A number of relevant articles and news stories are posted on the 'NewsDesk' section of the Home Page. Although links to these are also given on this page, links to additional articles relating to Covid-19 relevant to the concerns of local communities in university towns and cities are also listed at the end of this page. This is by no means a fully comprehensive list, but it is intended to provide a quick guide to what is being written and said as the autumn progresses.
COMMUNITY CONCERNS ABOUT COVID-19 & HIGHER EDUCATION:
A Letter from Nottingham residents
Against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, the widespread problems experienced by residents as students have returned to collect the belongings they left behind when lockdown began in March, had heightened residents' concerns about the impact on them and their families and friends when the next academic year begins in September.
Sunday 28 June 2020: 'A Letter Expressing Concerns About the End of the Academic Year 2019-2020 & the New Academic Year 2020-2021' compiled from the experiences and observations of representatives of the Arboretum Residents' & Tenants' Association (ARTA), the Berrymede (North Sherwood Street) Neighbourhood Group, the Portwell (Portland Road-Cromwell Street) Residents' Group, the Lenton Drives & Neighbours Residents' Association (LDNRA) and the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) was sent to, amongst others, the Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University, MPs for the Nottingham South and Nottingham East Constituencies, the Leader of Nottingham City Council, the Council's Portfolio Holder for Communities, Ward Councillors, and Nottinghamshire Police. Since then, the Councillors and residents of Beeston Central Ward have also added their signatures to the letter.
The letter can be downloaded by following this link:
Sunday 9 August 2020: A reply from Nottingham University to this letter was sent by the university's Off Campus Student Affairs Manager. In his covering note he pointed out that: '... As I’m sure you can appreciate, planning for the 2020/21 start of term in these unprecedented times is no small task. The University’s paramount objective is to ensure the health and safety of students and wider community as we manage the transition of new and returning students to Nottingham.
The University has been working with many and various partners including but not limited to Nottingham City Council, Broxtowe Borough Council, Nottinghamshire Police and Public Health England to ensure a safe and smooth return of students to campus and the wider community.
In recent weeks there have been many planning meetings resulting in important outcomes, but there is still a significant amount of work to be done. With this in mind, the details within this response are not complete and exhaustive but will give a good indication of how plans are developing. Most importantly, it is an opportune time for you to review our progress and intentions and give further feedback. The University are committed listening and working with all interested parties, including local residents and representatives to meet our objective of ensuring students return to Nottingham this forthcoming academic year safely and with consideration and respect for their peers and the wider community. ...'
The Off Campus Student Manager also pointed out that the attached document was his initial response and that, for clarity, he had referened and mirrored the format of the original letter.
That response can be downloaded here:
SAGE Papers on Higher Education & COVID-19:
National HMO Lobby Response
The NAG is one of around 60 groups which, together, form the National HMO Lobby. One of the Lobby's strengths has always been that its members, by exchanging experiences and information, are able to work together to highlight problems of common concern. By doing so, they support one another and help to give a voice and visibility to people who share their concerns about what is happening in their neighbourhoods, to their families, friends and neighbours.
Papers published by SAGE on Higher Education and Covid-19 highlighted some serious misconceptions about the threat of Covid-19 iin relation to universities. As a result, and with input from members, the Co-ordinator has prepared a response on behalf of the HMO Lobby. This can be read by following the link:
Monday 10 August 2020: More recently, in the light of comments made by Professor Michael Otsuka of the London School of Economics, correspondence with him associated with the HMO Lobby's response has resulted in this Twitter thread being posted by him:
Tuesday 11 August 2020: Professor Otsuka has now updated this thread to include a link to the National HMO Lobby's response:
Independent SAGE Consultation Statement on Universities in the Context of SARS-CoV-2
On Thursday 20 August 2020, the Independent SAGE published its Report 9: Independent SAGE-Behaviour Group Consultation Statement on Universities in the context of SARS-CoV-2. The report can be downloaded by following this link: Independent_SAGE_Universities_20-08-2020.pdf.
Principles for Managing SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Associated with Higher Education
On Friday 4 September 2020, SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) published a paper prepared by the Task and Finish Group on Higher Education/Further Education outlining principles for managing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Higher Education establishments.
The Executive summary of the paper lists six points:
There is a significant risk that Higher Education (HE) could amplify local and national transmission, and this requires national oversight. It is highly likely that there will be significant outbreaks associated with HE, and asymptomatic transmission may make these harder to detect. Outbreak response requires both local plans and coordinated national oversight and decision-making.
It is essential to develop clear strategies for testing and tracing, with effective support to enable isolation. Universities are good locations to pilot approaches such as population case detection (PCD). Enhanced testing in response to suspected outbreaks is likely to be beneficial in detecting and preventing ongoing transmission.
Safe provision of student education needs to be based on a hierarchy of risk.This includes reducing in-person interaction, segmentation of students and environmental controls, including mitigating aerosol transmission risk through ventilation and use of face coverings.
Accommodation and social interactions are likely to be a high-risk environment for transmission to occur. Strategies to mitigate transmission risk include segmentation of students to co-locate courses or year groups, and good communication on behaviour and hygiene in household and social environments.
There need to be specific strategies to consider the wider physical and mental health of students and staff, beyond COVID-19. This will include maximising the influenza vaccination programme to minimise co-infection risks and providing support to mental health programmes.
Communication strategies are a critical part of minimising transmission risks associated with HE. Guidance on how to behave is more likely to be adhered to if people understand the reasons they are asked to take certain actions, and if it is co- produced with the staff and students who will be affected by it.
The full paper can be dowloaded here:
On Wednesday 30 September 2020 Government updated its Guidance: Higher Education: Reopening Buildings and Campuses which can be downloaded by following this link:
On Saturday 18 October 2020, an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme with Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, has been reported in the Daily Telegraph ...
Schools and universities 'may have to close' during circuit breaker
The UK should impose a two week circuit breaker to "get on top" of a rapid surge in new infections, according to the Government's testing tsar, and closing schools and universities may now be unavoidable.
Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said that coronavirus "numbers are actually pretty eye watering in some parts of the country", and it will be almost impossible to bring transmission down by "biting around the edges".
"I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit breaker," he told BBC Radio Four this morning.
Sir John added that closing schools and universities may now be a necessity.
"I think there will be every effort to keep schools open, but just to paint the picture: there are universities in this country which have 50, 60, 70 per cent of their kids in quarantine. I mean oh my God. What kind of a university is that? This is not a good place to be.
"So if in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start again, ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime, than that's maybe what we will have to do," he said.
His comments come after Britain's biggest teachers' union backed a circuit breaker and urged that secondary schools and colleges are closed for an extended two-week half-term.
Calls for a two week circuit breaker have been gathering momentum all week, with experts suggesting it is the only way to reduce transmission and "buy time" to fix the UK's faltering test, trace and isolate system - which is having only a "marginal impact on transmission", according to Sage.
On Wednesday 4 November 2020 Independent SAGE published Report 20:
Independent SAGE Statement on University Winter Term 2020 and Winter-Spring Transitions in the Context of SARS-CoV-2
The report can be downloaded here:
On Monday 23 November 2020, Oxford University and Astra Zeneca reported the results of the trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, reported by the BBC:
and the UK Government published it Covid-19 Winter Plan:
COVID-19 'NEWS DESK' ARTICLES