Number of University Covid cases rises to 25

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Following another weekend of voluntary lockdown, and with the number of cases rising to 25, Professor Mapstone has written to students and staff to outline plans for teaching and socialising and for students who wish to leave their accommodation and return home. Here is the full text of her letter dated 29th September:

Dear Students,

Thank you for the way you have again responded to our request over the weekend to help reduce the risk to our community from Covid-19.

 The vast majority of you have behaved in an exemplary way, and what you have done over this weekend, and last, will have made a very significant difference to our efforts to control the spread of coronavirus here. Thank you on behalf of everyone at St Andrews, and all those with whom we share this town.

 You are not to blame for the current crisis. Our students are an asset to the University, this country and society more broadly, and I know that it is asking an awful lot of you to forego the rites of passage and traditional experiences of university life, even for a short while, for the good of the wider public.

 Let me make clear that our request for voluntary restrictions applied to the weekend only. It’s my hope that we, and other Scottish universities, will not have to repeat it, but we will all have to remain vigilant, pragmatic and aware that even small numbers of cases of Covid can have very far-reaching consequences at present.

 In St Andrews, we have recorded a total of 25 cases since 1 September. This total includes four new cases notified over the weekend and yesterday. Comparatively, this is a smaller issue in scale than the outbreaks which you may have seen reported at other universities, but it does not allow us to relax.

Our Covid Rapid Response Team means that we are able to move quickly to support people who have a positive test, and those around them who may have to self-isolate. The faster we are able to intervene, the lesser the threat and disruption to others. Please remember to call the Covid Helpdesk if you think you have symptoms, or have been notified of a positive test. The Rapid Response Team is one of the reasons that we have been able to keep case numbers in St Andrews lower than is the case elsewhere.

 In this message, I want to address some of our plans for the future, the questions you may have about the rest of this semester, and detail some new guidance from the Scottish Government on the ability of students to leave and go home.

 Can Do

 I’m very conscious that we and assorted governments have spent a great deal of the last six months telling you precisely what you can’t do in the middle of the pandemic. The St Andrews Can Do initiative, an ambitious collaboration between the University and the Students’ Association, will support students, and staff, with creative solutions and resource. It will support student societies and clubs to develop Covid-safe activities and socialising. It will include the provision of a large, heated and safely ventilated marquee at the heart of the University in central St Andrews to host our societies and other student and staff groups. The marquee can be partitioned to provide smaller, separate spaces, will be bookable by students and staff, is free to use, and work to begin its installation will begin next week.

 Alongside this programme and the physical Can Do facilities, we will provide the following:

 Can Do Guide – a simple guide for students and staff about what you can do under the current (changing) guidance.

 Activities programme – providing examples of the types of the co-curricular and extra-curricular activities staff and students can do within the tolerances of guidance. Students and staff will be encouraged to add to the programme with their own events and ideas.

Can Do Helpdesk –  giving consistent advice via the Covid Helpdesk to staff and students who want to organise activities. This will also be supported by a dedicated online resource, where the Can Do Guide will be located.

 It’s my hope that the Can Do programme, devised with a great deal of effort and support from your Students’ Association, will signal an end to some of the turbulence and uncertainty which the pandemic has brought to the start of semester, and provide an outlet for your natural inventiveness, a quality for which St Andrews students are renowned.

 Seeing friends and family, and going home

The Scottish Government has published new guidance on seeing friends and family, travel, and guidance for students on visits home.

 The Government’s advice to students is to remain at university if you can, so that you benefit from in-person teaching as we phase it in, and avoid the risk of carrying the virus to people in your home.  If you do wish to go home, however, you can do so if you follow the advice and specific instructions set out in the guidance. Please familiarise yourself with it.

 Since the start of semester, I know that a small number of you have asked to go home and give up your accommodation contracts. Although those numbers are small – fewer than 25 requests to date – we do not want financial considerations to get in the way of a need to go home. For that reason, we are foregoing the clause in your accommodation contracts which requires you to give 28 days’ notice to leave. If you wish to leave, you can do so whenever you want, and you will only be billed for the period you have spent in halls.

And if you decide that St Andrews is really not for you and want to withdraw definitively from your studies with us, you may do so without being liable for course fees, until 1 December 2020.

 We very much hope you decide to stay with us, however. We are confident that if we work together and recognise our responsibilities to each other and the possibilities of our small community, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, this can be a semester to remember for all the best reasons.

 Studying remotely

 In St Andrews, in-person teaching will continue to be phased in over the next few weeks, and dual mode delivery of teaching will continue through a blend of traditional, in-person classes, pre-recorded content and live, interactive online provision.

 Whilst we are still keen to welcome students to St Andrews, and we are currently phasing in teaching in person for students who are physically here with us, we recognise that there are local, national and international restrictions which will continue to make it difficult for some of you to attend St Andrews in person. 

 I know that about 1000 of our students are currently not with us in St Andrews, and are studying entirely remotely, either by choice or circumstance. We will be continuing to provide dual-mode delivery of teaching in semester 2 (for subjects other than Medicine), and to cater for those who can’t make the journey to St Andrews at this time, or may need to self-isolate.

The Vice-Principal Education, Professor Clare Peddie, will be writing to all students in the next few days setting out in detail the options for you in Semester 2.

 Thank you again for your cooperation.

Sally Mapstone

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

 

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