Although the National Codes do not cover the specifics of how to react to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, following a number of requests, some information and advice has been put together which may be helpful.

Public Health England provides specific advice, including the current situation in the UK. Their advice is updated at 2.00pm each day and can be consulted at

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public

They have recently widened their specific advice relating to:

Returning Travellers

Travellers from Wuhan and Hubei Province and Other Specified Areas

Those who have travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province in China, Iran, specific lockdown areas in Northern Italy and special care zones in South Korea to the UK in the last 14 days should immediately:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of recent travel to the area
  • In Scotland phone your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours
  • If in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.

Students are asked to follow this advice even if they do not have symptoms of the virus.

Travellers from Elsewhere in China and Other Specified Areas

Those who have returned to the UK from China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Macauare advised that if they have travelled to the UK in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, they should immediately:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as they would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of their recent travel to the country. In Scotland phone your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours
  • If in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.

Travellers from Other Parts of China and Other Specified Areas

This advice applies to travellers who have returned to the UK from the following areas:

China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Macauare advised that if they have returned to the UK from any of these areas in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, students should immediately:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of their recent travel to the country
  • In Scotland phone your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours
  • If in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.

 Informing the Educational Institution

Accommodation suppliers should wherever possible, following consent from the student, inform a relevant member of the University’s student services team so that appropriate academic and pastoral support can be offered to relevant students by the educational institution.

Almost all educational institutions will be offering bespoke advice on their website to their students and students should be asked to read and follow this.

What this Means in Practice

PHE are asking people to take simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible, like they would with other flu viruses.

  • this means remaining at home for 14 days after arriving from Wuhan or Hubei Province (or elsewhere in China if there are symptoms) and not going to work, college or public areas.
  • where possible, PHE advice is to avoid having visitors to their home, but it is ok for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.

Implications and Advice for Code Providers

There are issues for students “self-isolating” for 14 days if they are living in shared student accommodation with other students. It is difficult to avoid contact with others if students are sharing WC/washing and/or kitchen facilities. Difficulties are likely to increase in non en-suite shared accommodation of where a kitchen is shared by a larger number of students.

If possible, the student concerned should be found some self-contained accommodation which makes self-isolating more practical. It is important that the decision to relocate is made by the student concerned and that they understand why this is the best way forward.

There are also issues if students are “self-isolating” about informing other students in the shared accommodation. Generally, ANUK/Unipol would recommend that complete transparency is forthcoming and students sharing the house or flat should be told. They should be offered help and advice to understand the risks involved and how they can help in the process. In some cases they may also need to be uninvolved in any temporary relocation issues.

Students who are self-isolating will need help and support buying food and other necessaries and ANUK/Unipol recommends that a localised care package is put into place that will ensure that the student/s do not suffer from social isolation (frequent telephone calls social media contacts are a good idea, including encouraging other students to maintain contact in this way). Academic provisions are a matter for the educational institution and, again, wherever possible, contact should be maintained with them.

PHE have issued Guidance for NHS clinicians on home isolation of a patient whilst being tested for 2019-nCoV which can be contacted at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-self-isolation-for-patients-undergoing-testing/guidance-for-nhs-clinicians-on-home-isolation-of-a-patient-whilst-being-tested-for-wuhan-novel-coronavirus#background-and-scope

and within that Guidance is a checklist for patients living in houses in multiple occupation and halls of residence are specifically referenced at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-self-isolation-for-patients-undergoing-testing/guidance-for-nhs-clinicians-on-home-isolation-of-a-patient-whilst-being-tested-for-wuhan-novel-coronavirus#check and a checklist of measures and approaches to be taken is given.

Remember, this is guidance intended for clinicians but the checklist is helpful in giving a number of criteria for home isolation.

When Public Health England is Involved

If students contact the NHS directly then Public Health England is automatically involved and on 10th February 2020 The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (INSET LINK) were put in place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission in this country by keeping individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe there is a reasonable risk an individual may have the virus.

General Information

This is a time of year when many people in the UK suffer from coughs and colds. Everyone is recommended to follow the usual hygiene precautions in daily life to reduce the risk of infection, such as washing hands regularly, covering their mouth and nose if they sneeze or cough, and keeping kitchens clean.

As a matter of general good practice, this is a good time to urge that all students should ensure that they are registered with a local doctor and provide further information about that.

Many suppliers have displayed posters detailing the Government’s advice on the Coronavirus and have followed good practice in disseminating up to date information. many other suppliers have displayed helpful information about how to wash hands properly - again this is good practice.

Many suppliers have considered supplying hand sanitiser, rubber gloves and masks to students underlining that they care for their students. There are now severe shortages of these items for bulk purchases by accommodation suppliers and Code members should be careful to ensure they have stocks of these before offering to supply them. Going forward, it is likely this shortage will continue and become more acute.

The Codes

All Code members have a Disaster Management Plan and this is a good time to ensure that this is fully up-to-date and can be used as part of a contingency plan if the situation becomes more serious. That escalation of seriousness will be clearly flagged by Public Health England, not by other bodies. Within those plans many providers will have an Infectious or Communicable Diseases Policy or procedure and, again, this is a good time to ensure that this is updated.

Dissemination of Information to Students

Many providers have contacted their tenants electronically to give them the information provided by PHE and to make them aware of general hygiene issues and how to reduce the risk of infection. This is useful but content needs to be balanced against causing unnecessary alarm from other students. In some cases first language information has been provided, again useful but this should stress that advice is being given to all students and should not be seen as targeting any particular group of students other than the higher risk categories outlined above.

Other Matters

The wider implications of the Coronavirus outbreak have resulted in serious travel disruption being experienced by students who had planned to travel as part of their studies or return home and they will now find that more difficult and in some cases this will not be possible. In all cases housing suppliers should maintain a supportive and flexible approach to continuing to accommodating students who are affected by these changes.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office maintains up-to-date travel advice for UK citizens which should be consulted here

 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

In certain circumstances this advice can affect the validity of travel insurance and students intending to travel in areas where advice is given should check their insurance with their provider.