Why we’re still asking you to wear face coverings

27 January 2022

Update: 23 February 2022

We recommend and strongly encourage students and staff to continue wearing face coverings indoors on campus. 

Students wearing face coverings in a classroom

“As soon as...it is safe to do so we will remove the requirement for wearing face coverings - we’re just not there yet”

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience and University Community, explains why everyone who can needs to keep wearing face coverings indoors on campus to protect each other:

We know that everyone wants to stop wearing face coverings as soon as possible. We are regularly looking at the case numbers and as soon as these indicate that it is safe to do so we will remove the requirement for wearing face coverings - we’re just not there yet. We want to protect your face-to-face teaching and one of the best ways to do this is to continue wearing face coverings.

There are a high number of Covid-19 cases in Oxfordshire and we’re seeing a local increase in case numbers again. We’re also already seeing an increase in cases at Oxford Brookes, with our highest daily figures recorded this week. With more students coming back to campus for the start of the semester, the risk of Covid-19 circulating is at its highest and now is not the right time to remove the safety measures we have in place. It is essential for us to keep wearing our face coverings for a little while longer while we see what happens to Covid-19 case numbers over the next few weeks.

If University teaching staff test positive for Covid-19, this could impact face-to-face teaching as they will be required to self-isolate. Not all teaching can be carried out online either; and it can only take place if the staff member is well enough. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, some staff and students have health conditions that mean it would be too risky for them to be in face-to-face teaching settings if face coverings aren’t being worn. Cases of Covid-19 among our professional services staff could affect our ability to provide essential services. Students who test positive will also need to self-isolate - this can affect their ability to access teaching, practical sessions, in-person assessments and placements. We all need to do what we can to stop the spread of Covid-19.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the Omicron variant spreads quickly from person to person. SAGE, the scientific advisory group, has said that Omicron is likely to be more transmissible (spread) through the air than the previous Delta variant, which makes measures such as face coverings and ventilation even more important. The key transmission route is through the air by tiny droplets from the mouth or nose of an infected person.

Face coverings are one of a number of measures that we have in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Other measures outlined in our risk assessment include ventilation on campus, enhanced cleaning regimes and hand sanitiser.

Recent research shows that wearing a mask in a well-ventilated room means you have a lower risk of getting Covid-19 than if you are not wearing a mask in a well-ventilated room. Find out more on this research, which was conducted by the University of Oxford and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Being vaccinated and boosted is a very important step that we can take to prevent serious illness if we catch Covid-19, and we strongly encourage students and staff to get their Covid-19 vaccinations. However, being vaccinated (and boosted) does not stop you from getting or spreading the virus, so this is why other non-medical measures such as face coverings and ventilation play an important role too.