Latest Updates for Research Continuity

Overview of UCC & Research Business Continuity Updates – 2nd March 2022

Update 2nd March 2022

See UCC Emergency Management Team-Teaching Delivery, Research, and On-Campus Activity

This Guidance has been updated following the Government’s further lifting of restrictions.

"Face masks are no longer mandatory. However, they are still advised:

  • on public transport
  • in healthcare settings"

The UCC Emergency Management Team guidance is that while staff and students are no longer required to wear face coverings, they may continue to do so if they wish. However, for research purposes it is strongly recommended that facemask wearing continues for research activities such as Human-Focused Research Studies-Research at Interface and Volunteers on Campushospital settingspublic transportcarpooling for domestic travel for research (see Fieldwork (non-human) Studies). 

It is important that we continue to remain vigilant and adhere to the HSE Guidance, stay at home if you have symptoms and continue to use the infection prevention and control measures such as good hand hygiene and etiquette over the coming months. The UniCoV Screening and Case Detection programme will continue to offer testing for students and staff until April 2022.

Main Guidelines in Place for Researchers 

Terms: Researchers – refers to all research personnel: research postgraduates, medical researchers, post-doctoral researchers, research technical/support staff, research assistants, research managers, PIs/supervisors/mentors, research administrators, senior research/academic staff, Heads and management of Departments/Units/Schools/RICUs/College.

The requirement to work from home unless it is necessary to attend the workplace in person has now ended - researchers can continue all research activities on campus and can resume/commence research studies, namely non human-based studies off campus (Fieldwork) or human-focused studies (Research at Interface with Society/Volunteers-on-Campus studies).

Prior approval for research activities is no longer a requirement by UCC Research Business Continuity - prior approval requirements to be decided upon at a local level, ie prior approval may be deemed necessary by local Heads (Schools/RICUs), and in some instances Heads of Colleges, for certain activities (see Research Continuity Approval & Reporting Processes).

In keeping with the Research Business Continuity Team Subsidiarity Model and the national emphasis on the promotion and use of individual responsibility, local area managers and Heads (Dept/School/RICU) should decide upon how best to adapt current/previous measures which is reasonably practicable and necessary for research carried out in their area and consult with the Head of College if/as appropriate.

  • Strong emphasis on maximising vaccination uptake for primary and booster vaccines. 
  • Do not attend the workplace (either on Campus, or undertake Research at Interface with Society, or Fieldwork) if you are a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 or if you have been advised to self-isolate or restrict movements. Close contact guidance can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/914a6-guidance-on-the-public-health-management-of-covid-19-cases-and-close-contacts/
  • COVID-19 continues to pose a risk to public health.  Therefore, there are still ongoing requirements, which are detailed below to assist the research community to continue their research safely.
  • Covid-19 Induction Training and Return to Work Forms are no longer required.
  • Access/contact logs for researchers are no longer required at this time (therefore weekly reporting of access figures to UMT will discontinue).
  • Drafting/updating Covid-19 Response plan documentation must continue – required for research facilities, studies (Research at Interface, Volunteers on Campus, Fieldwork) and international travel for research.
  • Protocols for dealing with a case or suspected case of Covid-19 must continue to be incoroporated into Covid-19 Response Plan documentation and be implemented.
  • COVID-19 Infection Control Measures (sharepoint.com) and cleaning regimes must continue. Reinforce protective and cross-infection measures to the research community, as set out in the guidance in the Research Business Continuity Team webpages, Research Business Continuity Supports | University College Cork (ucc.ie), and also see COVID-19 Infection Control Measures (sharepoint.com)
  • There is no longer a requirement to maintain a 2m physical distance.  All offices, labs, etc are now fully accessible with the capacity limit based on ventilation; decide at local level the appropriate capacity/distancing. Consult with UCC Ventilation Policy and Buildings & Estates. However, human-based studies  will require 2m physical distancing to be maintained, see Human-Focused Research Studies-Research at Interface and Volunteers on Campus below.
  • Travel (international travel) - Governmental guidelines still applicable, see guidance tabel below on Travel and Research Business Continuity Team Guidelines for Travel for Research
  • Avail of the UCC Covid Tracker App.
  • Encourage participation in the Unicov study which provides free antigen and saliva tests for all participants acting as an indicator of any potential asymptomatic students or staff who may be infectious with Covid-19.

These guidelines have been drafted in line with National and Institutional Policies and Guidelines as detailed below.

National:

Institutional/Campus Business Continuity Team

 

Research - General Guidelines

Activity / Function

Research-General

Approval Process

Prior approval for research activities is no longer a requirement by UCC Research Business Continuity - prior approval requirements to be decided upon at a local level, ie prior approval may be deemed necessary by local Heads (Schools/RICUs), and in some instances Heads of Colleges, for certain activities.

