You will all have noticed the escalation of steps being taken by State and Commonwealth Governments to control the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia.
We can expect that further steps will be announced in the coming days and weeks.
The evidence is clear that the vast majority of people who become infected with COVID-19 are expected to experience relatively minor symptoms. However, we also know that older people, and those with certain underlying health issues, are more likely to experience life-threatening complications.
As yet, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among our students or staff but, unfortunately, this situation can be expected to change in the days and weeks ahead.
Our first priority will be the health and wellbeing of our students and staff, and you can rest assured that every effort will be made to provide the safest possible environment for study and for work.
The University has been planning for the impacts of the pandemic and I would again like to thank staff for their incredible efforts in developing a range of contingency plans. The COVID-19 Taskforce has done invaluable work in preparing a suite of response plans and has been providing regular updates to staff and students on the developing situation.
Today I write to inform staff that we are entering a critical phase as Public Health Authorities endeavour to slow the progression of the outbreak through the Australian community.
One of the most obvious areas of concern is the congregation of large numbers of individuals in enclosed spaces. This would include University lectures where class sizes of 100 or more are commonplace, and for which there are alternative technological solutions to enable the capture and distribution of lecture content online.
For this reason, I have today asked every College Vice-President and Executive Dean to implement plans for the transition to delivering our teaching online to the maximum extent possible. This includes delivery of all lectures using online modes from tomorrow, Tuesday 17th March.
Students will be advised later today to not attend lectures from tomorrow. Staff can still present lectures in the regular lecture theatres which have automatic recording for students to watch online.
Any other form of teaching that can be delivered through online modes will also be transitioned in the coming days.
For classes that will require physical presence then strict protocols will be implemented to ensure appropriate levels of social separation wherever possible.
Advice will be provided from the Taskforce in the coming days.
Flinders University is renowned for the levels of support provided to our students and very high levels of student satisfaction. The changes that will be required in the coming weeks will be challenging and I would ask students for their patience and understanding as we implement the necessary changes.
Our commitment to student success is absolute and so students may rest assured that whatever disruptions might be necessary to normal study patterns, the Leadership in your College is focussed on ensuring that appropriate measures are put in place so that no student is disadvantaged and will aim to ensure that all students can expect to progress towards their successful graduation in the usual timeframe.
The Taskforce will shortly issue guidance on various alternatives staff can use for lecture capture and I urge all staff to embrace this opportunity as an essential part of our response to this unprecedented situation.
To all students and staff, please look out for one another and please follow Health Department advice to minimise the risk of you becoming infected.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer
- Use a tissue or the crook of your arm if you sneeze or cough
- Do not attend work or study if you are unwell
The current recommendation from the Department of Health is that testing is for people who have developed cold or ‘flu-like symptoms’ and have travelled overseas to ANY country in the past 14 days or been in close contact with someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19.
If you are unsure, call the Coronavirus Information Line on 1800 020 080.
If you need to be tested you must TELEPHONE your GP or usual health clinic to confirm when and where the test will be undertaken.
Please remember that should you require it all staff are able to access counselling support through our Employee Assistance Program, and our Health, Counselling and Disability services offer counselling support for students.
We all know that we face some difficult times ahead, but our University has remarkable levels of spirit and commitment among our staff and this will enable us to continue to deliver the outstanding educational experience for students for which we are renowned.