Health, safety and travel
General advice and support for all students and staff including information on University services, health and self-isolation, travel and official resources.
The health, safety and wellbeing of our entire University community is our highest priority. The FAQs below provide useful information on health, safety and travel, and there are more specific FAQs available for current students, staff and prospective students including wellbeing advice and resources.
As this is a rapidly changing situation, these pages are being updated daily and you can find a summary of the daily updates on our Covid-19 homepage.
If you are looking for general information on the Novel coronavirus (Covid-19), please visit the NHS Inform website.
Suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection, self-isolation and contact tracing
The most common symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19) are recent onset of:
- new continuous cough and/or
- high temperature
- Loss of taste or smell
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you are recommended to get tested, see next section.
You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If you have no internet access you should call your GP or call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
Further information can be found on the UK Government website.
Remember, you must not come into work if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Test and Protect is the name of the process in Scotland to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the community, by putting into practice the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy.
Further information is available on Test and Protect at the NHS Inform website.
Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus (a new, continuous cough; fever; loss of, or change in, their sense of smell or taste) should be tested.
See the NHS inform website for more information.
Arranging a Test
You can book an appointment at a drive-through test centre, or request a test kit to be sent to your home.
In order to access a test you need to follow an online guide which will ask you a series of questions.
If you choose to receive a test at a drive-through centre, you will be given an appointment time on a priority basis. A priority system for testing appointments is in place for key workers and members of their household, to support them returning to work when it is safe to do so. You will be asked to identify whether you are a key worker (or household contact of) or not, and which priority group you associate with.
Which kind of key worker category applies to you or your household member? This detailed guide should help.
The University has not set up a separate registration process via an employer portal for testing of key workers, and so all members of staff, their family members, and students, who wish to arrange a test should do so via the NHS link below.
The online guide to access a test is available from the NHS.
The test will confirm if a person with symptoms has the virus. It won’t confirm whether they have been infected and recovered.
Results are sent by text to your mobile phone and should be with you within 48 hours. They are issued to whoever booked the test.
Further information on testing is available at the on NHS Inform website.
Contact tracing is a process for identifying people who are at risk of Coronavirus infection because they‘ve had enough contact with a person who has tested positive. These people will be given advice to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Everyone who tests positive for Coronavirus will be put in touch with their local contact tracing team to help identify who they’ve been in close contact with.
A close contact is defined as:
- those that are living in the same household as a case
- face to face contact with a case for any length of time within 1 metre of a case
- extended close contact within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes with a case
Close contacts will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Further information on contact tracing is available on NHS Inform.
The information below is based on the current public health advice.
If you or someone in your household has symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19) – i.e. a new, continuous cough and/or high temperature - you must self-isolate, i.e. stay at home, for:
- 10 days from when your symptoms started if you live alone, or
- 10 days if you are the first in your household to develop symptoms, or
- 14 days if you live with others and they have symptoms.
If you are the first in your household to develop symptoms:
- you need to stay at home for 10 days from the day your symptoms start
- everyone else in your household needs to stay at home for 14 days (from the day your symptoms start)
- if someone in your household then develops symptoms
- they need to self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of their symptoms. This could mean that they have to self-isolate for more than the original 14 days.
- The 14 day ‘whole household’ isolation does not restart each time a member of the household develops symptoms. So you don’t need to self-isolate beyond 10 days, unless you continue to have a high temperature.
For example: you develop symptoms (day one). You have to stay at home for 10 days. Everyone else has to stay at home for 14 days. If on day 10 someone you live with develops symptoms, they need to stay at home for 10 days – so in total they will have to self-isolate for 20 days. You don’t need to after day 10. No-one else needs to self-isolate after day 14, unless they too develop symptoms.
If a member of your household is the first to develop symptoms:
- they need to stay at home for 10 days from the day their symptoms start
- you and everyone else in your household need to stay at home for 14 days
- if you then develop symptoms
- you need to self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of your symptoms. This could mean that you have to self-isolate for more than the original 14 days.
