Students Staff

24 April 2020

Social distancing on campus

Filed under: Campus news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 12:46 pm

With 1,500 of our students currently living together on our campuses during the lockdown, we understand that the rules around social distancing may seem difficult to apply, but it is still really important to stay two metres apart to stay safe and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Those who do not live on campus are encouraged to stay at home and to only travel for essential reasons such as your daily exercise and to collect supplies. While the campus is quiet it is not a time to visit if you do not need to.

Here are some of the dos and don’ts and ways to ensure you stay as safe from COVID-19 as possible.

I live in a flat with a number of other people. We share a kitchen and a bathroom. Surely it’s okay for us to have a party together?

No. Even those living in communal flats must still practice social distancing. Please do what you can to use the kitchen one or two at a time and please don’t share plates, cups or cutlery. Your flatmates may feel well but even those who look well could be symptomatic. Anyone could have an underlying health condition that you aren’t aware of.

If you do share a flat, remember you must still stay at least two meters away from other people. Viruses can spread when someone sneezes or coughs out tiny droplets. They may even spread when people talk.

Please be a good flat mate too. If you’re sharing communal spaces, especially kitchens, you must clean up after yourself. Do not leave food or washing up for someone else. Leave communal spaces as you would wish to find them.

The on-campus eateries have seating outside – surely I can sit there with my friends and have lunch?

No. We know sitting outside in the sunshine is really tempting, especially if you’ve been isolating and studying all day – but you must still practice social distancing when at our on-campus eateries. Please queue at least two meters from the person in front – and the same applies when sitting down to eat. You must maintain a good distance from other people to avoid any droplets being transmitted to someone else. If you’re sitting too close, droplets may land on the table, the chairs or the surrounding surfaces and can go straight from there to someone’s hand or face. It isn’t worth thinking about it! Stay apart to stay safe.

Colchester campus is situated in 200 acres of beautiful parkland. Surely my flat mates and I can gather on the grass for a picnic?

No. We are really lucky to be surrounded by such lovely parkland but remember, when you’re with anyone else, wherever it is, you must stay two meters apart. Droplets can be transmitted wherever you are. Those living with others may unwittingly contract the virus and pass it on. You may be exposed to someone who is asymptomatic (has no symptoms but has the virus). We know it’s hard – but keeping your distance is the best way to keep yourself and others safe.

I am a member of staff and I want to visit campus to water the plants in my office and use the computer labs while they’re quiet. This is alright isn’t it?

No. We understand that staying at home for such a prolonged period is hard, but those staff who are not being specifically instructed to visit campus must stay at home.

Just your physical presence on campus could spread droplets on door handles or stair banisters. You may unwittingly come into contact with virus droplets which you then take home to your family. As a member of staff you must set a good example and stay at home to protect the NHS and to save lives.

Can I invite friends and family from outside the University to visit campus or stay overnight? They are not sick and do not have symptoms.

No. We know it’s tempting to invite friends or family over especially when the weather is so good, but you must not invite anyone from outside the university onto campus at this time.

You never know who might have a vulnerable family member at home who might inadvertently be exposed to the virus this way. You also don’t know who that person may have been in contact with or where else they have been, they may even have the virus but not be displaying symptoms. At this current time the safest thing is to stay indoors, do not mix with others outside of your immediate household and if you do go out, to stay at least two meters away from other people.

The computer labs on campus are open so surely it’s safe for me and my friends to use them?

Yes, you can use the computer labs on campus but it is crucial that you practice social distancing while you work. Please stay at least two meters away from the person using the next computer. Droplets spread the virus and droplets can travel by coughing, sneezing and even just talking. If there is a sign on the computer or on the pod – read it and take notice.

I am a member of staff and want to use the on-campus computer labs while it is quiet. Is that okay?

No. We ask all those members of staff who are not directly required to attend campus to work from home. It is vital that you stay at home to protect the NHS and to save lives.

If you are unable to work from home for any reason, please contact your Head of Department or Line Manager.

What is the latest government guidance on social distancing?

Stay at home

Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)

  • If you go out, stay two metres away from other people at all times
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • Do not meet others, even friends or family. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

When am I allowed to leave home?

You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

Can I see my friends?

We must all stay away from each other to stop spreading the virus, and that means you should not be meeting friends unless you live in the same household.

But you needn’t be alone. There are lots of ways to stay in touch with friends and loved ones remotely such as the telephone, video calls or social media.

Can I visit family members or friends?

You should not have contact with anyone you do not live with, especially the elderly or those who have underlying health issues since these people are more vulnerable to the virus.

It is crucial to keep the virus from spreading and protect everyone and particularly those who are more vulnerable. You can keep contact using remote technology like phones, internet, or social media.

Keep in mind the safety measures

  • Wash your hands regularly, at least 20-30 seconds with soap.
  • Cough or sneeze while covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Throw the tissue away afterwards.
  • Avoid large crowds of people or closed spaces with a lot of people.
  • Avoid gestures like shaking hands or hugging.
  • Avoid using public transport, if you can.
  • Avoid visiting public institutions, if you can.
  • Avoid shopping when there are a lot of people. Choose a less-busy time of the day.
  • Stay away from people who show flu-like symptoms (or coronavirus symptoms).
  • Keep a distance of at least two meters away from other people.
  • In case you show symptoms, call your doctor before going to the hospital or pharmacy.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of hand hygiene.

Your mental health matters!

It is completely understandable to find social distancing boring or see that your mood and feelings are low during this time. You should keep in mind that taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Make sure you are spending time doing things you enjoy indoors.

Some of the things you can do to take care of your mental wellbeing include:

  • Indulge in your indoor hobbies like reading, watching movies, tv-series, and cooking or baking.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated, avoid smoking, and try to eat as healthy as possible.
  • Spend time in the garden under the sunshine, open the windows for fresh air, and exercise at home.

Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do while social distancing. It is important to be something you enjoy.

More information

Latest government advice on what you can and cannot do during the coronavirus outbreak is available on their website.

Looking after your mental health is vital at this unsettling time. There are some good suggestions for looking after your health and wellbeing on the Young Minds website.

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