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This framework applies only to those activities that are directly connected with teaching and learning, and will support planning approaches and maximise in-person educational opportunities. This includes learning and development which supports education and well-being and wider educational experiences. The framework is non-statutory. It aims to give universities an overview of possible reasonable measures that can be implemented to help reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Activities on the premises that are not connected with teaching and learning, such as corporate events, do not fall within this framework, and the rules set out in the alert level applicable at the time under the Regulations will apply as will any related guidance.

The most effective way to manage personal risk is to take up the offer of vaccination.  All those eligible should get two doses of the vaccine and when invited, get their booster as a priority to have increased protection. Taking this responsibility and becoming vaccinated means that as well as protecting ourselves we are considerate of others. This will help us all to get back to doing the things we’ve missed the most. It is never too late to get the vaccine and walk-in centres are open to all, including international students.

This framework provides infection prevention control measures for universities to consider, and sets out how these measures may be varied in relation to risk. It should be read in conjunction with the COVID-19 Guidance.

General protective measures include:

  • all staff and students should be reminded to follow the Welsh Government guidance for self-isolation as appropriate, and instructed not to attend if they have any symptoms or anyone in their household has symptoms, or they or anyone they live with has tested positive for COVID-19 or if they have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test, Trace, Protect
  • staff and students should get a test as soon as they have symptoms
  • regular handwashing and respiratory etiquette (Catch it, Bin it, Kill it, Wash your hands) are key measures to prevent spread and manage cases, incidents and outbreaks
  • adequate ventilation - opening windows or adjusting ventilation systems is also important
  • all those eligible should get both jabs and when invited, get their booster as a priority

At alert level two, employers and businesses will have more flexibility to determine what is required to manage local risk. Local action will be the most important first line of action. The local Incident Management Teams (IMT), Public Health Wales and local health boards will be the lead agencies in determining the risk status for each locality. However, universities will be able to make their own decisions where there are clusters of COVID-19 associated with the university based on outbreak control plans. Universities will be responsible for working with the local IMT, local health board and public health teams to respond to those clusters. The local IMTs will need to work with the universities to inform and discuss appropriate responses and decisions relating to escalating risk in the wider community. All employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety. Employers should share the risk assessment results with their workforce.

Universities must have processes in place to manage COVID-19, including the specific duty to take all reasonable measures based on a risk assessment to minimise the risk of exposure to, and the spread of COVID-19, depending on individual factors such as buildings and facilities, ventilation, teaching, learning and research facilities and other activities undertaken. Universities must ensure outbreak control plans set out clearly the arrangements in place to manage COVID-19 as a work place hazard and as a communicable disease. The measures can be, and should be, escalated and de-escalated accordingly, based on established risk assessment processes and the hierarchy of controls. Many of these measures are not binary – there will be incremental steps between the measures listed below that may need to be employed to reflect the specific risks identified by the institution for its site(s), its staff members, its students, and its community.

The framework is intended to help institutions, students, staff and the wider community understand how these suite of measures will work in future.

The measures are intended to apply across alert levels, and their use by each provider should reflect local intelligence and risk as assessed by local IMT, Public Health Wales, advice from our Chief Medical Officer, Chief Scientific Advisor for Health, and other professionals. All universities should be represented on relevant IMTs and universities should engage with Trade Union representatives and Students’ Unions to discuss and communicate the appropriateness of the risk responses implemented at each risk level.

The framework is not dependent on the alert level that a particular area of Wales (or the whole of Wales) is in at a particular time. It may be, for example, at alert level two that a cluster of positive cases in a particular geographical area (e.g. in the community where a provider is located) would result in a provider using the framework to assess the risk level and apply localised measures, even if the alert level under the Regulations does not change for that particular area. However, it must be noted that:

  • Where an alert level under the Regulations applies a stricter requirement than set out in this framework, then that stricter requirement must be adhered to.
  • Where no requirement applies or a less strict requirement applies under an alert level under the Regulations then the approach set out under the relevant risk level in the framework should be followed. In these circumstances, any  additional reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to, or spread, of coronavirus that is identified as the result of a provider’s risk assessment should be put in place.

We envisage that controls in some areas such as ventilation, use of carbon dioxide monitors, enhanced cleaning will form part of the ongoing approach to managing the risk of infection. As these will be the same at all risk levels, they are not included in the framework but are included in the national guidance.

Table 1 sets out the national risk ratings, whilst Table 2 sets out the framework of measures that universities may use in response to changes in that risk rating.