- The 14 day ‘whole household’ isolation does not restart when you develop symptoms.
For example: someone you live with develops symptoms (day one). They have to stay at home for 10 days. You and everyone else in your household has to stay at home for 14 days. If on day 10 you develop symptoms, you need to stay at home for 10 days – so in total you will have to self-isolate for 20 days. No-one else needs to self-isolate after day 14, unless they too develop symptoms.
If you are arriving in the UK after Monday 8th June 2020:
During the 14 day self-isolation period you will be unable to leave the place you are staying except under certain circumstances. Full information can be found on the Scottish Government website.
You will need to let your line manager know that you have to self-isolate for 14 days. If you can work from home you should do so.
Further information on when and how to self-isolate is available on the NHS Scotland website.
The UK government has identified two distinct groups who are more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19.
Further information on Covid-19 and vulnerable groups, including the medical conditions and other factors within the two vulnerable groups, is available on NHS Inform.
If you are at extremely high risk of severe illness from Covid-19 you are advised to discuss your concerns directly with management (staff) or your School (students) in the first instance to consider adjustments that may be made to support your return to work/campus, these may be part of Equality/disability considerations.
I have been shielding (extremely high risk)
If you are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness from Covid-19 you should have received a letter from NHS Scotland or your GP advising you of this.
Shielding is being paused from 1st August. This means that staff or students who received a shielding letter (valid to 31st July) will now be able to return to work / study on campus if required to do so.
The latest advice from Scottish Government can be found here.
If you have an underlying health condition or take regular prescription medicines, but you remain unsure whether you fall into one of the more vulnerable groups, you should contact your own GP practice for advice.
Further information on Covid-19 and vulnerable groups is available on the NHS Inform webpages.
Staff should visit the Staff FAQs for further information.
This guidance is based on the Public Health Scotland guidance as well as discussions with NHS Lothian Health Protection Team (HPT), and will be updated as required. This guidance is aimed at Schools and Department. Accommodation, Catering and Events (ACE) have their own process to follow appropriate to their own environment.
As a reminder, if you have any symptoms, you must not attend work and should contact NHS Inform to arrange a test.
Anyone who starts to feel unwell with any of the main covid-19 symptoms whilst at work should inform a member of staff or responsible person immediately. These symptoms are:
- High temperature
- New or continuous cough
- Loss of taste or smell
If the affected person has mild symptoms they should go home as soon as they notice symptoms and self-isolate. Where possible they should minimise contact with others, e.g. use a private vehicle to go home. If they do not have their own private transport, then it may be possible to arrange a contract taxi for them (via the University contract taxi service Central Taxis), check locally in your School or Department what arrangements are in place. If they are using public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue as well as wear the mandatory face covering. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow.
If they are waiting for someone to pick them up, place them in an unoccupied room/area during this time and ensure other staff or students are aware not to access that area, see below for more guidance on waiting areas.
If they are so unwell that they require an ambulance, call the emergency services on (9)999 and let the call handler know you are concerned about Covid-19. Whilst you wait for advice or an ambulance to arrive, try to find somewhere safe for the unwell person to sit which is at least 2 metres away from other people.
If possible and it is safe to do so, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office or meeting room. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation. The individual should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze, and then put the tissue in the bin. If no bin is available, put the tissue in a bag or pocket for disposing in a bin later. If you don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow. Where possible, a separate bathroom should be designated for the individual to use.
It is a good idea to identify suitable areas in your buildings where staff or students could be taken if required in advance.
Personal health and safety
Although it is natural to try and assist someone who is ill or go closer to them, try and avoid going closer than 2 metres if you can and assist them remotely by placing items, such as tissues, on a desk - ask them to step back before you step forward to place the item and then you step back before they come forward to pick them up. The Health and Safety Department have produced short videos on what to do in a first aid situation.
Contact the Health and Safety Department on firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance.
As mention above, the Test and Protect system will undertake all contact tracing and the Health and Safety Department will be informed if there are any staff or students who fall within this category. Further guidance for staff and managers on sickness absence recording is available in the Staff section of this website.
