Following changes to the Government’s international travel guidance, you may now book work travel to regions no longer on the Red List.

Please remember, however, that there are still some specific regions where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises only essential or no travel.

Staff should not travel into regions where the FCDO advises against all travel, and should only travel to regions where the FCDO advises against all but essential travel when it is business critical and genuinely essential.

For any travel into a region where FCDO advises against all but essential travel, you will require a Travel Exceptions Authorisation Form signed by the Director of Division. You will also need a travel risk assessment, reviewed by our Safety, Health and Environment Unit.

Limited international travel

Taking account of both Covid-19 and costs involved, international staff travel should only occur where unavoidable and absolutely necessary. Conference attendance should be online where at all possible for the time being. Adding significant extra time to a trip for personal travel is in breach of our University Travel Policy You should not assume you will be able to travel as often as you may have done before the Covid-19 pandemic.

All travel should follow the Employee Personal Expenditure Policy – always check on our Finance webpages to make sure that you are using the most recent version of the policy.

Student travel overseas

Student travel overseas remains suspended until further notice and should not be booked this financial year unless it is essential to the subject studied and the promised student experience. Any student travel regarded as essential will require written permission, with a Travel Exceptions Authorisation Form, signed by the Director of Division.

Undergraduate students should not travel into any region where the FCDO advises against all travel or essential travel only. Postgraduate students should not travel into regions where the FCDO advises against all travel. Travel into any region where the FCDO advises essential travel only is subject to similar procedures as staff travel.

Find out more

Further information is available on our Finance webpages. If you have any queries, please contact any of us in the Procurement Team.

Mark Reed | Assistant Director of Finance (Procurement)

Covid-19 Update: Changes from next week

From Martin Atkinson, Director of HR & Organisational Development 

Following the Government announcements on changes to Covid-19 restrictions earlier this week, there are a number of things for us to consider at Kent. While the national guidance has changed, our focus throughout the pandemic has been on keeping our entire community safe and, at this stage, that means making gradual changes so that we continue to limit the risk of infection while we return to our usual working practices.  

With that in mind, our intention is that we all treat February as a transition month where we can start to relax some of our existing measures at a pace that suits individuals in different areas while continuing to keep an eye on the situation locally.  

Returning to campus  

Any staff currently based at home are welcome to start coming back to work on campus from next week, with hybrid working arrangements back in place where relevant. Do discuss this with your line manager ahead of your return, and bear in mind when you do come back that we’ll need to keep safety at the front of our minds in busy areas in particular.   In-person meetings can also be booked where it makes sense – however, do consider what the appropriate format is for these, with a continued recommendation that we think ‘virtual-first’ given people will be working in different locations.  

Face Coverings  

We’ll also all need to recognise and respect the different situations both staff and students may be in and that some, particularly those who are more vulnerable, will be concerned about the changing picture nationally. With that in mind, our expectation is that everyone should continue to wear face coverings in teaching spaces, communal areas of our buildings and other areas where there are lots of people around. As before, in most cases those teaching classes won’t need to wear a face covering as they will have sufficient space at the front of the class.  

Face coverings can make a real difference to infection rates, along with reassuring those who are most at risk – we are also writing to students today to confirm that our current approach remains in place.  

Testing  

Everyone coming onto campus should also continue to test twice a week and register their results with the NHS – free lateral flow test kits are available on the Canterbury campus from College receptions, Campus Security, the Registry, Estates and the Templeman Library, plus at the Old Sports Hall at Medway.  

There is a lot to take in with a number of national changes happening in a short period of time – do talk this through with a manager if you have any concerns or via our Employee Assistance Scheme if you want to do this anonymously. Thank you also to all of you for your continued support with keeping each other safe throughout this period.  

Martin  

Martin Atkinson | Director of HR & Organisational Development

covid test kit

Covid-19 Update: Latest Government Announcement

From Professor Richard Reece, Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Education & Student Experience

As some of you may have seen, earlier today the Government announced that a number of the current Covid-19 ‘Plan B’ measures will be ending on Thursday 26 January (next week). This includes ending the current guidance for people to work from home when they can, along with an immediate end to children wearing facemasks in classrooms.

We are currently working through what this will mean for us at Kent, including seeking HE-specific guidance on what the position is on face coverings in a university setting. For the time being, the current guidance around face coverings for students in teaching spaces remains in place – we will follow up with an update later this week to clarify what safety measures and working practices will be updated at Kent alongside the wider national changes.

Richard

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education & Student Experience

Covid testing

Covid-19: The Weeks Ahead

From Professor Richard Reece, Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Education & Student Experience

A warm welcome back to all of you who have returned to work this week – I hope you all had a chance to unwind over the Winter Break, and that your plans were largely able to go ahead as intended. My thanks also to all of those who remained working on campus over the break to support the 500 or so students who remained with us. 

