New year update: self-isolation, testing, travel, vaccination, teaching, homeworking & support

Message to staff and PGR students

Dear colleagues,

Happy New Year!

We hope you had an enjoyable and relaxing festive break and are feeling refreshed and ready for our second half-session.

When we went into the winter break it was unclear how the Covid-19 Omicron variant might impact on our activities at the start of 2022. However, it appears that while case rates are high, the overall impact is - so far - less severe than had been feared, aided by the accelerated rollout of the vaccine booster programme and other protective measures.

We will go on to update you on other changes such as shorter quarantining, but under current circumstances and Scottish Government guidance we look forward to in-person teaching resuming, as outlined in our previous message of 4 November, and research activities continuing under the same arrangements as before.

Self-isolation

On Tuesday the First Minister provided an update on the rules that were introduced over the festive period to help curb the spread of the virus. This includes reducing the number of days you are required to self-isolate, from 10 days to seven, provided that: 

  • you have no fever
  • you record two negative lateral flow tests, one no earlier than day six after testing positive and another at least 24 hours after that

Close contacts of positive cases (including household contacts) who are either under the age of 18 years and four months, or who are older and fully vaccinated (first, second and booster or third doses) will no longer have to self-isolate but will have to take a daily lateral flow test for seven days. If one of these tests is positive, self-isolation is required.

Anyone identified as a close contact who is over 18 years and four months and not fully vaccinated will still be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and to take a PCR test.  The latest Scottish Government update can be viewed here.

A reminder that if you are required to self-isolate or have tested positive for Covid-19 you should complete the University’s Covid-19 absence reporting webform and speak to your line manager, so you can be supported during your self-isolation period. Please report any period of self-isolation - even if you have not had a positive result.

In our message to students, in line with Scottish Government guidance, we are advising that they should test immediately before travelling to term-time accommodation, and thereafter twice a week and before interacting with people from other households.

Testing

It is important to test regularly with lateral flow devices (LFD), especially before interacting with others. Remember that you can pick up LFD kits from the Butchart Test Facility. Kits are also available at pharmacies and can be ordered online from the NHS.

For those who have symptoms of Covid, the advice in Scotland remains to book a PCR test, if you have a positive lateral flow test.

However, if your lateral flow test is positive, and you do not have symptoms, you will no longer be required to take a PCR test to confirm the result – instead, you must immediately isolate and report your result online so that Test & Protect can start the contact tracing process and give you advice as quickly as possible. You will also receive an online form that you must fill in to ensure your contacts are notified.

The Test & Protect system in Scotland can start contact tracing on the strength of a reported positive lateral flow result as well as a PCR.

Travel 

The Scottish Government is aligning with the UK Government rules on inbound travel from another country. This means: 

  • From 4am today (Friday 7 January) fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s will no longer need a pre-departure test two days before travelling to the UK. On arrival, a PCR test is required but there is no need to self-isolate while awaiting the result
  • From 4am on Sunday (9 January) travellers will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test on day two. This must be bought from a private provider – free NHS tests are not allowed
  • Unvaccinated travellers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and also self-isolate for 10 days

Vaccination 

The vaccine booster programme has been accelerated over the winter break, and all adults aged 18 and over can book their vaccine via NHS Inform.  As a reminder, time can be taken during working hours if that is when your vaccine appointment falls, and please don't worry if it takes longer than you expect. 

Meanwhile those aged 12-17 - with at least eight weeks since their first vaccine - can get their second dose by: 

  • phoning the national vaccination helpline on 0800 030 8013 (open 8am to 8pm, 7 days per week)

Those who have not had a vaccine at all yet can attend a walk-in clinic, call the national helpline number or self-register to book an appointment through the above link. A minimum of four weeks should be left between having a positive Covid test and getting vaccinated.

Online learning and on-campus teaching 

As you know we asked students to come to campus for the start of the academic year in September unless circumstances, such as travel restrictions, prevented that happening. We now expect all students, who have not yet returned to campus, to do so for the second half-session.

We understand that a small number of our students may feel that their exceptional circumstances mean they are unable to be on campus for the start of classes in January, and any students in this position have been able and are still able to apply to request online study for the second-half session (and remainder of the academic year 2021/22 for PGT students) but must have compelling reasons for this.

Working from home 

Staff are able to work from home unless their activities can only be delivered effectively on campus, e.g., research, teaching or other frontline services.  

Staff who will be working from home but only have access to a desktop PC, and who require IT support to enable homeworking, should contact the Service Desk servicedesk@abdn.ac.uk.

As a reminder, our guidance on working from home can be found here

Supporting our students 

You may want to bookmark our Student Advice & Support pages and direct any of your students in need of extra support towards these. 

Mental health 

Just a reminder that support is also always available through our Employee Wellbeing pages, and any staff experiencing difficulties should not hesitate to discuss these issues with their line manager. 

We also have a wide range of support services for staff you may find of use.  

Caring responsibilities  

We appreciate that the ongoing challenges may impact on staff with caring responsibilities due to, for example, the need for children to self-isolate or school/nursery provision being impacted.  As throughout the pandemic, we continue to take an approach based on providing as much flexibility at possible.   

Ongoing campus guidance

You can see our own Covid Campus Guidelines here – please note we are doing our best to keep these updated in line with changing guidance. 

As ever we will continue to provide you with updates as and when we can. In the meantime, any outstanding queries can be directed to coronavirus@abdn.ac.uk

Best wishes

Karl and Tracey

Karl Leydecker

Senior Vice-Principal

Tracey Slaven

University Secretary & Chief Operating Officer

 

 

 

 

 

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