However, please do email email@example.com if you are informed of a possible or positive case for further guidance.
The most effective way to prevent the spread of respiratory infections is by practising good respiratory hygiene, such as:
- avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
- maintaining good hand hygiene; washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser, after coughing or sneezing, after going to the toilet, and prior to eating and drinking
- when coughing or sneezing cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues and disposing of them in the nearest waste bin after use
The Government has launched a hand washing campaign and the University have disseminated 'how to' posters on best hand washing technique.
You can reduce your risk of acquiring and spreading respiratory infections by practising good hygiene:
- avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- When you arrive at work or home
- after coughing or sneezing,
- after going to the toilet,
- and prior to eating and drinking
- If you are unable to use soap and water, hand santiser could be used but you must ensure it is 60% alcohol to be effective and you must wash your hands as soon as you are able to.
Although you may now be working from home, please ensure you continue to frequently wash your hands, in particular, if you have been outside and before eating.
Hand washing posters
Hand washing posters have been displayed at all sinks around the estates. If you require to, you can download and print off the poster here:
As our buildings reopen, hand sanitisers will be supplied in the entrance way of all open buildings. Local risk assessments will inform if more are required. However, washing hands with soap and water is still the most effective means of preventing a spread and if using hand sanitisers you should also follow this up by proper hand washing.
We are aware of a confusion regarding hand driers and whether paper towels are 'safer' to use. As long as hands are washed correctly, as above, then either paper towels or hand driers can be used.
From 10 July, the Scottish Government announced that everyone in Scotland must – by law – wear a face covering in shops and on public transport.
Wearing a face covering is intended to help protect others and reduce transmission in the community, particularly where – as advised by the Scottish Government – physical distancing is more difficult.
The University has implemented guidance from the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland to manage and reduce the risk from Covid-19. We will continue to do this, with physical distancing, good standards of hand and respiratory hygiene, and enhanced cleaning regimes being the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Notwithstanding, we will support all of our staff, students and visitors, in terms of good public hygiene, by strongly encouraging people to wear their own face coverings within University buildings.
A face covering can be any covering of the mouth and nose that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe. Religious face coverings that cover the mouth and the nose count as face coverings for these purposes.
Staff and students should be aware that there are certain conditions and hidden disabilities that may preclude persons from wearing face coverings and should ensure they understand and respect this. In line with our Dignity & Respect policy, any bullying or harassment on this issue will not be tolerated.
Further guidance on wearing face coverings is available on the Scottish Government’s website.
The advice from Health Protection Scotland continues to be that there is no need or requirement for people to wear a surgical or fitted face mask or gloves in the local community, including the University campus. The University is continuing to concentrate on social distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene as these are still the best way to protect yourself and others.
Please note, face coverings and face masks (both surgical or fitted) are not the same. Face coverings can be made of any soft material and simply cover the mouth and nose and are designed to protect others. Face masks are designed to afford protection to both the wearer and others. Further University guidance on face masks has been published on the Health and Safety website.
There are particular reasons why wearing face masks and gloves in non-healthcare settings is not advised. These include the following:
- Masks and gloves must be changed frequently and disposed of appropriately – they will become soiled very quickly, for example with sweat build up.
- Taking off masks and gloves must be undertaken in a safe manner to avoid cross contamination.
- People tend to touch their face more frequently when wearing masks as they can become uncomfortable or not be correctly fitted – strong advice to avoid infection in the current situation is to not touch your face.
- The virus may still exist on gloves, in the same way as it would on hands, and be transferred from gloves onto other hard surfaces. After wearing gloves, people may wash their hands less as they think they are protected, which increases the risk when touching their mouth or eyes.
Current knowledge on how Covid-19 is spread has been published by Health Protection Scotland and Public Health England in various online guidance documents which are publicity available, such as the ‘COVID-19 - Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings’.
We are committed to taking all reasonable steps to minimise the potential for airborne spread of COVID 19.
