Imperial College London is home to 22,000 students and 8,000 staff in West London. The College is acting on the advice of London Coronavirus Response Cell, Public Health England as well as the UK Government, NHS and World Health Organisation. Our in-house safety experts, academic leaders in infectious diseases and other related fields are involved in managing our response to coronavirus (COVID-19) within our community.   

For information about the number of positive COVID-19 tests amongst our students and staff visit the COVID-19 testing data page.

Campus status 

Updated 14 April 2021 

The UK government has put in place a plan for easing England out of its national lockdown. 

The first step took place on 8 March. This allowed for limited on-campus teaching to resume for certain programmes, as specified by the government. The second step took place on 12 April and involved the reopening of a range of retail, hospitality, and sports settings. 

On 13 April, the government confirmed that remaining students will not be able to return to on-campus teaching until 17 May at the earliest, in line with the third step of easing national lockdown. This will be confirmed on 10 May.  

The College questions this decision considering the other sections of society that have already reopened, as well as the efforts of university students and staff across the UK in adhering to effective infection control measures on campuses. We continue to advocate for the needs of our community, and we are working alongside other universities to better understand this decision. 

There is no change in guidance for research students, who are welcome to continue to access laboratories if they cannot undertake their research from home, or for those students on exempted courses who may already be attending campus. 

On 8 March the government also published guidance [pdf] for students intending to travel away from their term-time residence during the Easter holiday. 

There will continue to be restrictions on international travel, but travel to the UK from abroad for education purposes is permitted. Find information on all the things you might need to know when you arrive in the UK from overseas.


FAQs about Easter travel for students

Am I allowed to travel away from my term-time residence during the Easter holiday?

Students will be able to return home for their Easter break, if they choose to do so. However, in order to minimise transmission, the UK government strongly advises that students remain in their term time accommodation where possible.

This includes international students, who are also allowed to return home once for their Easter break, which includes a journey involving overseas travel. However, in order to minimise transmission, and because travel restrictions could change whilst you are overseas, making it harder for you to get back into England, the UK government strongly advises students not to travel, and to remain in their term-time accommodation.

What COVID-19 testing do I need to arrange if I am planning to travel within the UK during the Easter holiday?

You should take a test through Imperial’s asymptomatic testing scheme before you travel home.

The UK government also encourages you to take a test before you travel back to university, where community testing facilities are available.

You should take a test through Imperial’s asymptomatic testing scheme as soon as possible when you return to university.

What COVID-19 testing do I need to arrange if I am planning to travel overseas during the Easter holiday?

Travelling overseas

Before you leave, you should check the rules for the country you are travelling to and the airline you are travelling with.

Please note that due to a change in lab location and a delay in site visits from UKAS due to lockdown, the College tests are not currently UKAS-accredited. This means the confirmation of negative test result may not satisfy requirements. View more information about confirmation of negative COVID-19 test results for international travel.

You can request a supporting letter for travel from the Student Hub via traveldoc@imperial.ac.uk if this would be helpful for your travel plans. Please note that the Student Hub will be closed during the Easter closure period (Thursday 1 April - Tuesday 6 April inclusive).

Arriving in England

When you return to England, you must adhere to the government guidelines on quarantining.

Under these rules, all arrivals are required to undertake 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests – on day 2 and day 8 of their 10-day quarantine. Tests must be booked from a list of government-approved test providers at your own expense - you will not be able to use the College’s asymptomatic testing scheme.

Anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous 10 days is required to purchase a quarantine package, which includes accommodation in a government-approved facility and testing.

If you test positive on either of your quarantine tests you must notify the College’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Hub and update your status on MyImperial as well as registering the result with NHS Test and Trace.

This will enable us to provide you with the support you need, including free meal deliveries if you are living in College halls of residence.

I live in College halls of residence. Will I be eligible for a rent waiver for the time that I have travelled away for the Easter holiday?

No – if you do decide to return home, this doesn't entitle you to a rent waiver for the period that you’re away.

FAQs about the easing of national lockdown for students and staff

What are the main changes to the government's guidelines?

