Message from the Vice-Chancellor regarding lockdown

As you know, last night Health Minister Matt Hancock announced a lockdown of Leicester following a rise in COVID-19 rates in the City. Whilst we know local lockdowns are used throughout the world as a method to contain and stop the spread of the virus, it still saddens me that Leicester is the first city in the UK having to take such measures. However, without doubt – if there is ever a city and a university that can work together to overcome this pandemic – it is Leicester.

This remains a challenging time for everyone and my number one priority remains as it was in March – the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and students. At this time, I would also like to extend this to include our wider community in Leicester. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our staff and students to support the national effort to tackle the coronavirus - and now we should support our city. This is an opportunity to build on our heritage of kindness and help save lives today.

Please be assured that we are well prepared. We have the governance and operational teams in place to enable us to act swiftly to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our community:

  • We continually review and monitor advice from Public Health England as well as seeking advice from our own Public Health experts here at the University.
  • We undertake thorough and regular risk assessments.
  • We have established work streams whose focus is to create a COVID-19 compliant, safe campus, delivering the very best experience for staff, students and visitors.

Therefore, in order for the University to adhere to the Government’s current guidance and restrictions for Leicester, to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect the community and our local NHS, we are undertaking the following from immediate effect:

Personal Safety

  • The two-metre social distancing rule will continue throughout our campus and accommodation.
  • The wearing of face coverings inside buildings, unless there is a medical indication not to wear one, is mandatory (it is not necessary inside single occupancy offices). Please provide and use your own face covering. If you do not have one then we will provide single use masks. These are available from your School, College or Department. Reusable face covering are on order and will be provided when they are arrive.
  • Wearing a face covering around campus and during travel to campus is advisory but not mandated (unless for example, using public transport where it is mandated by transport carrier).
  • Those staff that are required to wear a PPE mask for their work should continue to do so following existing procedures.
  • This guidance has been reviewed in light of the changed local arrangements and following advice from our public health academics. We will regularly review this position.

Vulnerable Staff

Staff who are shielding or clinically vulnerable should continue to work from home and take precautions to minimise risk of exposure. Vulnerable staff who are also classed as essential workers should not return to campus unless a department risk assessment and an Individual Clinical Vulnerability Risk Assessment have been carried out and assessed by Occupational Health

Managing Symptoms

For staff or students who live in Leicester there are four test centres and appointments can be booked nationally or call 119. We encourage anyone who has symptoms or if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has had symptoms, to get tested as soon as possible.

Campus Operations

As was the case during the initial phase of lockdown, it is important that we maintain critical research services and essential research during this coming period. We obviously need to do this in a way that continues to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students, and that complies with the requirements of the local lockdown in Leicester. This means that we will need to hold off on our original re-opening plans and, in some case, research which has restarted will need again to be paused. The research that does continue during this phase of local lockdown will be limited to critical workers and essential research that includes COVID 19 and research essential to maintaining our financial and reputational sustainability. 

Therefore, at this point:

  • Critical COVID-19 research should continue, as it has throughout the pandemic.
  • Other research which has been determined as essential according to the new criteria can recommence or continue, subject to a re-validated risk assessment.
  • PGR students, other than those carrying out agreed COVID research, should not return to campus.
  • Those carrying out research that does not meet the new bar for approval will have until 5.00pm on Thursday 2 July to wind their current work down.#
  • College Directors of Operations and Deans of Research will be in touch later today or early tomorrow with affected colleagues, including PGR students, to provide clarity on specific cases.

Once again, Heads of School/Department as well as Deans of Research, the Dean of the Doctoral College and College Directors of Operations have come together to develop this list of projects and personnel.

Alongside the following key areas of University operations will continue: on site security; providing wellbeing support and services, including the provision of food for students and any key workers who are living in our university accommodation; ensuring our buildings remain safe and compliant for other critical workers to continue their work as detailed above; attending to any emergency situations (eg. loss of buildings or IT).

All other colleagues should revert or continue to work from home (where possible).

The following staff and student facing services will be paused with immediate effect:

  • General Click and Collect
  • IT support on campus
  • Library - Although we had been hoping to commence the re-opening of our library from next week with click-and-collect and book return services, this will now be paused as a consequence of the local lockdown in Leicester. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and follow Government advice as it is published.
  • Bookable Team Meeting Space Booking – this was due to begin on 6 July but will be now be paused.

If you have booked in slots or appointments these will no longer be taking place. Please do not travel to campus.

Sadly, I am aware that some of our students and staff and the people of Leicester have been subject to racial harassment because of their ethnicity in relation to coronavirus COVID-19. The University takes a zero tolerance approach to racial harassment, discrimination and hate incidents, and will not tolerate this behaviour. When such incidents occur, we will take strong, direct and immediate action to address them.

Anyone who experiences or witnesses racial harassment, discrimination or any other form of unacceptable behaviour, on or off campus, is urged to contact the University about this. For students, please contact report and support and staff should email the Equality Diversity and Inclusion team or call 0116 373 6420

We are a resilient, adaptable and strong community and I hope you will join me in helping our great city. Thank you for your tireless efforts. You are true Citizens of Change, as ever.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah
President and Vice-Chancellor