Table 1: national risk ratings
Level of risk Description Actions
Low
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1 to 9 and there is no evidence of waning immunity.
  • While 7 day incidence may be increasing the majority of infections are reported in those 30 years of age and younger who have not been vaccinated or have received just 1 dose.
  • The percentage of community cases requiring hospital admission remains low.
  • Deaths remain low.
  • Delivery of frontline health and social care and blue light services are not at risk due to number of individuals self-isolating.
  • LA enforcement of business compliance remains low.
  • Minimal introduction of infection into closed settings or schools.
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a variant of interest or concern has been identified.
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance.
  • Cases are contacted as soon as possible so that contacts can be advised to self-isolate and reduce the risk of on-ward spread.
  • Action is ongoing locally to support uptake of the vaccine in those who were not receptive to receiving it on first offer.
  • Engaging with local communities to ensure that the good behaviours in high risk settings (areas of poor ventilation and overcrowding) can continue and communities are receptive to this.
  • Agencies are working proactively across all sectors to ensure that they can operate in a risk based environment.
  • Reactive enforcement of business compliance.
Moderate
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1 to 9 and there is no evidence of waning immunity.
  • The 7 day rolling incidence of infection continues to rise. All new infections are being responded to and evidence from TTP shows that while the majority of infections are still occurring in the younger mobile population the incidence of infection in those 60 years and over has started to increase.
  • Hospital admissions are increasing albeit from a low base but the percentage of community cases requiring hospital admission remains less low.
  • Deaths remain low.
  • There is increasing introduction of infections in care homes (often single staff member) and schools suggestive of significant transmission in the community.
  • Levels of LA enforcement increasing. Emerging evidence that business non-compliance is associated with clusters of infection.
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a variant of interest or concern has been identified.
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance.
  • In addition to responding to all new infections backward tracing is continuing and may provide evidence that the chains of transmission from known risks are seeding infection in the wider community.
  • At this stage consideration will be given to identified risks (for example wet pubs/clubs) for acquisition of infection which will influence the introduction of further local actions and communications.
  • LA enforcement powers being used effectively to assure compliance with restriction regulations and in response to clusters.
  • Proactive engagement locally with specific business sectors where there is emerging evidence of ongoing risk.
  • Evidence from TTP may suggest that no one sector is driving transmission but there is poor understanding of the personal behaviours that can reduce risk of both acquisition of infection and t potential risk to others. The IMT will consider how best to engage with the community and support them in understanding their personal risk and risk to the wider population.
  • Action is ongoing locally to support uptake of the vaccine in those who were not receptive to receiving it on first offer.
High
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1 to 9, increasing incidence of infection in the vaccination population may indicate evidence of waning immunity.
  • Not all new infections are being investigated. Resources are targeting clusters and incidents in high risk settings (for example care homes). There is widespread transmission in the community as evidenced by the number of small household and social clusters and clusters in open and closed workplaces.
  • Incidence rates in the over 60s is increasing and the percentage of community cases requiring hospital admission has increased.
  • Deaths are increasing.
  • There is significant impact on frontline services due to the number of staff self-isolating.
  • Hospital admissions are increasing and the impact on health and social care is felt by the number of care homes in the ‘red’, delaying discharge of the elderly and causing bottlenecks in the NHS.
  • There is significant impact on frontline health and social care and blue light services due to the number of staff self-isolating.
  • Increasing evidence that business non-compliance is associated with clusters of infection.
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a new variant of interest or concern is a driver for the rising incidence of infection.
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance.
  • Increasingly actions are focused on minimising the risk to vulnerable communities and targeting larger clusters to minimise harm.
  • There is increasing reliance on mutual aid in order to, as a minimum, promote the isolation message and identify contacts. Backward tracing is undertaken only in exceptional circumstances.
  • A local enhanced testing strategy has been implemented to support ease of access to testing and identification of infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.
  • In-depth epidemiological review will be undertaken together with an assessment as to whether or not there is a need to reintroduce NPIs above those that are voluntary (social distancing, mask wearing in high risk situations, frequent hand washing, meeting outdoors where possible etc.).
  • Should the community’s voluntary response as defined be insufficient to address the rising incidence, application should be made to WG for further local powers to be made available.
  • In supporting the vulnerable the IMT will work with closed settings to ensure that they are fully engaged with and delivering the agreed testing policy to minimise introduction of infection.
  • The IMT will consider and support the role of daily testing for staff in frontline services as an enabler to return to work and maintain critical services.
  • Enforcement officers are increasingly finding that sectors commonly associated with non-compliance are the vectors for spread of infection. Interventions are targeted at these sectors.
  • Action is ongoing locally to support uptake of the vaccine in those who were not receptive to receiving it on first offer.
Very high
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1 to 9, increasing incidence of infection in the vaccination population may indicate evidence of waning immunity.
  • The 7 day rolling incidence is increasing in all age groups.
  • There is exponential growth of cases with widespread introductions into closed settings. TTP prioritising the most vulnerable, backward tracing of cases is no longer feasible.
  • Epidemiological review shows random spread of the virus across the area without either a comprehensive understanding of what is driving transmission and evidence that the national and local mitigating measures are no longer proving effective.
  • Joint Enforcement Teams are overwhelmed.
  • Deaths are continuing to increase.
  • There is significant impact on frontline services due to the number of staff self-isolating.
  • Education is severely impacted by cases and clusters.
  • Health and social care is under significant pressure.
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a new variant of interest or concern is a driver for the rising incidence of infection.
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance.
  • There is an understanding at the IMT that community transmission is occurring at such a pace that only measures that will significantly reduce person to person contact will break chains of transmission.
  • Enhanced communication, testing and vaccination is in place including testing as an enabler to maintain front line health and social care and blue light services.
  • A review of the NPIs and actions to date suggest that there is nothing more that can be done with local powers that will reduce person to person spread.
  • Emerging evidence from enforcement officers that the Restriction Regulations requirements are insufficient.
  • The IMT may request specific measures are introduced to support their requirement of limiting person to person contact.
  • Representation will be made to Welsh Government recommending further mitigating actions. Welsh Government will consider whether mitigating actions are appropriate for the local authority or health board. In considering the request Welsh Government will take into account a range of intelligence including the prevalence of infection across Wales, the impact that COVID-19 is having on the health and social care system, the contribution that vaccines are making in weakening the link between infection and mortality and morbidity in order to determine whether a local, regional or national approach is appropriate.
Table 2: risk framework for universities

