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Coronavirus advice and FAQs

The World Health Organization, Public Health England (PHE) and international partner organisations are monitoring an outbreak of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) originating in Wuhan City, China. This webpage will be updated regularly in accordance with changes in advice from the UK government.

27 February 2020

Coronavirus advice for Queen Mary University of London staff and students
Coronavirus advice for Queen Mary University of London staff and students

This page was updated on 27 February

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Hubei Province and advise against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). A large number of airlines have announced a suspension of flights to and from mainland China. Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder to access departure options over the coming weeks.

Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that a number of cases in England have tested positive for coronavirus. If more cases are confirmed in the UK, it will be announced as soon as possible by the Chief Medical Officer of the affected country.

Based on the World Health Organization’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. This permits the government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals remains low.

If you have travelled to the UK from the following countries you should call NHS 111, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people immediately:

  • Hubei province in China in the last 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms
  • Iran, lockdown areas in northern Italy or special care zones in South Korea since 19 February, even if you do not have symptoms
  • other parts of mainland China or South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)
  • other parts of northern Italy (anywhere north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini), Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam since 19 February and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)

In Scotland call your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland call 0300 200 7885.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Queen Mary is taking all appropriate measures, taking into account guidance from UK government and other agencies. For instance, for the time being, no staff or students are leaving for China for work or study purposes.

For all our students and staff, in line with the FCO’s advice, we ask you to follow these basic hygiene rules to protect your own health and that of others:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Maintain good personal hygiene.

In addition, FCO advice for anyone in China is to:

  • Avoid visiting animal and bird markets
  • Avoid people who are ill with breathing problems
  • Follow health advice provided by the relevant Chinese authorities
  • British citizens should leave if they are able to do so.

We are continuing to monitor this situation carefully and will update you further should the advice change.

Further information from the FCO is available here: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china.

Further information from PHE is available here: www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public

Frequently asked questions

Is the University open?

Yes, Queen Mary is open and operating as normal. 

How well are you preparing for an outbreak?

We are following all UK government and Public Health England (PHE) guidance, have robust processes in place, an experienced team capable of dealing with the outbreak of an infectious disease and we are communicating regularly with our staff and students.

Across our campuses, we are displaying Public Health England coronavirus information and we have significantly increased the number of hand sanitisation stations. We have reviewed our regular cleaning procedures and the products we use, making changes to ensure an appropriately high level of disinfection. We have provided further training for facilities staff and will be monitoring facilities regularly to ensure soap and sanitiser dispensers are maintained.

Have you had any cases so far?

At present, there are no cases involving staff or students from Queen Mary.

Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that a number of patients in England have tested positive for coronavirus. If more cases are confirmed in the UK, it will be announced as soon as possible by the Chief Medical Officer of the affected country.

Based on the World Health Organization’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. This permits the government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals remains low.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Based on current evidence, coronavirus presents with flu-like symptoms including a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing. Further information from Public Health England is available here.

What should I do if I become unwell and believe I have been exposed to the coronavirus (either through travel to China and other affected countries or contact with a confirmed case)?

Call NHS 111 (0300 200 7885 in Northern Ireland, your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours in Scotland) or 999 (if you are seriously ill). If you are unwell, you should not visit a GP, a pharmacy, urgent care centre or hospital. While you wait for advice or for an ambulance to arrive, you should stay at least two metres away from other people. If possible, find a room or area which can be isolated behind a shut door. Avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the bin.

Are you ensuring anyone returning from China is quarantined for 14 days?

We are recommending all students and staff follow the Public Heath England guidance. PHE is currently advising anyone who has returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days, regardless of whether they have symptoms, to self-isolate and call NHS 111 (0300 200 7885 in Northern Ireland, your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours in Scotland).

What is self-isolation?

Public Health England have published a blog post explaining what self-isolation is and why it is important.

Are students and staff advised not to travel to China?

We are recommending all staff and students follow FCO guidance on travel to China and the wider region.

Until further notice, no Queen Mary staff will be travelling to China to support our transnational education programmes.

I work/study in the School of Medicine and Dentistry - what advice is there for those who work/study in a healthcare setting?

PHE has published the following advice for healthcare workers which includes all students on MBBS, BDS and PA programmes in the UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-guidance-for-healthcare-providers-with-staff-who-have-travelled-to-china/guidance-for-healthcare-providers-healthcare-workers-who-have-travelled-to-china 

For anyone else in the School of Medicine and Dentistry who does not work in a clinical setting, please follow the advice provided at the top of this page.

What should I do if I’m concerned about a student or member of staff?

You can contact the University through the following email addresses: studenthealth@qmul.ac.uk for students; and staffhealth@qmul.ac.uk for staff.

If you have a clear medical concern about yourself or someone else, call NHS 111, 0300 200 7885 in Northern Ireland, or your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours in Scotland.

Should I/my daughter/son go home?

No. Queen Mary is open and operating as normal so we advise students to attend their scheduled lectures, seminars and activities.

I have a visit from friends, family or colleagues planned, what should I be aware of?

Staff and students should consider whether planned visits from friends or family could increase the risk of coronavirus transmission. Individuals who have recently travelled from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau are most at risk.

Visitors should familiarise themselves with the following Guidance for Queen Mary guests and visitors [PDF 136KB].

What should I do if I have a family member with immune system issues?

If you are caring or coming in to close contact with someone who has a significant health condition, seek advice from a GP or hospital specialist. They should continue to take their normal precautions in relation to their health.

Should you or anyone in your household experience flu like symptoms, dial NHS 111 (0300 200 7885 in Northern Ireland, your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours in Scotland) immediately and follow the instructions.

I’ve seen people wearing face masks – should I be worried?

In some countries wearing face masks is very common, it is seen as an everyday way to prevent spreading and catching illnesses. In other countries face masks are more unusual and can be seen with alarm. Wearing a face mask is an entirely personal decision and no-one should be treated differently because they decide to wear one. Face masks for the general public, students and staff are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments, but individual decisions should be respected unless wearing one presents a health and safety concern (such as in some laboratory or clinical settings).

Are you relying only on self-reporting or are you working proactively to identify specific students and staff that might be at risk?

We are identifying and communicating directly with all staff and students who are based in China, have recently travelled to China, or are planning to travel to China, providing them with advice specific to their circumstances.

I am a student. What should I do about my studies if I am unable to leave China or am in self-isolation?

If you are either unable to leave China or if you have to go into self-isolation you should email studenthealth@qmul.ac.uk with your name, student ID and programme of study.  This will help us keep an accurate record about who is affected and to give you further guidance. You should try to keep up with your studies as far as possible using the resources available on QMPlus and keep in touch with your academic adviser and/or module tutors. If you have to miss any assessments (such as mid-term exams) you should submit an extenuating circumstances form to your School and include a copy of your travel documents as evidence.

Could my immigration status be affected?

The Home Office have published guidance for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China in response to on-going travel restrictions because of coronavirus.  Subject to these provisions, most people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak will get an automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020. Those who qualify will not need to do anything to obtain this extension.

Please note this is only relevant if you are coming to the end of your visa and intend to return to China.  If you approaching the end of your visa and require a new Certificate of Sponsorship then you will be able to apply for a visa extension in the UK.  

If you are a student with a Tier 4 visa who is unable to leave China, or if you have to go into self-isolation, you can contact Student and Academic Services via studenthealth@qmul.ac.uk. If your question is about the possible impact on your immigration status we will pass your email onto to the specialist welfare advisers within the Advice and Counselling Service, who will respond to you directly.

If you are a member of staff affected by coronavirus and you have concerns about your immigration status, please contact Human Resources.

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