Message from the Vice-Chancellor about COVID-19 monitoring, asymptomatic testing, and face coverings

Dear all,

As the Michaelmas Term gets underway, I am delighted to welcome a new cohort of Freshers, and to welcome back all returning students. I know that this has not been a start or return like any we could have imagined, but I am hugely encouraged to note that across the collegiate University staff and students are paying close attention to the Stay Safe Cambridge Uni campaign, conceived to protect us all, and to help us make the most of the academic year ahead.

COVID monitoring

Today I am writing to remind you what you must do if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, have a positive test result, or are self-isolating for any reason.

Should you find yourself in any of these situations, you must complete the University’s online COVID Monitoring Form.

This form, and its underlying database, play a crucial role in helping the collegiate University monitor and support members of the community who have shown COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive, or are in self-isolation. The form also allows us to report to the local health protection team the positive cases of COVID-19 across the collegiate University.

The request to complete the form applies to all members of the Cambridge community – University staff, College staff and all students. University staff who find themselves in any of the circumstances above must notify their line manager and/or Department. If you are a member of a College (staff or student), you must also inform your College.

Asymptomatic testing

While COVID-19 is in most cases a mild condition for younger people, as you know the rates of COVID-19 infection are high among the student age group, as are rates of asymptomatic infection. Because this is the group least likely to be aware of infection, we are developing an asymptomatic screening programme for all students resident in Colleges. The pilot phase is already successfully identifying infected individuals, and helping us reduce transmission between students, as well as preventing onward transmission to staff and the public. We plan to scale this programme up to offer pooled testing to all students in college accommodation every week, but this will take some time. We count on your cooperation as we roll out the programme. There will be glitches, I am sure, but a successful programme, combined with sensible behaviour by us all, will be crucial to ensuring the safety of our college, university and city communities.

We are likely to see a significant number of positive cases at Cambridge. We have planned for it, and have set in place the processes to manage this eventuality.

More information about reporting symptoms and getting tested can be found on the Stay Safe Cambridge Uni webpages. The website sets out the protective health measures we should all take, including self-isolating where necessary, maintaining social distancing rules at all times, and wearing a face covering.


The Collegiate University has set out its agreed position on face coverings: please wear a face covering where social distancing of two metres cannot be maintained, and show understanding that there are those among us who cannot wear one due to reasons that may not be visible to others.

As our COVID Community Statement makes clear, it has never been more important to look after ourselves and others. Safety and wellbeing is the responsibility of us all. I ask that we all continue to behave in ways that minimise the risk of infection, keep up to date with – and follow – the College, University and Government guidance, and treat each other with kindness and respect. If we all follow the guidelines, we will have a far better chance of enjoying a safe, lively and rewarding academic year.

With best wishes,


Prof Stephen J Toope