Advice for staff: novel coronavirus information

The following message is for staff who may have concerns about the novel coronavirus.

We encourage everyone to read this information carefully and to follow the instructions given.

Public Health England (PHE) has advised that the current risk to the public is moderate. PHE are working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international partners to keep the situation under constant review and have issued advice to the NHS. It is important to stress that UK public health measures are world-leading and the NHS is well prepared to manage and treat new diseases. The NHS has been carefully monitoring the situation in Wuhan and other affected areas for some time and is ready to treat patients and put in place proportionate, precautionary measures.

The University takes the health and safety of its staff and students very seriously. We are carefully monitoring the situation and will issue any further advice and guidance as it becomes available.
For those who may have concerns about the virus, we have compiled some useful FAQs and guidance for staff and we will continue to keep this page updated.

More detailed novel coronavirus information from PHE is also available.

Frequently asked questions:

What is coronavirus?

The virus originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China but cases have been confirmed in other parts of China and a number of cases have now been diagnosed in other countries, mostly in travellers from Wuhan.

Public Health England has assessed the current risk to the public as moderate and will be working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international partners constantly to review the situation.

Symptoms Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Should I self-isolate and what does that mean?

Public Health England have stated that anyone who has returned to the UK from Wuhan or Hubei Province must immediately keep themselves isolated for a period of 14 days from the date of leaving China, even if they do not display any symptoms.

In addition, anyone who has recently returned from travel in Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath should self-isolate and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.

It is therefore imperative that anyone who has recently returned or will be returning from these areas follow this advice, keeping their line manager informed.

Guidance from Public Health England on those home-isolating states you should:

  • Use a separate bathroom from others if possible
  • In the case of shared bathroom, draw up a rota for washing or bathing, with the isolated person using the facilities last, before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom themselves (if able or appropriate). Ensure the isolated person uses separate towels from others, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand hygiene purposes.
  • If you live in shared accommodation with a communal kitchen or bathroom and living area, you should stay in your room with the door closed, only coming out when necessary, wearing a facemask if one has been issued to you.
  • If you share a kitchen with others, if possible, avoid using it whilst others are present or if this is not possible then wear a facemask if you have been issued with one.
  • Take your meals back to your room to eat and use a dishwasher (if available) to clean and dry your used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them by hand using detergent and warm water and dry them thoroughly, using a separate tea towel
  • Do not share household items with other housemates
  • You will need to ask for help if you require groceries, other shopping or medications. Alternatively, you can order by phone or online. The delivery instruction needs to state that the items are to be left outside, or in the porch, or as appropriate for your home.

You should remain more than 2 metres away from other people or only be closer than 2 metres for periods of no longer than 15 minutes.

More detailed advice on self-isolation from Public Health England is available here

What to do if you are feeling unwell

Public Health England have stated that anyone who has returned to the UK from Wuhan or Hubei Province must immediately keep themselves isolated for a period of 14 days from the date of leaving China, even if they do not display any symptoms.

Anyone who has recently returned from travel in mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath should self-isolate and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To avoid possible spread of the virus, you should not go to seek medical advice in person.

UK public health measures are world-leading and the NHS is well prepared to manage and treat new diseases. The NHS has been carefully monitoring the situation in Wuhan for some time and is ready to treat patients and put in place proportionate, precautionary measures.

What precautions can I take to avoid the spread of infection?

Advice from Public Health England states:

Maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest good practice to avoid the spread of infection includes:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly using soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and where possible with a tissue or your sleeve. Remember to wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards.
  • Avoiding sharing food, drink and utensils
  • Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding raw or undercooked animal products
  • Regularly cleaning surfaces with disinfectant
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms

As a precaution, the UK Health Secretary advice is that anyone who has returned to the UK from Wuhan should keep themselves isolated for a period of 14 days from the date of leaving China, even if they do not display any symptoms. We are therefore asking staff who have recently returned from Wuhan to follow this advice, keeping their line manager informed, using normal absence reporting procedures.

Travel

The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice is currently warning against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak and advise against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao) due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese authorities have suspended public transport in Wuhan and advised people in China to avoid travelling in and out of the city and avoid crowds.

Enhanced monitoring is in place for all direct flights from Wuhan to the UK.

Should I wear a face mask?

Public Health England have advised on facemasks only for those in self-isolation if you cannot avoid brief contact with others, for example when using shared spaces within a household such as a kitchen or bathroom. Masks should be replaced when damp. 

However, it is a recognised custom for Asian communities to wear face masks to protect themselves and, in particular, others from the possibility of infection. It is very important that we recognise and respect this custom and we would encourage all members of our community to be inclusive and supportive of what is a personal choice.

Support

We understand that this might be a difficult time for some staff, who may be worried about friends and family members in China so if you have any concerns, please speak to your line manager. For more general support, staff can email our dedicated inbox coronavirus@sheffield.ac.uk.

The University also provides a range of mental health and wellbeing support for staff.

Please remain calm and support your colleagues as this may be a difficult time for some.

Novel coronavirus: guidance and support issued to our students