We will follow the guidance prepared by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) and the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) in relation to the potential risks associated with the operation and maintenance of building ventilation systems.
We have produced a guide which details the steps being taken to minimise risk, and any questions should be sent in the first instance to the Estates Helpdesk
The University is in constant contact with Health Protection Scotland and we will update any guidance given based on information discussed with the local NHS Health Protection Team as well as the professional associations referenced above.
Following the re-opening of University buildings, Estates Department will ceased carrying out water flushing to outlets within the building. The responsibility of identifying and flushing Infrequently used outlets will revert to the School as per the UoE Legionella Policy.
An Infrequently used outlet is defined as an outlet which is not used for a period equal to or greater than seven days. Building managers should identify any outlets within their building which meet this criteria and run water through them for a period of 3 minutes each. This should then be recorded on a Register and records saved for 5 years as per the Legionella Management procedure.
Estates Department will inform building management of this requirement as part of the hand over procedure when handing buildings back.
Staff and students should register with a Doctor within the UK.
Students are advised to register with a local Doctor / General Practitioner (GP). Do not wait until you are ill or require treatment to register. Registering with a GP is easy and free. See here for more information.
University advice and support
The Pharmacy and University Health Centre are essential public health services and remain open. Both services can be accessed via 6 Bristo Square, in the Health Centre building.
The Pharmacy is also offering a delivery service to support social and physical distancing measures. For more information, please call 0131 650 2525 or email Pharmacy@ed.ac.uk.
There is the unfortunate possibility that current events might cause an increase in incidents of racial harassment, aggression or abuse which some students and staff might face either on or off campus. This is never acceptable. If you face any negative or abusive comments or behaviour from anyone, you should tell someone and seek support from your Student Support team, personal tutor or supervisor, from the Students’ Association Advice Place, or from the Human Resources team. Any conversations will be handled with due care and confidentiality, and our staff will work with you to find the appropriate means of safety and redress.
Students who experience a crisis outside normal working hours can contact the University for support through the University Security 24/7 contact number 0131 650 2257.
It is possible that some criminals will use the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to carry out fraudulent activity.
This could take many forms, but the most likely will be the use of phishing emails. We therefore want to remind all students and staff to be particularly careful of any emails that mention the following:
- 'check remote connectivity’
- ‘maintain remote access’
- ‘help your organisation/the University check remote access’
- ‘latest updates here’ or similar messages
Whilst there might be an increase in remote working during this period, the University would not send you an email asking you to ‘click on a link to check remote connectivity’.
If you do receive any emails asking you to do this, please do not click on any links but follow existing reporting processes and report it to the IS Helpline.
Following the government and public health guidance all Sport & Exercise facilities have been closed since Wednesday 18th March.
As part of the phased reopening of buildings, Sports and Exercise are making the necessary arranagements to reopen the facilities for the start of semester one. This will be done with the safety of our students and staff as first priority.
Please see Sport & Exercise FAQs for more information.
All current events and conferences have been cancelled or postponed in line with Government advice.
If your event is taking place beyond the current period outlined in the Government advice, you should also consider whether you be able to make the necessary arrangements in preparation for the event taking place. You may also need to consider staffing requirements as a result of the Government’s working from home advice.
Further guidance on fieldwork etc. has been published on the Covid-19 SharePoint site.
In a situation where a person has suffered illness or accident, the first aiders who arrive on scene are taught to consider not only the condition of the casualty, but also, first and foremost, to ensure their own safety. This includes any hygiene and infection risk from the casualty. First aiders are trained therefore to consider any risk from the casualty from poisons or infectious agents, and to make a decision on the basis of the evidence available at the time. The decision in these circumstances may be to administer CPR by carrying out chest compressions, but not delivering rescue breaths. There is some evidence that adequate ventilation may be achieved if the airway is kept open during such chest compressions.
We have had several enquiries from University of Edinburgh trained first aiders regarding the situation during the current coronavirus outbreak. The advice is to follow the procedure outlined above, that is:
- Assess the situation and check for your own safety.
