Dear colleagues and students,
I am writing to update you on the University’s response to the developing Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As some of you will be aware, a University-wide contingency group has been meeting regularly since this issue first emerged in December.
It is important to steer the right course between over-reaction and complacency, but given the fast-moving nature of this situation, and the increasing number of cases worldwide, we have declared the Coronavirus outbreak a major incident for the University.
Earlier today I chaired the first meeting of a new top-level group, covering all parts of the University, which I have convened to co-ordinate our response. We will meet regularly so that we can act swiftly and decisively when needed. You will appreciate that we must treat these events with the seriousness they demand without causing unnecessary alarm.
I want to assure everyone that the safety of our students, staff and the wider Cardiff community is paramount. With that in mind we should continue to conduct our daily lives in the light of the advice we are receiving from the public health authorities.
It is important that we remain a tolerant, considerate and open community offering support to everyone.
Tomorrow, University colleagues will be holding meetings with Cardiff Council and other key stakeholders across the city, so we are all working together in the interests of public health.
If, at any point, we are advised that we need to take further action we will do so.
As a University, we have already started working through various scenarios in the event we have to take such action, including alternative forms of working and teaching.
This work continues and I am extremely grateful to those colleagues in all parts of the University including Schools, Estates, Registry, IT, HR, Finance and Communications who are preparing for the continuity of work and learning as the situation develops.
Travel is an obvious issue that concerns us, and our top-level group took some key decisions today. We are an international community of staff and students used to transacting our business at multiple locations both nationally and internationally. Clearly, as we head towards the Easter break, many people will be making personal travel plans.
However, in the interests of keeping our students and staff safe whilst on University business we have decided that:
- All student field trips and placements outside the UK will be cancelled or postponed until further notice;
- Students currently on placement in international locations will be contacted and offered support should they wish to return home;
- For staff, all work-related travel outside the UK should be postponed until further notice unless it is essential. Those that consider their travel essential should provide a risk assessment form to their relevant Head of School and College Pro Vice-Chancellor before making any concrete plans;
- Those organising large-scale conferences and events, particularly those with a high proportion of international visitors, should consider virtual alternatives.
We know this will be a disappointment to many of our students planning field trips and placements. We are working closely with Schools and our Global Opportunities Centre to ensure that we provide our students with alternative opportunities and are communicating with them now.
We are seeking to support all our staff and students already overseas. For those following Government or University advice to return we will ensure that that there is no financial disadvantage.
Our guidance on the intranet is being updated.
Finally, I am aware that some staff and students have raised concerns about attending lectures or other large gatherings. Please be assured that we are looking ahead to major events in the University calendar and will be offering advice as soon as we can.
As you are aware there is considerable uncertainty about the way the outbreak is likely to develop, but our decisions are, and will be, made in line with official UK Government and Public Health Wales/England advice.
I know that many of you will continue to have questions. This is a large University with many moving parts, so we have created a central point of contact for all enquiries. Anyone who has a specific question should e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your enquiry will enable us to provide you with the right advice. In addition, we are regularly reviewing and adding information to our staff and student intranet pages, which you are advised to review regularly.
I will continue you to update you on important developments.
With best wishes,