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COVID-19 brings face-to-face University teaching to a halt

Over the past few days, the University of Reading has been dramatically affected by the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday 16th March, it was announced that as of Wednesday 18th March, all on-campus face-to-face teaching will cease until the end of the Spring Term.

In replacement there will be online tutorials, lecture slides, skype calls and the like set up through Blackboard in the days to come.

This decision has been made in consideration of local, national and international developments. UK PM Boris Johnson is now broadcasting daily COVID-19 updates and today it was announced that it was of the upmost importance to avoid places of mass social gathering, such as pubs, restaurants and clubs – London’s West End closed its doors as a result with immediate effect.

It has been announced that the over-70s could soon need to be entirely self-isolated and the PM today encouraged we all stay in our homes wherever possible. Fears are growing as warnings of the need to self-isolate are circulating, particularly from Italy of those who had wished government advice to self-isolate had been taken more seriously before their country had been locked down.

It is estimated the Italy is about two weeks ahead of Britain and the rest of Europe according to professor Francois Balloux of the Genetics Institute, University College London.

The announcement to cease teaching, in line with most other UK universities, in an email from Dr Patricia Woodman, Director of Student Services at the University of Reading, reassured students all assignments should be continued online unless otherwise instructed.

The University is working to make other arrangements for exam season/end of year assessment by next Monday 23rd March and Dr Woodman outlined that, “All assessment will be online this term wherever possible or via an alternative format where necessary”.

The University will also be extending its Extenuating Circumstances Policy to reflect this revised situation, particularly considering the disruption caused by strikes to many students over the past four weeks. However, the library, URS study spaces, Halls accommodation and catering facilities are set to continue running as usual for the students who need it.

Commenting on the recent changes, RUSU President Molli Cleaver said: “The welfare of students is an absolute priority for the University and RUSU; we will be doing everything we can in the best interests of students to ensure a high-quality student experience is maintained as much as possible. This is a major change for our community so we really appreciate your patience as it takes a little time to transition to the new/ alternative plans.”

Social media has had far-reaching consequences for the pandemic, fuelling the continual trend to bulk-buy. Aldi has now limited the sale of four of each product-type per customer with supplies such as toilet roll, pasta and eggs being completely sold out in most big supermarkets.

In such difficult and unknown times, it is important to not panic, don’t succumb to bulk-buying unless you really need to, help those who need you more, and look to social media for positive influence such as tips for reducing health anxiety, or even ways to occupy your time when in self-isolation.

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