Today we took a new decision on COVID-19, which will apply until the end of the semester. The basic principles underlying the adaptation of our activities remain in place, but we are tightening the application of the guidelines for the remainder of the autumn semester, until 17 January. During this period:
- Online forms of teaching and examination must be used wherever possible.
- In-person teaching and examination will be limited to teaching components and examinations where this is necessary to attain high quality and legal certainty and that cannot be carried out online.
- Managers should seek to further increase the extent to which staff work from home.
The University is moving to tighter restrictions to step up its contribution to limiting the spread of infection in the community, while ensuring that it is possible to conduct our educational programmes.
At present, uncertainty abounds as to what the rules really are in Sweden, in Uppsala and at the University. There are orders telling us not to have physical contact with people outside our own household, to avoid public transport, to work from home if possible, and to limit public gatherings to 300, 50 or 8 people.
It is important not to forget that rules about public meetings and events do not apply to activities at universities and other higher education institutions. Ever since the pandemic began, we have limited the number of participants in events at the University to a maximum of 50 people, and we are keeping this limit in place. There is no indication that lowering the limit to eight would lead to less infection at the University; on the contrary, new problems would arise and the limit of 50 works well given the measures that have been taken.
As we are receiving many questions from students, we also want to make it clear that the regional recommendation to avoid physical contacts outside your own household applies to private life, but not to work or studies. Similarly, the guidelines about public transport are about reducing non-essential travel to make space for those who genuinely need to take public transport, for example, to perform necessary work or to participate in a mandatory, in-person teaching component, perform placements or take exams.
Thanks to many people’s hard work, the University has made ambitious efforts to make its activities coronavirus-proof. Extra premises have been booked to increase the distance between people, hand sanitiser stations and signage have been set up, extra invigilators have been engaged at exams and social distancing wardens help to remind anyone who forgets to keep their distance. We are in direct contact with the regional infection control authorities several times a week and the signals we are receiving are clear. It is not in the University’s activities that infection is spreading. According to the latest information, no outbreaks are linked to exam sessions. Furthermore, students are not over-represented in the number of cases, despite any concern there has been about this. The University has done a good job and this is something for us all to be proud of. Thank you for your commitment and patience, which will still be needed for some time to come. Minister for Higher Education and Research Matilda Ernkrans also stated at the press conference on Thursday that she was impressed by the efforts made by higher education institutions to prevent infection from spreading.
And yet. The infection situation in society is serious and the government’s decision this week was a signal to us all to tighten things up. Everyone now needs to have another think about whether anything else could be moved online, to ask themselves: Does this have to happen on campus just now? What remains physical during this period must be what is necessary to enable educational programmes and courses to be completed fairly and so that the University’s activities otherwise do not come to a halt.
At the same time – and this is important – we will continue to keep our premises open for our students. Pointing students to places in town instead or to confined housing spaces will not benefit society. Here, all campus areas need to play their part in staying as open as possible so that restrictions in one place do not create increased crowding somewhere else.
It is also important during the period that now follows to have a generous attitude towards opportunities to retake parts of courses and exams for students who feel the slightest symptoms of a cold and therefore have to stay home from an on-campus exam. We must make it easy to behave responsibly and make it easier to stay at home.
So let us now together make an extra effort for the rest of this semester and hope that things turn around so that we can start to meet up more again next semester.