Following yesterday afternoon’s Government announcements on the ongoing Covid-19 guidance, I wanted to send a quick reminder to everyone of where things are as we head into the next term. There has been lots of attention on the rise in case numbers nationally, which I know will be concerning for many – I want to reassure you that the safety and wellbeing of our entire community has always been, and will continue to be, our key concern. We will also be holding a Staff Webchat to discuss all of this in more detail on Friday 14 January at 2pm ahead of the start of term – you can sign up for this online

Working from home 

The current guidance remains that everyone not involved in the delivery and support of teaching and direct student services or research should continue to work from home until 26 January where possible. Non-essential on-campus meetings or gatherings should also be avoided. 

Teaching in the Spring Term 

As you know, in the Autumn term, we held face-to-face teaching sessions for seminars, tutorials, lab classes, etc but retained the majority of our lectures in an online form. We have committed to provide students with face-to-face lectures in the Spring term, and the Government continues to stress the importance of this in their sector-specific guidance. While the situation is far from straightforward, this is still our intention – we are also taking the associated safety aspects very seriously, including undertaking risk assessments to ensure each area is safe, and reducing lecture theatre capacity in a number of cases to ensure appropriate ventilation.  

Together with the expectation for all staff and students to test regularly and to wear face masks in our buildings, and particularly during teaching sessions, I am confident that returning to in-person lectures is the right thing to do at this stage. We will, of course, continue to closely monitor case numbers locally. 

Face coverings 

Everyone on campus is still expected to wear face coverings in places where social distancing can’t be maintained such as in teaching spaces and communal areas, unless they have a medical exemption. In most cases, those teaching classes will not need to wear face coverings as they will have room to be socially distanced at the front of the class. 

Elsewhere, face coverings should also be worn in shared offices and other indoor spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distancing. 

Together with the expectation for all staff and students to test regularly and to wear face masks in our buildings, including students during teaching sessions, I am confident that returning to in-person lectures is the right thing to do at this stage. We will, of course, continue to closely monitor case numbers locally. 

Testing  

Those coming onto campus should continue to test regularly and report your results to the NHS online. Take-home lateral flow tests are currently available for those on campus from either Campus Security or Templeman Library Deliveries entrance on Library Road – they will shortly be available more widely, with a further update to follow on other locations. If you do test positive for Covid, please inform us by emailing CovidSupport@kent.ac.uk and also let your manager know as soon as possible while you isolate. 

Ongoing support 

Both the national picture and the continued uncertainty as a result is difficult for all of us and it is really important you can access support when you need it. If you are worried or need further support, please do speak with your line manager or email CovidSupport@kent.ac.uk. You can also get free, confidential advice at any time via our Employee Assistance Programme

Thank you once again to all of you for the huge efforts I know all are making to keep things going while keeping everyone safe. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and I will provide a further update later in the month ahead of the current restrictions ending. 

Richard 

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education & Student Experience

plane

Covid-19 – Updated travel guidance

The University has updated its travel guidance and suspended bookings to countries that were announced as Red List Destinations in late November. Whilst these countries were removed from Red List status at 4am on 15 December, travel to these countries is still high risk and cannot be booked via Key Travel. 

Until further notice, travel bookings are suspended for countries including Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This will be reviewed in early January 2022.

University Travel Policy

Our University Travel Policy states that you should only travel for work when absolutely necessary and unavoidable. If you are attending an international conference, and the conference offers online participation, you should attend virtually for all bookings until otherwise advised. International travel is still a very high risk activity and should be minimised.

If travel is unavoidable, you should always book flexible tickets that allow for time/date/name changes and cancellations. Cheaper, but non-refundable, tickets should not be purchased.

At all times, colleagues should ensure they’re following our University Travel Policy. The policy includes guidelines on continuing to stay in a destination beyond work-related activity. Extending your stay for more days than the work-related activity, or by more than a maximum seven days (whichever is shorter) is not permitted.

Find out more

Further information on our travel guidelines is available on our Finance webpages.  

Apple Macbook Pro, iPad and iPhone and glasses on table

Updated Covid-19 Guidance: Working from Home

Last night the Government announced additional guidance taking effect across the country to help slow the spread of the new omicron Coronavirus variant. We have also subsequently received more specific information for Universities from the Department for Education on what this means for teaching for the rest of the year. In brief the guidance is that ‘providers should continue to deliver face-to-face teaching and staff can continue to attend work as necessary to deliver this. For other staff, there is a recommendation to work from home if possible’. 

In line with both of these updates, with the exception of staff involved in the delivery and support of teaching and direct student services, everyone who can do so should return to working from home from Monday 13 December until further notice.  As per the specific university guidance, all timetabled face-to-face teaching will continue until the end of term, with staff working from home outside of any in-person sessions. Essential campus support services such as security or mental health support will also continue in person under local team agreements.  

