COVID-19: University of Exeter to remove mask mandate but urges ‘responsibility’

Peter Lanyon Building | Lars Mucklejohn

The University of Exeter has updated its COVID-19 policies, including removing its on-campus mask mandate, following the government’s decision to ease rules in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that “Plan B” measures introduced to combat the Omicron variant of the virus will end on 27 January.

Face coverings will no longer be mandatory, and NHS COVID passes will not be legally required to enter venues and events.

The decision has been controversial, with some scientists calling it premature and reports that the PM is removing measures to appease Conservative backbenchers calling for him to resign over a series of lockdown parties in Downing Street.

Exeter announced today that, in line with guidance from the Department for Education, face coverings are no longer required in teaching settings and will not be mandated in communal areas from 27 January.

The university previously reimposed its mask mandate in November amid the early spread of the Omicron variant.

Cases among students rose during December and January, with 226 over the past 10 days across the university.

Exeter said that it would still “strongly advise” wearing face coverings in teaching rooms and other shared indoor spaces and asked students to “take responsibility for keeping ourselves and those around us safe”.

The university’s policies will stay “under continuous review” and be led by “public health partners in Devon and Cornwall”. It added that it would “take all necessary steps” if those partners “require additional measures to be taken”.

Measures including free COVID-19 tests, vaccination clinics, two-metre teaching zones, ventilation requirements, hand sanitiser, enhanced cleaning, signage, and free face coverings will remain on campus.

People who test positive for the virus now must isolate for only five full days if they receive a negative LFD test on days five and six.

Anyone with a positive LFD test no longer has to take a follow-up PCR test if they are asymptomatic but must still report the result.

The university continues to advise that students regularly get tested for COVID-19.