Newcastle and Northumbria Universities are to temporarily move to Tier 3 of the local outbreak response plan tomorrow, following a rise in COVID-19 cases. In moving from Tier 2, almost all learning will be online, although the Newcastle University campus will remain open.
The Universities will initially remain at Tier 3 for the next three weeks until the end of October. The decision will be reviewed with advice from the Director of Public Health.
The Courier understands that there is no threshold amount of COVID-19 cases required for the Universities to impose Tier 3 restrictions. Instead, a range of factors are considered, including how quickly numbers are rising and the case rates in the wider city.
The announcement was made today by Newcastle University Vice Chancellor Chris Day, in an email to students. The email explains that some learning will continue “where present-in-person sessions are essential to meet programme learning outcomes or satisfy accreditation requirements.”
Research that is to be conducted on campus will also still be allowed to go ahead. Day assured students that support packages would continue to be sent to students in self-isolation.
The word ‘tier’ is used in different contexts in relation to COVID-19.
The government have instructed a local outbreak response plan be published by every one of what the government call ‘upper tier local authorities’. As such, Newcastle City Council has a ‘COVID Control Plan’, which has four plans in place to deal with outbreaks ranging from ‘Green’ to ‘Red+’.
Meanwhile, leaked documents seen by The Guardian suggest that England may be placed under a stricter ‘three-tier’ set of restrictions if coronavirus cases continue to rise.
However, although in accordance with the COVID Control Plan, the tiers to which Day’s email refers comes from the government guidance for education providers. The guidance has four tiers of restrictions.
Tier 1 restrictions allow universities to remain open, with full in-person learning. Meanwhile, Tier 2 restrictions encourages universities to “decide on a model that limits numbers on site but works for each individual setting”.
The University would move onto Tier 4 restrictions following a complete lockdown, similar to the one imposed by the government in March.
In his email, Day insisted the decision to move from Tier 2 to Tier 3 “has not been taken lightly”.
“I recognise what a difficult time this is for many of you,” he said.
“I appreciate your continued resilience and patience in these challenging circumstances as we support you through these difficult weeks.”
Featured Image: Joe Molander
Last modified: 7th October 2020