Information for staff and students about the implications of the lockdown, scam emails and the new COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.

Dear colleagues,

Most of you will have seen last night’s announcement by the Prime Minister that the government is imposing stricter restrictions on our daily activities for at least three weeks. As individuals, and as a University community, we have a shared responsibility to follow the latest public advice as strictly as possible to tackle the spread of Coronavirus.

Staff and Buildings:

The enhanced restrictions have a direct bearing on which University facilities can remain open, and on which key members of staff may still be needed to keep them operating safely. Many more University buildings that were open will now have to be closed. Colleagues are today prioritising urgent work to identify those people and buildings that are absolutely essential to the University’s core functions and to COVID-19 related research in the national interest. We will be circulating further details as soon as possible. The Old Schools will be fully closed from today.

I would like to make one thing very clear: no member of staff who does not want to continue working in the few University buildings that need to remain open should feel obliged to do so.


Yesterday’s announcement will have an impact on the support available to those students still in Cambridge, whether in College or in private accommodation. Colleges are today deciding how best to adapt to new government measures by working with key staff to fulfil their duty of care. Best efforts are being undertaken across Collegiate Cambridge to offer students who are in Cambridge the support they need. Colleges will shortly be writing to all students in Cambridge about this support. For my part, I encourage students to approach their Colleges if they have any questions about practical or pastoral arrangements.

The current situation will inevitably affect the work of our postgraduate research students. We are working closely with supervisors and colleagues in Faculties, Departments and Colleges to acknowledge the needs and provide continued support to this group of students. More detailed (and regularly updated) information for all students, including postgraduate research students, can be found on the University Coronavirus FAQs student page.

A Word of Caution:

Our University Information Services (UIS) have made us aware that criminals are now exploiting people's anxiety to carry out online fraud. Please be careful with any email or message that claims to be from the World Health Organization, the NHS or other UK public health organisations, or indeed any branch of British government. Genuine communications will never ask for your username and password, or to download or open an attachment, and they will not ask for you to provide bank details. UIS has guidance on working from home securely on its homepage.

Tackling COVID-19:

At a time of national and global crisis, the University of Cambridge is rising swiftly and effectively to the challenge.

Plans were announced yesterday for the launch of a major national effort, led by Cambridge scientists, to help understand and control the new coronavirus infection. The government is investing £20 million to create the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, which also includes the NHS, Public Health Agencies, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and other British academic institutions. The initiative will deliver large-scale, rapid sequencing of the cause of the disease, and share data with hospitals, regional NHS centres and the Government.

The Consortium Director will be Professor Sharon Peacock, Chair of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England.

I would like to thank those across our community who have contacted our dedicated email address ( with offers of support for local and national health services. The public response has been tremendous. We are now triaging offers and directing them to the most appropriate places. The University has now set up a dedicated web page to coordinate our ongoing response. Such coordination is essential if we are to get the right help to the right people as soon as possible. Please share this link with anyone who you think might be able to help, or who wishes to collaborate with our outstanding teams across the University.

I thank you all again for your forbearance at this testing time.

With best wishes,


Prof Stephen J Toope