COVID-19 update

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Message from the University Secretary: Updated COVID-19 guidance

Dear Students and Colleagues

As you may be aware, the Scottish Government has announced changes to its COVID-19 guidance and restrictions over the festive period and into the new year.

The planned five-day relaxation of restrictions has been scaled back to one day – with a maximum of eight people from three households permitted to get together on Christmas Day. In addition, all of mainland Scotland will move into Level 4 of Coronavirus restrictions on Saturday 26 December. These restrictions are intended for an initial period of three weeks, however as the situation remains fluid, the Scottish Government has stated restrictions will be reviewed in two weeks’ time. 

The move to Level 4 restrictions will result in some changes to services on campus, however, our team remains on hand to fully support all our students staying in University accommodation over the holiday period. I also want to reassure you that, at this time, the updated guidance does not change the plans I outlined last week with respect to the phased return of students to their term-time address for the spring semester. Please familiarise yourself with those messages sent to undergraduates and taught postgraduates on Wednesday 16 December. 

The information below details the impact of the new Level 4 COVID-19 restrictions for our students, staff and campus operations. Should the government issue any further guidance we will get back in touch.   

Teaching and learning

The majority of undergraduate students will start spring semester as scheduled on Monday 18 January. Teaching and learning will be delivered online until early February, after which time the spring timetable will continue as planned. Most in-person teaching will not take place before Monday 25 January – although some exemptions apply for students studying vocational courses and faculties will continue to communicate directly with those students. The semester for taught postgraduate students will begin on Monday 1 February.

Research and PGR students

Under Level 4 restrictions, only essential research work may be undertaken in laboratories and other research facilities. Researchers should follow the protocols and guidance, for both laboratory and fieldwork, which was provided by faculties during the previous Level 4 restriction period. The Institute for Advanced Studies will be in contact directly with postgraduate research students.

Campus services to Saturday 16 January

The Christmas holiday opening hours for on-campus services and facilities, which were communicated last week, remain in place until Saturday 26 December – at which time Level 4 restrictions come into force:

The library will reopen, after the Christmas closure, at 9am on Monday 28 December. However, physical browsing of the library collection will not be permitted and bookings will be required for all library spaces. A click-and-collect service for all hard-copy materials will be in place, while digital library resources will continue to be available online. No booking is required for access to level two of the library – for library support or IT assistance, printing services, access to quick PCs or Lapsafe laptops. For further details and library opening hours, please visit the webpage.

Study zones in the library and Atrium will remain open, with a booking service in operation. The Atrium study zone will be open 10am to 5pm, operating as a supervised space, on those days the library is open.

Right Medicine Pharmacy, located in the Atrium, will be operating normal non-semester hours (Monday to Friday, 11.00am – 5pm) this week:

    • Tuesday 22 – Thursday 24 December: (normal non-semester hours) 11am – 5pm
    • Friday 25 – Monday 28 December: Closed
    • Tuesday 29 – Thursday 31 December: 9am – 1pm
    • Friday 1 – Monday 4 January: Closed
    • Tuesday 5 – Friday 8 January: 11am – 5pm
    • normal hours resume on Monday 11 January

Co-op, located in the Atrium – opening hours:

    • Tuesday 22 – Wednesday 23 December: 8am – 10pm
    • Thursday 24 December: 10am – 6pm
    • Christmas Day: Closed
    • Saturday 26 – Thursday 31 December: 10am – 6pm
    • Friday 1 January: Closed
    • Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 January: 10am – 6pm
    • Monday 4 January onwards: normal hours resume, 8am – 10pm

Catering

       Scran (takeaway and delivery service in operation after Saturday 26 December). 

  • Tuesday 22 – Wednesday 23 December: 11am – 6pm
  • Thursday 24 – Saturday 26 December: Closed
  • Sunday 27 – Wednesday 30 December: 11am – 6pm
  • Thursday 31 December – Monday 3 January: Closed
  • Monday 4 – Wednesday 6 January: 9am – 8pm
  • Thursday 7 – Friday 8 January: 9am – 9pm
  • Normal opening hours resume from Saturday 10 January

    Refresh (takeaway and delivery service in operation from Saturday 26 December).
  • Tuesday 22 – Thursday 24 December: 10am – 5pm
  • Christmas Day: Closed
  • Saturday 26 – Thursday 31 December: 10am – 5pm
  • Friday 1 January: Closed
  • Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 January: 10am – 5pm
  • Monday 4 – Wednesday 6 January: 9am – 9pm

    Pod in Pathfoot
     is closed, reopening on Tuesday 5 January
  • Tuesday 5 – Friday 8 January: 9am – 2pm
  • From Mon 9 January, normal weekday opening hours resume: 8am – 3pm
    Nourish is closed from Thursday 24 December and will reopen when Level 4 restrictions are lifted and the Sports Centre is able to reopen.

Student Services Hub will be closed from 7pm on Wednesday 23 December until 7am on Tuesday 5 January; however, during this period, the team will be available to provide wellbeing support in the event of a crisis, or for referral to specialist support. Students in accommodation should in the first instance contact Accommodation Operations Assistants (details in section below) if they require support, while the Security team can be contacted on 01786 467999 in the event of an emergency. 

Please see the student support blog for full details on all of the Student Support Services available over the festive period. The team will continue to be in contact with any isolating students, offering regular wellbeing checks, as normal. If you need assistance, please email isolationsupport@stir.ac.uk.

Student accommodation remains open. Accommodation Operations Assistants will be based in the following buildings 24/7:

The Sports Centre will close at 2pm on Thursday 24 December and will reopen when Government restrictions are lifted. For more information visit the Sports webpages.

The Students’ Union is closed for the festive break until 9am on Tuesday 5 January, however, services remain available remotely – for more information, please visit the Students’ Union website or email: theunion@stir.ac.uk. The Union Shop in the Atrium will reopen when restrictions allow, and its online shop will reopen on Monday 11 January.

Travel

The Scottish Government has introduced travel restrictions, which will remain in force over the Christmas period, prohibiting non-essential travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK. However, students who have not yet left their term-time address to return to their new holiday household (e.g. their family home) are exempt from these restrictions and are permitted to travel to any new end of term address.

From Saturday 26 December, there will also be restrictions on non-essential travel between council areas, however, there are some formal exemptions for university students and workers. While the Scottish Government advises against non-essential travel, current exemptions permit students to commute to and from the University for wellbeing reasons, to access the library, wifi, computers and study spaces, attend classes where in-person teaching is deemed critical, and complete student placements categorised as critical. Staff are also able to commute to campus for work where they are unable to carry out their substantive roles at home.

Wellbeing and support

We recognise that the Level 4 restrictions will impact students and staff in different ways. The changes to the way in which schools and childcare will operate at the beginning of January may impact on some of our students and staff with caring responsibilities and we will offer flexibility wherever possible. If you have any questions or concerns around how the new restrictions may impact your studies or work, please contact your programme director or line manager in the first instance.

In addition, should you require any emotional or wellbeing support over the festive period, all students and staff are reminded that they can access the anonymous online wellbeing platform togetherall, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staff also have access to the Employee Assistance Programme.

Please continue to follow the Scottish Government’s general public health advice and guidance, look after one another and stay safe. 

Should there be any further changes to the latest government advice we will communicate these in due course.

With best wishes for the festive season,

Eileen Schofield

University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer

COVID-19 Response Lead

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