An update from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff and students in response to the latest Government announcement about lifting COVID-19 restrictions. 

Dear all,

There are signs of a gradual but steady improvement regarding our public health landscape. Earlier this week the UK Government set out the next phase of its COVID-19 response. We have since received further guidance from the Department for Education on how the Government’s plans will apply to higher education institutions.

Universities must now balance their legal responsibility to protect staff and students from risks to their health and safety (including from COVID-19) with the directive that no COVID-19 restrictions will apply to higher education. The University of Cambridge will seek to follow this Government advice while continuing to recommend caution and considerate behaviour.

Teaching

The Department for Education (DfE) has urged universities to ensure that they deliver in-person teaching without restrictions. It has been the University’s position that we would aim to deliver as much in-person teaching as was reasonably possible, subject to local risk assessments. Though it may be difficult for existing teaching plans to change at short notice for this term, we will be planning for a full return to in-person teaching for the Easter Term, subject to local risk assessment.

Testing

Staff and students in higher education are no longer expected to take part in regular asymptomatic testing, and should follow asymptomatic screening advice for the general population.

Nevertheless, we still strongly encourage anyone with symptoms of possible COVID-19, including minor symptoms, to get tested. The University’s Testing Pod on Fen Causeway will continue to operate until further notice. Anyone who tests positive is strongly encouraged to report their result to the University’s COVID Helpdesk to gain access to authoritative advice and help us monitor any outbreaks.

Self-isolation

Although the law requiring people in England with COVID-19 to self-isolate will be removed from tomorrow (24 February), the Government has emphasised the ongoing need for personal responsibility in the management of infection. In line with that approach, we continue to strongly encourage anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to follow advice on self-isolation, and minimise their risk of transmission to others. 

Face coverings

The DfE’s guidance no longer advises staff, students and visitors to use face coverings in teaching settings or communal areas – though they are asked to follow wider advice on face coverings outside of university settings (including on public transport). In the interest of minimising the risk of local transmission, and out of consideration for others, we therefore encourage staff and students to continue using face coverings in public University spaces.

Vaccination

As restrictions are dropped, vaccination remains one of the best methods of defence against the further spread of COVID-19. We encourage staff and students to take up the offer of both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the booster jab as soon as they are eligible.

I share with our staff and students a genuine desire to return to normality. The pandemic is not over, and I ask that we all continue to behave responsibly, and be mindful of others. Our community’s good sense and solidarity helped us get through the worst part of the crisis. I am hopeful that they will now lead us into the better days ahead.

With best wishes,

Stephen

Professor Stephen J Toope 

Vice-Chancellor