- Approach the casualty if safe to do so, then check the casualty for response by speaking loudly and looking for signs of movement from the chest and abdomen.
Resuscitation Council UK Guidelines 2015 state “If you are untrained or unable to do rescue breaths, give chest compression-only CPR (i.e. continuous compressions at a rate of at least 100–120 min-1)”.
Because of the heightened awareness of the possibility that the casualty may have COVID-19, Resuscitation Council UK offers this advice:
- Recognise cardiac arrest by looking for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing. Do not listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the patient’s mouth. If you are in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, the default position is to start chest compressions until help arrives.
- Make sure an ambulance is on its way. If COVID 19 is suspected, tell them when you call 999.
- If there is a perceived risk of infection, rescuers should place a cloth/towel over the casualty’s mouth and nose and attempt compression only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance (or advanced care team) arrives. Put hands together in the middle of the chest and push hard and fast.
More information from the Health and Safety Department (including short instruction videos), UK Government, and the Resuscitation Council UK is available at the following links:
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide, apart from some exceptions since 4th July. Please see the GOV.UK website for more information.
Travelling to and entering the UK on or after 8 June 2020
For those arriving in the UK after Monday 8th June 2020, the UK Government has implemented a period of self-isolation which is outlined below.
Before travelling to the UK
If you will be entering the UK (except from certain exempt countries which can be found on the Scottish Government website) on or after Monday 8th June you must complete an on-line passenger locator form, and do so 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You must provide details about your journey and your contact details in the UK.
You will need to show your completed form when you arrive at the UK border, either by printing a copy, or by showing it on your phone. If you do not complete the form, or refuse to do so, you may be fined. If you are unable to demonstrate where you will self-isolate, you may be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the UK Government. Further information is available on the UK Government website.
Arriving in the UK
When you arrive at the UK border you will need to show that you’ve completed the form with your journey and contact details.
You will then be required to self-isolate for 14 days. You must go straight to and stay at the address you provided on the passenger locator form. Your friends or family can collect you from the airport, port or station. You must only use public transport if you have no other option.
If you do use public transport, you should wear a face covering, i.e. something that covers your nose and mouth and stay 2 metres apart from other people. Please note that from 15th June you will not be allowed on public transport in England if you are not wearing a face covering. You are advised to wear a face covering when using public transport in Scotland.
Due to the uncertain duration of these restrictions, any international travel, field trips or placements that are scheduled to take place before 31 July should be cancelled.
After 31 July, essential business travel may progress subject to full risk assessment/approval processes. In line with the University’s commitment on climate change and reducing operating expenditure, staff looking to travel should actively seek alternatives to travel where possible.
Travel risk assessment and guidance
After 31 July, a Covid-19 specific travel risk assessment must be completed for any travel on University of Edinburgh business, both within the UK and abroad. This risk assessment is mandatory and must be submitted as part of your travel insurance application. You must ensure that you follow the accompanying flow chart before completing the risk assessment and then follow your normal authorisation process prior to booking any travel or accommodation.
All Key Travel booking enquiries are being dealt with as quickly as possible. To assist with enquires, Key Travel has requested that travellers follow the advice below:
For existing bookings:
- If you booked via email or phone, contact Key Travel via email for cancellations.
- If you booked online and are trying to cancel, please make your cancellation online.
Please do not send another email or call about a request you have made already as it adds to the large number of enquiries.
Key Travel have also launched a Covid-19 Information Hub which you can visit for the latest updates and further information on bookings and amendments.
All of the University’s catering services will resume in line with the start of Semester one. Catered Halls will also re-open in line with the start of student arrival for Semester one.
Useful external links to official information, guidance and resources
- GOV.UK information on Covid-19: what you need to do
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice
- Scottish Government Student Information website
- NHS website: Covid-19
- World Health Organisation (WHO): Covid-19
- City of Edinburgh Council: Covid-19 updates
- Health Protection Scotland Covid-19
- Universities UK Covid-19
- TravelHealthPro website
- British Deaf Association (BDA) Covid-19 updates in British Sign Language (BSL)