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Durham University

Covid-19 Response

Members of our local communities

As coronavirus continues to affect our region, we are operating with the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and the communities of which we are part as our top priority.

We are working closely with Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary, Public Health England, the NHS and other agencies and services to ensure our planning is co-ordinated; and we are in regular contact with local residents and representatives to share our planning and receive feedback.

We are all part of the Durham community and we all have a duty to help keep each other safe. We are communicating regularly with our staff and students to remind them of the latest Covid-19 guidelines. To read our recent communications, please click here (the link is at the bottom of the page).

We have also updated our Student Pledge, which links to our Non-Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Procedure, to reflect these responsibilities.

We're committed to being open and transparent about coronavirus cases in the University community and so are publishing a weekly update here.

On this page, find out more about how we're planning for the year ahead and arrangements for:

Planning for a safe and successful year

Although about 2,000 students have opted for online-only tuition for this term, most students have chosen to be based in Durham City.

Working with Durham County Council Public Health Team and the wider community, we have have developed robust health and safety plans, informed by UK government guidance, that will enable us to meet the challenges posed by Covid-19 in a changing environment.

Also, an Outbreak Response Plan is in place, setting out how the University would work with partners to respond to clusters or outbreaks of varying sizes. For more details, please see below.

Student life - in College and living out

Our Colleges are operating under Covid-19 restrictions, based on establishing households that vary in size depending on the infrastructure of the College. These are up to 18 students, with very few exceptions for operational reasons. These figures have been agreed with the Public Health Team.

In some cases households will be divided into sub-households with their own kitchen and bathroom facilities.

These arrangements will be adjusted in line with changes to the government’s Covid-19 alert level. We have removed some bedrooms and changed cleaning regimes and catering provision to ensure safety.

Outside Colleges, students who live in Colleges must follow all UK government guidelines. This means that outside of College students must not be in groups of more than six and they must socially distance from anyone not in their household.

Multiple households are allowed to meet for organised events in Colleges, but social distancing or alternative measures will apply.

For students 'living out', their household is their house or flat. Households cannot combine to form larger households or mix, so no house parties or other social gatherings in homes or gardens. We are liaising closely with providers of Purpose Built Student Accommodation and private landlords.

On Thursday 8 October, we announced additional precautions for students living in St Mary's and Collingwood colleges. For more information, please click here.

Teaching and learning

In the first term, teaching with larger numbers of students, such as lectures, will be available online either synchronously (live) or asynchronously (pre-recorded). Teaching in smaller-group settings, such as seminars, tutorials and practicals – will be delivered face to face on campus, where this is possible and can be done safely. Other small group teaching sessions will be available digitally.

Introducing our University Security Community Response Team

If you see anyone breaking Covid-19 legislation, we would urge you to report this to Durham Constabulary via their online live chat.

In addition, we want to do what we can as a major partner in the City to support local services. We already provide financial support for a term-time police presence and Durham County Council’s Neighbourhood Wardens scheme.

Now, we are additionally investing significantly in an out-of-hours University Security Community Response Team. These colleagues will be available from 8.30pm to 4.30am, seven nights a week, to support the police with student engagement, education and encouragement around Covid-19 legislation and local restrictions.

They will work both pro-actively, patrolling student areas, and reactively, supporting the police in responding to incidents. So please continue to report suspected Covid-19 legislation breaches through the police as above.

Testing and Reporting

We have developed processes to capture information from staff and students who have Covid-19 symptoms or who have tested positive, and communicated these to staff and students.

We've also supported Durham County Council and the Department of Health and Social Care to open a Local Testing Site on one of our car parks.

Our Outbreak Response Plan

What is the Outbreak Response Plan?

The Plan outlines the process, roles, responsibilities and terms of reference for responding to clusters or outbreaks of Covid-19 that might adversely impact upon students, staff, operations or the local community. The UK Government Department for Education has made creating an Outbreak Response Plan a key requirement in permitting universities to operate for the 2020/21 academic year.

Who wrote the Outbreak Response Plan?

The University developed the Plan in consultation with Durham County Council’s Public Health Team. It’s intended to complement the Council’s Local Outbreak Management Plan. It has been approved the Public Health team and by the UK Government Department for Education.

How is the Outbreak Response Plan being kept up to date?

The Plan is intended to provide guidance, and be flexible so that it can be adapted for different scenarios. However, it is being continually reviewed and updated.

What is in the Outbreak Response Plan?

Details of mitigation measures which are in place at the University to reduce risk.

These include: a ‘Five Test model’ for opening buildings, conducting higher risk activities such as large group lectures online, enhanced cleaning, provision of hand sanitiser, use of face coverings, including in face-to-face teaching sessions, and clear signage and induction materials so that members of the University community know what is expected of them.

For more information on how we are reducing the risk of coronavirus spreading on our campus, please see our Covid-19 Campus Management Plan.

The Plan also details: what would trigger a response to a cluster or outbreak; how an Outbreak Control Team would operate; and how the University and Public Health England would communicate between organisations.

It outlines the role of the University’s Incident Control Centre (ICC) in an outbreak, which could include operating 24 hours-a-day; and how students and staff should report having Covid-19 symptoms.

How would the Outbreak Response Plan be invoked?

The Plan includes details of how it should be invoked, if needed, both in core operating hours and out of hours. In both scenarios, an Outbreak Control Team would be established, including representatives from key areas across the University and external agencies.

How does the Outbreak Response Plan consider different scenarios?

The Plan is intended to provide guidance, and be flexible enough to be adapted to different scenarios. It includes an Outbreak Response Matrix, which considers six potential scenarios:

  • i) No clusters detected;
  • ii) A cluster or outbreak affecting a corridor, a block within a College or a household of students living out;
  • iii) A cluster or outbreak affecting a whole College;
  • iv) A cluster or outbreak affecting a whole Department;
  • v) A local lockdown affecting the whole campus and local area, and
  • vi) Transition out of a lockdown.
For each of the scenarios, the appropriate response is detailed for: Human Resources and staff welfare, student welfare, College operations, student events, groups and gatherings, teaching, central operations, research, communications and Library services.

How is the Outbreak Response Plan being communicated?

The Plan is published in full on our website. Guidance for students and staff is being published on our coronavirus web pages and this summary is being published and promoted internally and externally.

What if I have more questions?

Please visit our coronavirus web pages, where you will find lots more information and contact details for the Incident Control Centre, should you require them.

The images used on this page were taken prior to UK government Covid-19 restrictions.