14 July - Update for colleagues on next steps of COVID recovery

We hope you are keeping safe and well. This provides you with the latest information on the University’s COVID response, following recent updates from the Scottish Government on the easing of restrictions across Scotland.

As confirmed by the First Minister on 13 July, all parts of Scotland will move to Level 0 on Monday 19 July.

This means groups of up to 15 people from 15 different households can meet outdoors with no physical distancing required, and one metre physical distancing in place between different groups of 15. Indoor physical distancing requirements can be reduced from two metres to one metre. 

By 9 August, the Scottish Government expects the vast majority of over 40s will have received both vaccine doses and it will be possible and proportionate to lift the major remaining legal COVID restrictions, beyond Level 0, but this may be subject to further revision.

In light of these changes, and in consultation with the campus trade unions, the University has considered our strategy for easing restrictions on-campus, allowing us to restart more activities over coming months. We will be led by colleague and student safety as our top priority, and we will keep dates and policy under review and be as flexible as possible.

Although this statement is focused on the return of colleagues to our campuses, the University wishes to acknowledge and thank the many colleagues that have continued to work on campus during the pandemic.

Research

Physical distancing in research labs and associated accommodation will reduce to one metre on 19 July and be removed when we move beyond Level 0, subject to local risk assessments. Face coverings will be required when moving around indoors. The requirement to wear a face covering when seated indoors will be lifted from 19 July.

Please note this applies only to research that cannot be done remotely. If you can do your research from home, you should continue to do so for the time being. 

We recently wrote to all research and teaching colleagues with a short survey to help us understand the impact of the pandemic so we can put in place measures to assist with restarting our research activities. If you have not already completed this survey, you have the chance to do so here before 30 July:

Teaching

In line with our published planning assumptions, physical distancing in teaching spaces will continue to be one metre for Semester One and classes will generally not exceed 50 students. Subject to alignment with sectoral guidance, the University will plan to remove physical distancing in Semester Two, and will confirm plans for this in October 2021.

The Learning and Teaching working group will continue to work over the summer to ensure we can be responsive and flex the timetable in the event of changes in government policy.

Offices

Office-based colleagues (both academic and administrative) currently working from home will be gradually welcomed back to campus as space is made available and as the guidance permits. Our Estates team are working with local areas to ensure spaces are risk-assessed and fully prepared.

Physical distancing of two metres will remain in all indoor spaces (except research labs, associated accommodation and teaching spaces as noted above) until 1 September, at which point the need for physical distancing will be removed. 

It is anticipated that most colleagues may, if appropriate, return one day per week from 1 September and, two days per week from 1 October. From 1 November there will be no specific restrictions although it is expected that most colleagues will adopt a hybrid working pattern, where this type of work is feasible.

The exact arrangements will be determined at College, School or University Service Directorate Level and will be subject to any further changes to government policy. 

We will also be making a limited amount of office space available from 19 July for office-based colleagues who are unable to work from home. 

We are mindful that colleagues who have disabilities or who are vulnerable may have particular needs that we want to support. We would kindly request that you raise these in the first instance with your line manager and/or your local HR Business Partner, who will work with you to ensure that we have appropriate support and precautions in place.

Safety and wellbeing

It is important to note that we continue to observe no incidences of transmission across our campuses. The most effective measure that you can take to ensure your own safety and those around you is to receive two COVID vaccinations. There is more information on the vaccination on the NHS Inform website.

Baseline protection measures will continue to apply for the foreseeable future, including:

  • Putting in place robust procedures to ensure adequate ventilation of indoor spaces and air quality monitoring of any areas of potential concern 
  • Face coverings will be required when moving around indoors. The requirement to wear a face covering when seated indoors will be lifted from 19 July. 
  • Enhanced cleaning regimes will continue with an ongoing focus on high-touch points in high occupancy areas 
  • Promotion of regular hand washing/sanitising and self-cleaning of shared work and study surfaces 

We will continue to keep our community updated as further government and sector guidance becomes clear. Thank you to all colleagues for all your efforts throughout the pandemic to keep our community protected, and please continue to stay safe.


First published: 14 July 2021