 

Low risk

Moderate risk

High risk

Very high risk

Keeping people safe

Universities should ensure reasonable measures are taken in public areas to minimise the risk of exposure to and spread of coronavirus which may include all reasonable measures to encourage individuals to maintain [at least] 2m physical distancing. In other areas the risk assessment should consider physical distancing as a measure to mitigate risk.

To support Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing activity Universities may wish to determine a process to retain and supply [accurate] contact information for each session and retain these in line with guidance.

Universities should ensure reasonable measures are taken in public areas to minimise the risk of exposure to and spread of coronavirus which may include reasonable measures to encourage individuals to maintain 2m physical distancing, one way systems, and signage.

In other areas the risk assessment should consider physical distancing as a measure to mitigate risk.

Implement arrangements aimed at reducing close interactions (within 2m). This may include, for example, not holding large indoor gatherings and events; one way systems; consistent seating plans; floor signage or using outdoor spaces where possible.

All reasonable measures to maintain at least 2m physical distancing between individuals in all areas, including in teaching and learning environment, aimed at reducing close interactions between learners to the lowest practical level, depending on room capacity and risk assessments.

This may include the measures set out at the high risk level as well as a combination of blended learning (in person and remote learning) to reduce numbers on site.

For the majority of learners this will mean in person learning should continue. 

Universities may want to consider a contact group model in operation for teaching and learning where appropriate or where 2m physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Face coverings

Where teaching and learning takes place in an area that is not an indoor public area, wearing a face covering is not required (unless necessary PPE is required in laboratory/clinical or other settings).

Consideration should be given in the risk assessment as to whether face coverings should be advised where 2m physical distancing cannot be maintained in indoor areas (including in the teaching or learning environment) or where there are clinically extremely vulnerable students or staff or those who are at increased risk from COVID19, including those who were previously shielding.

Students and staff may choose to wear one if they wish.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (for example reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings are not routinely recommended for staff and learners, but may be worn by individuals anywhere on-site, and in particular when moving around indoor communal areas where 2m distancing cannot be maintained

Risk assessments should be used to consider areas and activities where face coverings should be used, particularly where there are clinically extremely vulnerable students or staff or those who are at increased risk from COVID-19.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (for example reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings should be worn in indoor communal areas where social distance cannot be maintained except in classrooms/workshops.

Face coverings must be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (for example reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor areas on all provider sites where social distance cannot be maintained, including in classrooms/workshops.

Universities will need to communicate the requirement to students and staff.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (for example reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Testing for staff and students
 

Test to travel policy remains in place for start and end of term.

Three times weekly testing for the first 28 days on campus at the start of each term for students and staff.

Little or no regular LFD testing.

Targeted/focused testing used where recommended by local health protection teams. 

Test to travel policy remains in place for start and end of term.

Three times weekly testing for students for the first 28 days on campus at the start of each term.

Three times a week LFD testing encouraged for staff and learners to help identify and isolate asymptomatic cases as soon as possible. Individuals to follow the relevant self-isolation guidance.

Targeted/focused testing used where recommended by local health protection teams. 

Contact group options

To support universities reduce close interactions a contact group model may be of assistance, however contact groups may not be possible for all activity and should be considered where appropriate. 

Room capacity may affect the number of students who can be present in any room/space at the same time. However, universities must continue to carry out specific coronavirus risk assessments for their buildings and activities, building on their learning to date and practices they have already developed during the pandemic. 

To support Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing activity colleges will need to determine a process to retain and supply contact information for contact groups, groups of 6 or individuals (as the case may be) for each session and retain these in line with guidance

Groups of up to 30

A contact group may consist of up to 30 students and should be fixed and not fluctuate in terms of the number within it, without good reason. 

A fixed contact group means the same group, up to a maximum of 30 students, must be allocated for the teaching group. 

Across a programme, students may be members of multiple contact groups but this should be kept to a minimum. 

Groups of 6

Following the rule of 6, students may be allocated to groups of 6 seated with 2m between each group of 6. 

Groups of 6 can vary from session to session but should remain fixed for the duration of the session. 

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