From 8 March, some of the rules on what you can and cannot do will be changing:

  • You will be allowed to spend time in outdoor public spaces for recreation on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This means you can sit down for a drink or picnic. You must continue to maintain social distancing from those outside your household. This is in addition to outdoor exercise, which is already permitted
  • English universities are able to invite some students taking practical subjects back to campus for learning activities. You will only be asked to return if your course cannot reasonably be continued online.
  • There will continue to be restrictions on international travel. Holidays will not be a permitted reason to travel, but travel to the UK from abroad for education purposes is permitted. You can find information on all the things you might need to know when you arrive in the UK from overseas on this webpage.

You can find the full set of guidelines on the government’s website.

Who will receive on-campus teaching from 8 March?

The government’s guidelines allow the College to prioritise the return to campus of students taking practical or practical-based subjects who need access to specialist equipment or facilities to be able to progress further in their programme. This may include lab equipment which cannot be operated remotely, or learning outcomes that must be demonstrated in-person.

It should be noted that students will only be asked to return to campus teaching if their course cannot reasonably be continued online.

Academic departments will be in contact with all students to set out their plans for delivering courses or programmes.

I am returning to campus to be taught. What do I need to know about COVID-19 testing?

The College has established a gold standard testing service which can detect COVID-19 including the new variant. Regular testing is essential for all staff and students who are required to attend campus and for all students living in halls.

If you are travelling from overseas, you will need to self-isolate when you arrive and follow the government’s rules on testing before travel and during quarantine.

If you are travelling from within the UK, you should access local community testing programmes to get a lateral flow device (LFD) test before you travel to university, if this is available to you.

You are expected to take a test when you return to campus, and minimise social contact until a negative test result has been confirmed. Our testing centre uses RT-PCR assays - as used in the NHS on the basis of their high sensitivity and specificity - and thus you need only one test to gain initial access to College facilities.

After that, book weekly tests if you continue to attend campus. Tests are available to book 15 days in advance.

If you become unwell and suspect you may have COVID-19 then you should self-isolate, notify the COVID-19 Contact Tracing (CCT) Hub and book a test through the NHS.

There is an exception to this: if you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should NOT book another test during your isolation period or for 90 days after the positive test unless you develop new COVID-19 symptoms. This is because the PCR test can remain positive (due to fragments of inactive virus) for up to 90 days after infection. This does not mean that you are still infectious, so once any fever has settled and you have completed the required isolation period you can attend campus.

I have had a COVID-19 vaccine – does that mean I don’t need to follow safety guidance anymore?

Clinical trials of vaccines have been aimed at studying the prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 disease, including severe COVID-19. This means that even if you have had a COVID-19 vaccine, there is a chance you could still get COVID-19 or spread it to others.

Safety guidance

You should continue to adhere to social distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene in order to protect the people around you and the wider community.

If you are required to attend campus, you should continue to book weekly tests. Tests are available to book 15 days in advance.

Symptoms and self-isolating

If you become unwell and suspect you may have COVID-19 then you should self-isolate, notify the COVID-19 Contact Tracing (CCT) Hub and book a test through the NHS.

If you are advised that you are a close contact of someone with confirmed COVID-19 by the CCT Hub or by NHS Test and Trace, then you should follow their guidance and self-isolate.

What if I am not invited to return to campus for teaching?

For those students that do not need to take part in practical teaching, and do not require access to specialist facilities or equipment as part of their studies, the government will review, currently by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for the timing of your return.

Will this announcement change the safety guidance for campus and research and teaching spaces?

We will be reviewing our risk assessments for different spaces and activities on campus in light of the new government guidance. We do not expect there to be any significant changes to the safety guidance you will need to adhere to on campus.

Does the government announcement have any impact on on-campus research?

No, the government’s announcement contained no further guidance regarding on-campus research. Researchers and research students are welcome to continue to access laboratories if they cannot undertake their research from home.

What should I do if I am scheduled to return to campus and I am unable to do so?

Your Department will be in contact with you in the next few days to tell you what the government changes mean for the delivery of your course or programme. If you are scheduled to return to campus but you face challenges in doing so, please contact your personal tutor, or the senior tutor for your Department.

Will there be access to study spaces on our campuses?

If you are already attending campus for teaching from 8 March onward, if you cannot study in your accommodation, or you require additional support due to a medical or physical condition, the College will provide study spaces. This also applies to commuter students who should only access university resources if they have inadequate study spaces or require additional support.

