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VC update to staff on Coronavirus

I know that many of you will have been watching with understandable concern at the developing situation in the UK and around the world regarding the Covid-19 coronavirus.
As the UK moves into the next phase of its Covid-19 response, it is clear that this is a hugely significant public health issue. 
I would strongly encourage you to take a moment this morning to read and understand the updated instructions from Public Health England and the NHS. It is vitally important that we all continue to follow their instructions, such as washing our hands thoroughly and self-isolating at home for seven days if we become unwell, even if we only have minor symptoms.

The advice is to stay at home for seven days if you have either:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough

There is excellent advice on the NHS website, and I really encourage you to familiarise yourself with this.

Please know that we are monitoring the situation extremely closely and working alongside national and local authorities to make the best decisions on your behalf.
One option many of you have asked about is whether we are going to close the University. There may come a time when this is the most appropriate course of action but the overwhelming advice from the government and medical professionals is that we are not at that stage – and that this may actually be counterproductive. 
It is really important, now more than ever, that we continue to be guided by the doctors and public health experts at Public Health England and those working on behalf of the Government. This has been our approach throughout and they have been very clear with us that, at this stage, the University should continue to remain open.
Of course, I know that many people have questions about what might come next and how we are preparing for all eventualities. As we communicated with you recently, we are planning for a number of scenarios and these plans have progressed significantly.
We are in close contact with all the relevant health and government authorities and are working closely with local services being coordinated by Brighton & Hove City Council. Together, we are keeping the situation on campus and in the City under constant review.
Whilst the Government has not advised universities to close, we are of course planning that this could be something we move to during the delay phase in the coming weeks. As you can imagine this would involve providing learning online and our platforms, Panopto and Canvas, provide a solid basis for this. We also now have Box for sharing and storing documents in the cloud, which is a tool that staff should be using more frequently and is perfect for home working within teams. Through our experts in Technology Enhanced Learning and IT Services, we will be ensuring staff have the necessary guidance and toolkits to hand covering the essentials of how to use these technologies to work remotely and continue to support teaching and learning. 
Another area we are looking at is exams and assessments and any changes we may need to address on timings for resits. There will be much more detail on that soon.
Our HR team are very far advanced on making sure our policies around caring for children and other dependents are aligned with the latest advice and this will be shared with you next week. Of course, the University will ensure that anyone who needs to stay at home for seven days as they are showing symptoms will be covered by sick pay.
It’s really important to remember that our campus is not just a learning environment, it is a workplace for thousands and a home to thousands more. Any decisions we have made and ultimately will make will take into account the needs and safety of everybody in our community. 
This is an unprecedented situation in our lifetimes and I completely understand the worry that many of you are feeling. There has never been a more important time for us to be conscious of how we treat one another and to be compassionate towards our colleagues and of course the students in our care. That’s the spirit of Sussex that I believe in, very strongly.
We will of course continue to provide up-to-date information on our coronavirus web pages, so please do keep checking that. I have also written to all of our students today and will contact you directly again, if there are any significant developments.
All the very best,
Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor

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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 13 March 2020

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