Covid-19 update: Dr David Prout

Dear colleagues,

As you all know, our strategic goal is for the University and its colleges to open to students at all levels for the next academic year.  In order to do this, we need the right set of measures to help protect the health and safety of all who study and work here.  

I write now to provide you with an overview of the far-reaching work the University has undertaken to minimise the risks to our staff and students. This includes the recent publication of a statement about our framework for ensuring health and protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. This framework is the result of work by many colleagues and committees across the University who have the common goal of keeping us all safe and well.It is no exaggeration to say that this is our highest priority as we plan for Michaelmas term and beyond.

We are still working on our detailed plans, but the main planks of our approach will include:

  • A University testing service that will be open to all academic and non-academic staff and students 
  • Protective measures to keep people safe at work, study or in University or college accommodation
  • Health and welfare measures

The University’s measures are informed by an expert advisory group made of Oxford clinical academics, as well as government guidance. A great deal of what we do, including the testing service, will work hand in hand with the NHS and Public Health England.

I have been particularly involved in discussions on the testing service. Our medical colleagues are a source of endless knowledge, wisdom and pragmatism. Our service will be set up in two ‘portacabins’ (in fact, a bit grander than that, but ‘modular temporary buildings adapted to our particular needs’ is a bit of a mouthful) – one in the Radcliffe Observatory quarter, the other on the Old Road Campus. 

The ‘Early Alert Service’ working group is working with colleagues from across the University on getting this set up.  It is a surprisingly tall order. But we are making great progress and it will be ready before the start of Michaelmas term.  Our aim is to have a quick, easy, convenient service that will help us control any recurrence of the virus amongst our staff and students.Let’s hope that isn’t necessary, but all the evidence suggests that further infection is a real possibility and we need to be ready for that.

Finally, I know many of you will be wondering what is expected of you and others around you in order to help keep us safe. More guidance will follow in the coming weeks as we prepare for our return to on-site working and the new term. What is very clear is that we’re going to have to work together to get on top of this challenge. If we can each do our bit individually, while we do what we do best as an institution – teaching, research and everything we do to support that core mission – it will be a real testament to our strength as a community.