College libraries will remain open, as well as designated departmental study spaces.

What services will be available on our campuses?

A reduced catering service remains available on the South Kensington, Hammersmith and Charing Cross Campuses.

The Essentials Convenience Store will be open.

We currently anticipate being able to reopen Ethos by 12 April at the earliest. Move Imperial and Imperial Athletes are currently reviewing the timeline for their other services to be resumed. We are hopeful the College will be able to offer outdoor sports facilities and some club activities from 7 April. More information will be provided on the Move Imperial and Imperial Athletes websites and on social media.

College libraries will remain open, including the Central Library on South Kensington Campus. Refurbishments are currently taking place, which may limit access. For further information visit the Library webpages before visiting.

Shuttle buses between Hammersmith Hospital, White City and South Kensington Campuses will be running at a reduced level.

The Early Years Education Centre remains open and parents should continue to follow the local guidance provided to them.

If I return to my term time accommodation in time for 8 March, am I allowed to return home?

Current government guidelines state that you must ‘stay at home’, other than for educational or employment purposes. This means that once you have returned to your term-time accommodation you must remain living there unless an exemption to the national restrictions on leaving home and gatherings applies.

You must only travel home where they have a legally permitted reason to do so. If you rely on an exemption to travel home (for example if you need to move home temporarily because of illness or mental ill-health), you should ensure that you take a test as soon as possible on your return to university.

Can I return to halls if I am not already there?

Our halls remain open.

  • Until 8 March you should remain where you currently are.  
  • From 8 March onward you should only return to your hall if you are required to return to College in person for on-campus teaching or to carry out research that cannot be done at home, or you have welfare issues.  
  • Please be aware that if you are travelling from overseas to the UK, you should consult our guidance on arriving in the UK. 

I am living in halls of residence, what does the lifting of lockdown mean for me?

In summary, until 8 March you must not leave, or be outside of your halls of residence except where necessary e.g. for exercise and buying food.

You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with. You will have been informed what constitutes your ‘household’ when you first moved into your halls. If in doubt, please contact your hall warden. Further information is available on our Accommodation webpages.

In all instances you should only use your own shared kitchen and bathroom. You may not visit residents in other parts of the building who form another ‘household’ zone. By following these rules, you will be helping to minimise transmission of the virus. You should also stay 2 metres apart from anyone not living in your household.

After 8 March the rules inside your halls will remain the same but you will be permitted to meet in an outdoor setting with one friend you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).

Additionally, from 29 March the government intends to lift the ‘stay at home’ guidance meaning you will be able to travel outside of your immediate neighbourhood.

How will the lifting of lockdown impact my home life?

You can view the full guidance on the government website.

In summary, from 29 March onward you can leave your home to meet outdoors with six people or a combination or two households (including your own).

You should continue to stay 2 metres apart from anyone not living in your household.

The 'stay at home' rule will be lifted, meaning you are permitted to explore more of your local area. However, you should continue stay at home when you can and minimise the number of journeys you make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.

'Shielding' will also end from 31 March.

Additional FAQs for students and staff

I am travelling to England from overseas - what do I need to know?

Under these rules, all arrivals will be required to undertake 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests – on day 2 and day 8 of their 10-day quarantine. Tests must be booked from a list of government-approved test providers at your own expense - you will not be able to use the College’s asymptomatic testing scheme 

Anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous 10 days will be required to purchase a quarantine package, which will include accommodation in a government-approved facility and testing.  

Students travelling from overseas should view our guidance page

I live in an area affected by variants and surge testing - do I need to come to campus?

Staff and students in postcodes affected by the variant first identified in South Africa are not expected to attend campus for work or study unless they are accessing weekly testing in their local area and have had negative test results, or their area has been taken out of restrictions.

FAQs about the proposed return to campus on 17 May

When can I return to campus and my term time residence, if I am not already there?

In line with step three of the government roadmap, all remaining students will be allowed to return to in-person teaching and their term time residence from 17 May at the earliest. The government will confirm that step three can take place on 10 May. 

Your department will be in contact with you in the next few days to tell you what the government changes mean for the delivery of your course or programme. Until then you should continue learning online if you were not already invited to return from 8 March.

When my department has confirmed I should return how should I travel back?

Once your department has confirmed that you can return, you can travel by either public transport or private transport. To minimise the risk of transmission to others, you should follow safer travel guidance. 

This includes: 

  • Planning ahead and avoiding busy times and routes where possible
  • Walking or cycling where possible
  • It is a legal requirement that, unless exempt, you must wear a face covering on public transport and inside transport hubs e.g. train stations. You could be fined £200 minimum if you do not comply. In addition you should regularly sanitise your hands and keep your distance where possible.
  • If travelling by car, you should avoid sharing a car with anyone outside of your household or support bubble.  If this isn't possible, you should open the windows, wear a face covering unless exempt, and leave seats free to social distance.

I have a contract for a room in a hall of residence. How does this impact my situation?

Students in Imperial halls of residence will be contacted next week with more information on what this might mean for them.

I'm currently in Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland, can I return to the College?

Yes, you can travel to and from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to England, subject to any local rules in place within the area you are returning to. 

This also includes family or others within your household or support bubble who travel with you to transport you back to your term-time address. You can travel by private vehicle or public transport but should make sure you follow safe travel advice. 

I’m a new or returning student travelling from overseas - what should I do?

When you return to England, you must adhere to the government guidelines on quarantining. 

Under these rules, all arrivals are required to undertake 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests – on day 2 and day 8 of their 10-day quarantine. Tests must be booked from a list of government-approved test providers at your own expense - you will not be able to use the College’s asymptomatic testing scheme. 

Anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous 10 days is required to purchase a quarantine package, which includes accommodation in a government-approved facility and testing. 

If you test positive on either of your quarantine tests you must notify the College’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Hub and update your status on MyImperial as well as registering the result with NHS Test and Trace. 

This will enable us to provide you with the support you need, including free meal deliveries if you are living in College halls of residence.

I am returning to campus. What do I need to know about COVID-19 testing?

The College has established a gold standard testing service which can detect COVID-19 including the new variant. Regular testing is essential for all staff and students who are required to attend campus and for all students living in halls. 

If you are travelling from overseas, you will need to self-isolate when you arrive and follow the government’s rules on testing before travel and during quarantine (see question above). 

If you are travelling from within the UK, you should access local community testing programmes to get a lateral flow device (LFD) test before you travel to university, if this is available to you. 

You are expected to take a test when you return to campus, and minimise social contact until a negative test result has been confirmed. Our testing centre uses RT-PCR assays - as used in the NHS on the basis of their high sensitivity and specificity - and thus you need only one test to gain initial access to College facilities. 

After that, book weekly tests if you continue to attend campus. Tests are available to book 15 days in advance. 

If you become unwell and suspect you may have COVID-19 then you should self-isolate, notify the COVID-19 Contact Tracing (CCT) Hub and book a test through the NHS. 

There is an exception to this: if you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should NOT book another test during your isolation period or for 90 days after the positive test unless you develop new COVID-19 symptoms. This is because the PCR test can remain positive (due to fragments of inactive virus) for up to 90 days after infection. This does not mean that you are still infectious, so once any fever has settled and you have completed the required isolation period you can attend campus.

What should I do if I am scheduled to return to campus on 17 May and I am unable to do so?

Your department will be in contact with you in the next few days to tell you what the government changes mean for the delivery of your course or programme. If you are scheduled to return to campus but you face challenges in doing so, please contact your personal tutor, or the senior tutor for your Department.

FAQs about the easing of national lockdown for students and staff

What are the main changes to the government's guidelines?

From 8 March, some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed: 

  • You are allowed to spend time in outdoor public spaces for recreation on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This means you can sit down for a drink or picnic. You must continue to maintain social distancing from those outside your household. This is in addition to outdoor exercise, which is already permitted 

  • There will continue to be restrictions on international travel. Holidays will not be a permitted reason to travel, but travel to the UK from abroad for education purposes is permitted. You can find information on all the things you might need to know when you arrive in the UK from overseas on this webpage. 

From 12 April, in addition to the above, more businesses and venues were able to reopen, such as non-essential shops, outdoor areas at pubs and restaurants, hairdressers, and gyms. 

You can find the full set of guidelines on the government’s website.

What else is happening from 17 May, alongside the proposed return of students to campus?

Social contact 

As part of step three, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible, allowing people to decide on the appropriate level of risk for their circumstances. 

This means that most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal. Indoors, the Rule of 6 or 2 households will apply - we will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this. 

As soon as possible and by no later than step three, the government will also update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble. 

Business and activities 

Most businesses will be able to reopen. Indoor hospitality will reopen - and as in step two, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew. Customers will, however, have to order, eat and drink while seated. 

Other indoor locations to open up in step three include cinemas and children’s play areas; hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes. The government will also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues. 

Events 

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings. 

Review of social distancing 

Finally, before step four begins, the government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission of the virus. This will inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on social distancing, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted.

I have had a COVID-19 vaccine – does that mean I don’t need to follow safety guidance anymore?

Clinical trials of vaccines have been aimed at studying the prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 disease, including severe COVID-19. This means that even if you have had a COVID-19 vaccine, there is a chance you could still get COVID-19 or spread it to others. 

Safety guidance 

You should continue to adhere to social distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene in order to protect the people around you and the wider community. 

If you are required to attend campus, you should continue to book weekly tests. Tests are available to book 15 days in advance. 

Symptoms and self-isolating 

If you become unwell and suspect you may have COVID-19 then you should self-isolate, notify the COVID-19 Contact Tracing (CCT) Hub and book a test through the NHS. 

If you are advised that you are a close contact of someone with confirmed COVID-19 by the CCT Hub or by NHS Test and Trace, then you should follow their guidance and self-isolate. 

Do the government announcements have any impact on on-campus research?

No, the government’s announcements contain no further guidance regarding on-campus research. Researchers and research students are welcome to continue to access laboratories if they cannot undertake their research from home.

Will there be access to study spaces on our campuses?

If you are already attending campus for teaching from 8 March onward, you are returning to campus from 17 May onward, you cannot study in your accommodation, or you require additional support due to a medical or physical condition, the College will provide study spaces. This also applies to commuter students who should only access university resources if they have inadequate study spaces or require additional support. 

College libraries remain open, as well as designated departmental study spaces.

What services are available on our campuses?

In line with the government's roadmap on the easing of national restrictions, a number of Campus Services are reopening for those who are required to be on campus.  

Move Imperial: Ethos gym and swimming pool and the Charing Cross gym reopened on Monday 12 April. Social distancing measures will remain in place and pre-booking your session is required. Ethos will be introducing new pay-as-you-go bookings, allowing you to flexibly book a one-off gym or pool session from £7.  

Imperial Athletes: some student club activity will resume across April and May as part of the Imperial Leagues intramural programme. Set to run throughout the summer term, Imperial Leagues is free to participate in and is open to all students and staff, with competitions running in five-a-side football, netball and rugby. You can find out more and register now at the Imperial Athletes website. 

Taste Imperial: a wide range of food and drink outlets are currently open for takeaway across all campuses, with more to be added from Monday 12 April. This includes the College Café, Library Café, Wolfson Restaurant, Reynolds Café, SCR Restaurant, The Loud Bird (SAF), Essentials Convenience Store, MSRH Cafe and the Queen's Tower Rooms. More information is available on the food and drink website. 

Breakout Spaces: a variety of Breakout Spaces remain available for students who need an additional study space while on campus. More information is available on the Campus Services website.

Additional FAQs for students and staff

I am travelling to England from overseas - what do I need to know?

Under these rules, all arrivals will be required to undertake 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests – on day 2 and day 8 of their 10-day quarantine. Tests must be booked from a list of government-approved test providers at your own expense - you will not be able to use the College’s asymptomatic testing scheme 

Anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous 10 days will be required to purchase a quarantine package, which will include accommodation in a government-approved facility and testing. 

I live in an area affected by variants and surge testing - do I need to come to campus?

Staff and students in postcodes affected by the variant first identified in South Africa are not expected to attend campus for work or study unless they are accessing weekly testing in their local area and have had negative test results, or their area has been taken out of restrictions. 

Surge testing for Wandsworth and Lambeth 

NHS Test and Trace is providing additional testing and genomic sequencing across parts of South London, predominantly the boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth, where a number of cases of the variant first identified in South Africa have been found. 

If you live in or travel through Lambeth and Wandsworth, you are strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 PCR test, whether you are showing symptoms or not.