Christmas parties and on-campus activities 

Any non-essential on-campus meetings or gatherings should also be avoided where possible – many of these have already moved online or been postponed so do consider what is best based on what you have due to take place. I also appreciate that many of you will have planned off-site Christmas meet-ups before the end of term; bars and restaurants remain open as before so there is no need to cancel these, but again I’d ask you to consider what the best format is and how you can make these as safe as possible.  

I know this will be disappointing news and that lots of us have enjoyed returning to campus in recent months. This will also be a worrying time for many, particularly those who have a continued need to be on campus. I can only thank you for your continued assistance in supporting the national effort to keep each other safe and avoid further Covid restrictions in the future – as ever, the safety of our students, staff and wider community is our number one priority throughout. 

While cases regionally have been rising, those linked to the University remain low thanks to a combined effort across our community. We also have a number of additional health and safety measures in place. 

Face Coverings 

Everyone on campus is now expected to wear face coverings in all teaching spaces and communal areas, unless they have a medical exemption. Face coverings should also be worn in shared offices and other indoor spaces where social distancing can not be maintained. These are available free of charge from any student reception desk. 

Testing and Vaccines 

Regular testing remains key to keeping everyone safe, and those still coming onto campus should continue to take a Covid lateral flow test at least twice a week and report your results to the NHS onlineYou can get walk-in tests or pick up take-home kits from the Old Bank on our Canterbury campus or the Old Sports Hall at Medway, or order them online.  If you have symptoms or if you do test positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started and get a PCR test as quickly as possible. Positive tests should also be reported to the University by letting your line manager know and via covidsupport@kent.ac.uk.  

Vaccinations remain a critical part of stopping the spread of the virus – everyone who qualifies for a booster jab is strongly encouraged to get one if they can. 

Ongoing support 

As always, if you have any questions or need further support, please email covidsupport@kent.ac.uk. You can also get free, confidential advice at any time via our Employee Assistance Programme. 

I know the continued impact of Covid-19 has made this a difficult year for all of us and that these additional changes late in the year will be disruptive – however, taking these additional steps should help all of us make the most the festive period and hopefully support wider efforts to return to normality as quickly as possible. 

The measures are due to be reviewed on Wednesday 5 January, so I will update again on where things stand after the Christmas break. 

With all best wishes,  

Richard 

Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education & Student Experience

Canterbury Covid-19 vaccination site

Walk-ins for the Covid-19 vaccination are currently running every week day, between 9.00-16.00 at:

Sea Cadets building
Vauxhall Road,
Canterbury
CT1 1ZN

You can find more walk-in Covid-19 vaccination sites in Kent and Medway online.

Students and staff can also book online via: national booking service, or by phoning 119.

The vaccine clinic is available for anyone who needs their first, second or booster vaccine.

Now is a great time to get your vaccine before Christmas. Helping to protect your friends and family.

man waring mask on bus

Updated Covid-19 guidance – 29 November 2021

From Martin Atkinson | Director of HR and Organisational Development  

Following Government guidance in response to the new Covid-19 variant, we are taking extra measures to ensure the continued safety of our staff, students and everyone in our University community.

From tomorrow (Tuesday 30 November), we will be expecting everyone on campus – unless they have medical exemptions – to wear face coverings in all teaching spaces and communal areas. In shared offices and other spaces, face coverings should also be worn where social distancing cannot be maintained. This is to enable all of us to undertake planned activities as safely and securely as we can. Face coverings are available free of charge from any student reception desk.

We are also stressing the importance of regular testing – everyone coming onto campus should continue to take a Covid lateral flow test regularly and at least twice a week. You can get walk-in tests or pick up take-home kits from the Old Bank on our Canterbury campus or the Old Sports Hall at Medway, or order them online.  If you’re using a home test kit, please remember to report your lateral flow test results to the NHS, using the postcode CT2 7FS, whether they are positive or negative.

If you have symptoms or if you do test positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started and get a PCR test as quickly as possible. If your PCR test is positive, please let your line manager know and also email covidsupport@kent.ac.uk. If someone in your household tests positive, and even if your own test is negative, you should remain at home during the self-isolation period.

Don’t forget that from tomorrow, you will also need to take a PCR test, regardless of whether you have symptoms, if you are travelling to the UK from abroad.

Vaccinations are also critical in national efforts to counter Covid-19. If you qualify for a booster jab, we would strongly encourage you to get one if you can.

As always, if you have any questions or need further support, please email covidsupport@kent.ac.uk.

The health and safety of our staff, students and University community is always at the front of our minds. By taking these extra measures, we can all work together to protect each other in the run-up to the Christmas festivities.

Martin Atkinson | Director of HR and Organisational Development