The current surge in COVID-19 cases nationally is hard to ignore. We have been relatively cushioned in the south of the country but rather than being complacent that we seem to be getting off lightly, we need to take every action to try and keep the surge at bay locally. We have the great fortune to be able to participate in the weekly saliva testing scheme that Keith Godfrey and team have established with partners across the University and the City Council with fantastically high uptake in schools from pupils and teachers. For those not yet signed up, I encourage all students and any staff coming to the University campus or the hospital even if only once a week, to participate in the project. Looking at the University COVID-19 numbers shows that daily rate amongst our students is in single figures compared to figures in the hundreds in many other universities many of whom have been prominently featured in news stories. However, low numbers currently are clearly increasing visibly hence the need for vigilance in and out of work to try and keep transmission rates as low as possible. As you will know, a high proportion of those infected have minimal symptoms and can therefore transmit the virus inadvertently. Having regular testing should help us keep that risk of asymptomatic transmission low provided the majority of people in the University community participate.

In the last few weeks, you will all have heard about our great successes in the Queen’s birthday honours list, congratulations again from me and particularly to those honoured in the Faculty of Medicine, Paul Elkington MBE and Professor Sir Stephen Holgate. Stephen gave a University superb distinguished lecture last week. The event was of course held online but was very well attended and I am sure most of the audience, including me, found it hugely engaging and informative – certainly judging by the many questions from the audience. It is worth a watch.  I also enjoyed attending this year’s Dame Helen Alexander memorial lecture given by Emma Walmsley (now Dame Emma Walmsley), the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. This took the form of a conversation/interview with  interview with Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, followed by audience Q&A and I had the privilege of asking the first question on behalf of the University.

A quick word about wellbeing  – we are inevitably going to work through a Winter of ever-changing circumstances, all of us recognise how very difficult and wearing the seemingly endless uncertainty can be. This means it is really important to take care of yourselves both physically and mentally. This time round we don’t have the lovely weather we had in the Spring which will be harder to bear if restrictions have to be escalated. Please make sure you find time every day to sign off work properly and spend time doing something you enjoy, try to consciously and actively switch off from anger, anxiety or other negative emotions that might have accumulated through your work day and encourage colleagues to do the same.

Finally in case any of you missed it, do take a look at the Sustainability strategy launched on 20 October, plenty to think about for everyone in their own environment and for those preferring a short summary, watch the brief but compelling video summary on YouTube here.

Update from Professor Diana Eccles, Dean of Medicine

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