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Introduction

The success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in breaking the link between infection and serious illness or hospitalisation means we have been able to return to close to normal life in Wales.

In Wales, there is however, still a legal duty for organisations, such as universities, to undertake a specific assessment of the risk of spreading COVID-19 on their premises and to take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

As a result, universities have a responsibility to risk assess the campus environment as a workplace, and there will be some measures in place to protect students, staff, and visitors. This includes requiring face coverings to be worn and social distancing where appropriate in indoor spaces where students, staff, and others may come together.

Please familiarise yourself with the rules in Wales.

Vaccination

We all have to play our part in stopping the spread of the virus, even as restrictions are largely removed. Transmission of COVID-19 is most strongly associated with close and prolonged contact in indoor places. The highest risks are in people mixing in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces over extended periods.

The most effective way to minimise risk of serious illness is to take up the offer of vaccination, where we can. Both doses of vaccine are needed to have protection. It takes at least two weeks (14 days) after the second dose before a person will have the full protection from the vaccine.

Taking this responsibility to become vaccinated means we are considerate of others and will help us to continue 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.

If you have been fully vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself, but your family, friends, and communities. If you are fully vaccinated you will not need to self-isolate if you have close contact with someone who tests positive, unless you are showing symptoms yourself or you have been advised to self-isolate by Test Trace Protect. This means that you will be less likely to miss out on in-person teaching and extra-curricular activities.

The Welsh Government and Public Health Wales also recommends students check that they are fully up-to-date with their routine immunisations by contacting their GP or local health board.

Many young people have not completed routine immunisations on leaving school, especially the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

People under 25 years of age, particularly first year students living in halls of residence, are at greater risk of contracting meningitis and meningococcal disease, which can have serious consequences.

Find more information on Health Boards and how to locate yours.

COVID-19 symptoms

If you have any coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change of taste or smell), you should self-isolate at home (where you are currently living) and get a test, even if you have been fully vaccinated. This is important as it is possible to get and pass on COVID-19 even if you have been vaccinated.  You must self-isolate until you get your test result.  If it is negative, you can leave self-isolation.

You must not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you tested positive for COVID-19, are a household contact or you are an unvaccinated adult and have been told to self-isolate as a close contact by the NHS Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) service you must stay at home. You are breaking the law and could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate.

On 29 October 2021, the rules on self-isolation changed when somebody in your household has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus.

Test before travel

All students travelling between their term time address and their home address are advised to test before they travel. It is really important to help stop the spread of the virus from one location to another and will also mean we can reduce the numbers of students needing to self-isolate. You should also check the guidance on travel to and from Wales, especially if your plans involve international travel.

Before you travel you should continue to test twice weekly with a LFT and order a pack of lateral flow tests ready to take with you. You can also collect tests from your local pharmacy.

If this test is negative, you may travel to your university/term time accommodation or back to your home address (for example, at the end of term). If you test positive you must self-isolate where you are and must not travel.

Whilst settings are closed, LFD tests are still available, free of charge to anyone over the age of 11 to test twice a week (every 3 or 4 days) without any COVID-19 symptoms.

In line with national guidance you are encouraged to take a test:

  • if you are travelling to other parts of Wales or the UK
  • if you are going to be in a higher risk situation including spending time in crowded or enclosed spaces
  • before you visit people who are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Before returning to your student accommodation and/or accessing campus facilities, we encourage staff and learners to test twice with LFD (3 or 4 days apart) in the week before returning to their HE Institution. If you test before travel and test as close to your arrival as possible, this will significantly reduce the risk of you spreading the virus.

We are asking students to take lateral flow tests twice a week for their first 28 days back on campus. This is to reduce the risk of outbreaks and large numbers of students needing to self-isolate. If we detect cases early because everyone is getting tested, we help stop the virus spreading.

IMPORTANT – your test result is only accurate on the day of the test. Even if you test negative, you must still remember to follow the rules.

What if I test positive?

If you test positive, you will need to self-isolate immediately at your address for 10 days in accordance with the Welsh Coronavirus Regulations (please see guidance). If you test positive using a lateral flow test, you will also need to get an NHS COVID PCR test to confirm the result of the asymptomatic lateral flow test.  You will still need to self-isolate whilst obtaining that confirmation. We are confident that the asymptomatic test is accurate but we need the follow-up NHS COVID PCR test to support Test Trace Protect. The NHS COVID PCR test detects the presence of the virus in your body by detecting COVID-19 genetic material in your nose or throat. It is really important that you get a follow-up NHS COVID PCR test if your asymptomatic test is positive not just to support Test Trace Protect, but because the genetic material analysis is also really important to help us understand the virus.

This may feel like getting tested will not help you, as you may test positive which may mean you can’t do what you planned. It could also stop your friends being able to do what they had planned. We know this is a really difficult choice, but we also know that if you travel to another part of Wales or the UK and take the virus with you, you will be putting other people at risk. It is essential therefore that you follow the rules and self-isolate if you have symptoms, test positive or are a close contact of someone who has and are not exempt from self-isolation.

If we all do our bit to help keep the virus under control then we can all continue living life as close to normal as possible. It is important that you continue to do the right thing, so making sure you take up both doses of the vaccine, getting tested before you travel and self-isolating if you do have symptoms or test positive will really help everyone stay safe.

Responsible behaviours

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language and the Welsh Government are committed to ensuring that students are able to access their education as a priority and we need to work together to do the right thing to help us maintain the current reduction in people becoming seriously ill and hospitalised in Wales.

The Welsh Government is very grateful to our students for maintaining high levels of compliance throughout the pandemic and for persevering under difficult circumstances. No other generation has been asked to endure such a different university experience.

We have all made huge changes to the way we live our lives and we know that since the first lockdown in March 2020, it’s been a particularly difficult time for students. However, we also know that students have played their part and self-isolated when it has been necessary to do so and on the whole followed the range of other COVID-19 rules. Your collective efforts have kept the number of infections in the student population down. We are asking you to continue to do the right thing and make sure you receive both doses of your COVID-19 vaccination and comply with any protective measures in place around the campus and elsewhere in order to protect our families, friends, and communities.

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