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Staff at Liverpool's universities call for immediate action to protect staff, students and local community

22 September 2020

Members of UCU at Liverpool's universities have called for their institutions to abandon in-person teaching.

In a statement, the UCU branches from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University said they also wanted to see better protections for vulnerable staff and a guarantee that they will not be forced to come onto campus.

The call comes after the University of Liverpool yesterday confirmed 87 positive Covid-19 tests of staff and students at the institution. This is at a time when campus is still relatively quiet and teaching has not yet started.

This morning, the government has called on staff to work from home where they are able. Yesterday Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned of 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October, leading to 200 deaths a day a month later if the current rate of infection was not halted. 

The union has previously called for online learning to be universities' default position in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

Last week, UCU launched a monitoring system for its members to contact the union directly with concerns they had about their institutions' plans to deal with the Covid-19 threat. The union said it would name universities and colleges that were not up to scratch and any institution not preparing to deal with a local outbreak was in denial about the severity of the challenges they would most likely face.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: 'Liverpool's universities have to immediately heed the call from staff and halt unnecessary in-person teaching. The safety of staff, students and the local community has to be the number one priority.

'More widely, the university sector and the government must address this public health crisis immediately. It is not enough to plan to manage Covid-19 outbreaks when we could be working to prevent them. 

'We have been warning for weeks of the dangers of universities persisting with in-person teaching, especially without a UK-wide track and trace system and regular testing of students and staff. Without urgent action, it will be impossible for universities to avoid becoming incubators of Covid-19 and university communities becoming transmission hotspots.'

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