The welfare of our students and staff is a key priority for South West College. We recognise that this may be an anxious time for our college community. On this page you will find advice and information for students and staff about COVID-19, in line with official Public Health Agency guidance. We are continuing to monitor the evolving situation and will provide the latest updates and guidance here.
Update 12th August 2021
As of the NI Executive decision on 12th August Colleges have now been authorised to return to face to face teaching in classroom. Whilst social distancing is no longer a requirement in classroom settings we are still abiding by 2m social distancing in all other areas of the College (as per DfE guidance). Our COVID protection measures of frequent hand sanitising/ hand washing and maintaining 2m (outside of the classroom setting) remain firmly in place.
The advice remains that if you or any of your family/close contacts develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 please phone through to the COVID Supervisor on your campus for advice before proceeding to campus.
Why do we have to wear a face covering, at all times, on campus now?
With the emergence of new variants (up to 70% more transmissible) of the COVID-19 virus the Department of the Economy has mandated that all staff and students should now wear a face covering, at all times, on campus unless they have a College agreed exemption.
The College are legally obliged under Health and Safety law to provide a safe and healthy working environment and employees are also legally obliged to comply with measures implemented by the employer to ensure the health and safety of all. The wearing of face coverings is our way of protecting each other and limiting the spread of the virus.
Do I have to wear a face covering if I have asthma?
Most people with asthma, even if it’s severe, can manage to wear a face covering for a short period of time, and shouldn't worry if they need to wear one. Wearing a face covering does not reduce a person’s oxygen supply or cause a build-up of carbon dioxide. You may have read stories that say that it can, but this isn’t true. (Source Asthma UK)
Who qualifies for a College exemption?
If you have a severe respiratory condition (such as chronic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis) which means you cannot wear a face covering you can qualify for a College Exemption.
Some circumstances make it difficult for some people to wear face coverings. In these circumstances people may have a 'reasonable excuse' not to wear a face covering. Again this can qualify you for a College exemption.
College exemptions can be applied for via completing this on your Health Declaration and making contact with HR. You will then be issued with an exemption card which you can insert into the back of your lanyard.
It is important that we all respect one another and remember that the reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible.
I have a health condition and don't want to wear a face covering. What do I need to do?
In most cases face coverings are safe for anyone to wear, regardless of health conditions. Staff, students and visitors are expected to wear them, at all times, whilst on campus unless they have a College exemption. For those not used to wearing a face covering, they can initially feel restrictive, hot and uncomfortable, but for most, these feelings will improve in the short-term. The College would urge you to comply with the wearing of face coverings while we all play our part to drive down transmission rates of COVID-19.
Where should I store my face covering when I’m eating & drinking?
Ideally you should store your face covering in a plastic bag (eg ziplock) whilst you are eating or drinking. Do not leave it on your desk or uncovered in your pocket or bag due to the risk of contamination of hands and surfaces with respiratory droplets. Disposable face masks should be disposed of into the nearest bin.
How often should I change my face covering?
There is no set time, nor recommended number of face coverings you should use each day. It all depends on what you are doing. However, if your face covering gets dirty, wet or damaged, or if you touch the inside of it, then you should change to a new one. When you take it off to eat or drink, you should store it in a plastic bag (as described above), wash or sanitise your hands, and replace it when you have finished eating or drinking.
Do people develop an immunity to the Coronavirus disease after being infected?
There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.
Once we get the vaccine can we end restrictions and lockdown?
Not initially but as large numbers of people from at risk groups are given a vaccine, the Government will be able to examine the impact on infection rates, hospitalisation and reduced deaths; if successful this should in time lead to a substantial reassessment of current restrictions. Given the numbers of people to be vaccinated it is likely to be many months before the full impact of the programme is seen in the community.
Can I still spread the virus to others if I am vaccinated?
The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID-19 infection, this should reduce the chances of you being able to spread the infection by becoming ill. However, as the vaccine is new it has not yet been possible to establish if vaccination will prevent carriage of the virus in the nose and throat of people who have been vaccinated.
If a person has received the vaccination and is subsequently notified that they have been in direct contact with a positive case - are they still required to isolate?
Yes. While the purpose of the vaccine is to prevent you from getting COVID-19 infection, which should reduce the chances of you being able to spread the infection by becoming ill; as the vaccine is new it has not yet been possible to establish if vaccination will prevent carriage of the virus in the nose and throat of people who have been vaccinated. Therefore, the current PHA advice is, if you are a household contact of or are advised by Contact Tracing or the STOPCOVID NI App you are a close contact of a case of COVID-19 you need to self-isolate.
For additional questions on the vaccine visit the PHA Site https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/northern-ireland-covid-19-vaccination-programme/covid-19-vaccination-programme
The Student Services contact details are below.
If you need personal health advice specifically in relation to COVID-19 (coronavirus), you should call NHS 111 or download the COVIDcare app. This app is a coronavirus symptom checker and acts as an information hub specific to N. Ireland.
Thank-you as always for your continued support during these very challenging times.
- More detailed information and protocols for staff can be found
- More detailed information and protocols for students can be found here