COVID-19 update to colleagues - 26 March 2020
We hope that you are staying healthy and safe. These are trying times and we are extremely grateful for all your support in such a rapidly changing and frightening period. We are all feeling the impact of the pandemic and our thoughts are with those who have fallen ill or whose loved ones are ill.
Like the rest of the nation, we are supporting the government’s action to suppress the spread of the virus by only carrying out essential research and operational activity across all our campuses. Everything else has now moved to remote working. We are particularly thankful to those colleagues who are still working on site to support our students and keep our essential functions such as security and maintenance running smoothly.
The transition to remote assessments, critical for ensuring our students continue their degrees, is challenging and we appreciate the hard work that all departments are engaged in to make this work for everyone. We will, of course, have students with exceptional circumstances and our Registry, Vice-Deans for Education and Vice Provost’s office are helping departments to prepare for these situations. These times call for innovative approaches, and our Faculty of Medicine has stepped up, carrying out the first online MBBS exams in the world.
Some areas of research are hard to carry out remotely and Faculties and Departments are working to support those whose laboratory work has been interrupted. As a College we are talking to research funders to help mitigate the impact of these changes on research programmes.
Our community is also playing pivotal roles locally, nationally and internationally to help manage the pandemic.
We are all indebted to Neil Ferguson and his team for their pivotal advice to governments around the world that has helped slow the spread of the virus, and Wendy Barclay and Peter Openshaw have been at the forefront of informative, practical, and sometimes urgent advice to our own government.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the National Institute for Health Research, The Wellcome Trust and other funders are providing much-needed funding for COVID-19 and our colleagues are collaborating across the UK and the world to find solutions. Professor Xiaoning Xu, from the Department of Infectious Disease, together with colleagues from Kent and Hong Kong, will lead a new project, funded by UKRI’s Medical Research Council (MRC), to develop antibody therapy to treat COVID-19. Peter Openshaw from the National Heart and Lung Institute, also funded through the MRC, will work with colleagues from the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool to collect clinical data to answer some of the most important questions about the course of the disease and the effects of treatment.
Meanwhile Robin Shattock and his team are working overtime to get an RNA vaccine into trials and use as swiftly as possible.
We are launching a COVID-19 Response Fund and calling for support from our alumni and friends to further these efforts and other critically important work that can make a difference in this pandemic. People are eager to help us and they can see the positive impact of their support.
We’ve also been inspired by large numbers of people across our community who are volunteering to help with time, expertise, ideas and projects. Many have risen to our call to help the NHS and PHE. Our tremendous gratitude goes to all who have worked hard on freeing up over 300 beds in Wilson House for housing NHS workers. Thank you.
Please use our databases, let us know what you are doing, and keep in touch so that College can support you in this work. We’ve also been contributing as a College in many other ways. Many rallied to hand over PCR equipment to the government (collected by the army!), chemical engineers are making much-needed hand sanitiser for the NHS, and others are working on ventilator technologies. Many other ideas are bubbling up and we are coordinating them through the Faculty of Medicine so that we can bring together appropriate collaborators and best use our limited resources.
As we adjust to remote working and we set our sights on the future, we remind you of our resources for mental health support, ICT help, library resources and HR guidance. We also strongly encourage you to keep in close contact with your colleagues and co-workers. As we miss our opportunities to be together personally, find the time to check in and talk over video, set regular routines, and enjoy the connectivity we have. We know that you will have great ideas and be ready to help us emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.
We wish you all well and we will be in touch as we plan our approach to restarting our campuses as soon as the government mandates allow.
Alice and Ian
Professor Alice P. Gast, President
Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost