Here at the University of Surrey, we are proud of our vibrant and diverse community and the bustling, friendly and supportive environment that we create on campus. However, naturally, things have changed a lot in the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions, both local and national, placed upon us to help stop the spread of the virus. The health and safety of all members of our community is a top priority, which is why the University have been preparing our campus for the return of staff and students, making sure that that same environment before is brought back in a safe and COVID-secure manner. Finding yourself wondering “But what does that really mean for me as a student?” Let me explain what differences you can expect when spending a day on our COVID-secure campus!
The first thing you’ll notice is the large informative posters around campus. It’s one thing to think up and create COVID-secure measures, but implementing them brings harder challenges including ensuring all members of our community are aware of these measures and adhere to them. To help this, the University has put up a series of posters all around campus, both inside buildings/rooms and outside; an example of which is seen here.
These let you know the main points to remember when moving around and working on campus, with the most important aspects being wearing a face covering and wiping all surfaces and “touch points” in the room. You’ll also find a series of posters reminding our community to socially distance wherever possible, as well as denoting entrances and exits for rooms to allow for the implementation of a one-way system; an effective method in supporting distancing.
Another major aspect of this pandemic has been the necessity to wash our hands and sanitise often. As an engineering student, a large proportion of my time is spent in computer labs in order to access specialised software key to my course – a room that is used often by many students throughout the day (and night). This has been recognised as a possible point where transmissibility is high, and so steps have been taken to dramatically reduce this. First off, all over campus, hand sanitising stations have been set up so that we can all clean our hands when passing through doors and buildings to reduce transmission from door handles etc. When you enter a room, you’ll notice that social distancing measure have been implemented within. Tables and working stations have been moved apart, or some stations/seats have been blocked off as to ensure a minimum of 1m distancing between everyone. Within each room, there is a sanitising wipe station so you can individually wipe down your area including any keyboards, mouse and chairs you may be using, and there are Perspex screens up between each station where social distancing cannot be achieved. Oh and remember, even when you’re sat in a room/lab, we still insist that you keep your mask on to further reduce the chance of transmission. As you leave, repeat the steps again!
But there are measures that you need to consider before you even reach campus, and that’s regular testing. Here in Surrey, we’ve transformed part of the Surrey Sports Park at Manor Park into a COVID-19 testing site (both a lateral and PCR testing site). As students, we are offered and have been strongly advised to get a lateral flow test every 3 to 7 days, and receive two negative test results on returning to Guildford 3 days apart before approaching the main campus in the first place. This means that we can actively reduce the chance of asymptomatic transmission within our student community before anyone even reaches the campus. Should your test return positive, you will be instantly referred to our very own Rapid Response Team who will check in and support you in getting a PCR test with them here on campus to confirm your result. From there, if that also comes back positive, then your isolation begins – university teaching will become online for you and you legally cannot leave your home/travel to campus (as described in the HM Government’s Coronavirus deliveries, and Track and Trace).
All of these measures have been put in place to keep you and our entire community safe, ensuring a COVID-secure working environment for all. We still have a “hybrid” teaching style, and many students and staff still work from home, but for those few times you need to return to our beautiful campus, the University has managed to provide a safe studying and working environment for all. For more information about how the University of Surrey is dealing with the pandemic and our response both academically and socially, see our dedicated website: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/coronavirus.