Updated novel coronavirus advice

The following message is for students 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 the 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 the rest of 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.

It is therefore imperative that anyone who has recently returned or will be returning from these areas follow this advice.

In the first instance you should speak to your academic department about how this could affect your studies and what options you have. It is your responsibility to notify your department about your absence.

You may also find it helpful to talk to the Student Advice Centre for guidance on any related matters personal to your circumstances.

For those self-isolating, guidance from Public Health England 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.

I’m worried about self-isolating, missing my exams or teaching. What should I do?

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

We understand self-isolation may cause disruption to your examinations or the start of teaching but it is important you understand your health and wellbeing and those of your fellow students is the first priority. As such, isolation as stated by Public Health England is important and doing so will not harm you academically, nor will it impact any Tier 4 visa restrictions.

If self-isolation applies to you, please contact your academic department who will be sympathetic to your situation and support you in using the extenuating circumstances process.

Information about extenuating circumstances can be found at the following link:

Extenuating circumstances

This also applies to any students who are currently in Wuhan or other parts of China unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions.

Should you be a current, or new student, and are unable to travel to the UK due to the current restrictions, please contact your academic department directly who will advise, and provide support and assistance with academic matters.

If you are a taught student and you believe you are not going to be able to return to the University before the 2 March 2020 due to travel restrictions, then you are advised to take, or extend a leave of absence. Please speak to your academic department to discuss your options and to lodge an application.

Information on the Leave of Absence process can be found on SSiD webpages:

Leave of Absence general information

How to apply for a Leave of Absence

Information on Tuition Fees can be found here:

Information on tuition fees

I’m concerned about my tier-4 visa if I self isolate or go back to China. Who can I ask?

We understand self-isolation may cause disruption to your examinations or the start of teaching but it is important you understand your health and wellbeing and those of your fellow students is the first priority. As such, isolation as stated by Public Health England is important and doing so will not harm you academically, nor should it impact any Tier 4 visa restrictions. We are awaiting UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) advice on the special arrangements they are putting in place due to the impact of coronavirus. Thus far, UKVI have indicated that they will work to ensure students are not disadvantaged by the situation.

If you have any concerns about your visa please contact the University’s International Student Support Team.

International Student Support

If you are a Chinese national whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire, the UK government has issued advice and this can be found on the Government website.

Guidance from the Home Office

I'm due to attend an appointment with the police to register as an overseas visitors. What should I do?

As a precaution, the advice from Public Health England is that anyone who has returned to the UK from Wuhan or Hubei Province should 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 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.

South Yorkshire Police have confirmed to us that this advice should be followed, even if this means missing your police registration appointment. If you need to miss your appointment due to self-isolation, please contact the police on overseas.visitors@southyorks.pnn.police.uk to rearrange.

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

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

  • Washing your hands thoroughly using soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub. This should be done for 20 seconds at regular intervals.
  • 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. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
  • 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 advice from Public Health England is 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.

We are therefore asking students who have recently returned from Wuhan or Hubei Provinceto follow this advice, keeping their personal tutor informed. This means remaining in your accommodation, not attending exams or lectures and limiting your contact with others.

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. If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so.

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.

I am an international student and I am being threatened and abused. What should I do?

We take all allegations of abuse and harassment very seriously. You can report the matter to the University by telephoning Security Services on 0114 2224085 to raise your concerns or 0114 222 4444 for an emergency response. You should also report any incident to the police.

If you feel that you have been the target of harassment or bullying then you can use our Report and Support system to make a confidential disclosure or a formal report. This will be addressed within 72 hours.

Report and Support

Support

We understand that some students may be worried about friends and family members in China. For more general support, students should contact Central Welfare and Guidance on 0114 222 4321 or support@sheffield.ac.uk.

Colleagues have been in touch with affected students, for example those who had planned to return to China for year abroad placements. The University will be providing support to these students with academic matters and with financial assistance, if additional costs are incurred.