Covid-19 Induction Training and Return to Work Forms.

No longer required.

Covid-19 Response Plan Documentation

Covid-19 documentation must be maintained/updated/drafted: for research purposes this includes Covid-19 Response Plan documentation (response plans, risk assessments etc) for research facilities and studies (Research at Interface with Society, Volunteers on Campus Studies, and non-human studies (Fieldwork)).

  • See Guidance on updating Covid-19 Response Plan documents for research facilities.
  • For guidance on updating documents for Fieldwork (studies that are not human-focused) or Human-Focused studies (Research at the Interface with Society/Volunteeers-on-Campus), see Research Continuity Guidelines for Fieldwork  or Guidelines for Human-Focused Research respectively. 
  • Maintain policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of workers who may have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Detail infection control measures (including social distancing, facemask wearing, cleaning and hygiene etc) as appropriate for their area/nature of the work.

Attendance Records

As per Campus Business Continuity Team UCC Campus Business Continuity Team Update 01.02.22, access/contact logs for researchers are no longer required at this time (accordingly, this means that weekly reporting of access figures to UMT are no longer a requirement).

Lead Workers 

Lead Workers should remain.

The Lead Workers have played a key role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and that will continue.  The Transitional Protocol encourages employers to keep this role and I welcome that.  Campus Business Continuity Team will be holding an information session for our Lead Workers soon to discuss the changes.

Covid-19 Infection Control Measures - general requirements

  • Documentation: Covid-19 Response Plans must continue to detail infection control measures, physical distancing and use of facemasks as appropriate.
  • Limiting Transmission/infection control: It is important to note that COVID-19 continues to pose a risk to public health. The pandemic is not over and the emergence of new variants with increased levels of transmissibility, immune escape and/or virulence remains a risk both nationally and globally.  It is important that everyone continues to play their part in limiting transmission.  Therefore, we will be maintaining the following infection control measures to help keep our Community safe: 

    • Existing hand & respiratory hygiene policies
    • Extensive hand sanitising stations throughout the campus
    • Ventilation strategy implemented by Buildings and Estates
    • CO2 monitors where appropriate
    • Central monitoring of air quality
    • Continued touchpoint cleaning
    • External seating areas
    • Appropriate signage
    • Wearing of face coverings to continue while moving around the campus
  • Physical distancing: See below requirements for different research activities, Research-Facilities/BuildingsHuman-Focused Research Studies-Research at Interface and Volunteers on Campus.
  • Facemasks: 

 

Developing signs and symptoms of Covid-19

As per the Transitional-Protocol-COVID-19, the following measures must be adhered to and must continue to be detailed in Covid-19 Response Plan Documentation.

Employers should continue to:

  • advise that workers do not come to work if they are displaying any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have had a positive COVID-19 test;
  • provide instruction for workers to follow if they develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during work;
  • display information on signs and symptoms of COVID-19;
  • cooperate with the local Public Health Offices if a case of COVID-19 and/or an outbreak is confirmed in their workplace and implement any follow up actions required.

Workers should continue to:

  • keep themselves up to-date on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19;
  • not go to work if they are displaying signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have symptoms of COVID-19;
  • follow the public health advice regarding self-isolation, restricting movement, testing and what to do if identified as a close contact (HSE COVID-19 information: contract tracing);
  • report to managers immediately if any symptoms develop during work; 
  • cooperate with any Public Health personnel and their employer for contact tracing purposes and follow any public health advice given in the event of a case or outbreak in their workplace.
 

Returning to campus

Researchers should discuss with their line manager/PI their own particular circumstances.

People who are high risk and very high risk should, according to the Transitional Protocol Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 “get vaccinated and follow public health advice in relation to mask wearing, including wearing a surgical or FFP2 mask when in crowded indoor settings.“  A fitness for work medical risk assessment may need to be completed with Occupational Health and staff should discuss this with their line manager.

Meetings

Conferences

See guidance on the Campus Business Continuity Team Sharepoint Guidance of meetings, conferences etc.

  • Meetings can be held in person and meeting rooms will return to full capacity (subject to ventilation limits).  However, during the pandemic it was found that sometimes it was easier to hold a virtual meeting rather than a physical one.  The meeting organiser should give consideration to which type of meeting will be more efficient.  Consideration should also be given to hybrid meetings.
  • Indoor and outdoor events such as conferences are allowed at the current time.
  • Catering can now be ordered through the usual channels.
  • There is no longer a requirement to have physical distancing in hospitality venues.  All tables have been returned to the restaurants/ coffee shops and they are operating to full capacity.  There is no longer a need to show your COVID certificate.
  • The marquees and outdoor seating have proved very popular and these will remain in place.

Local Unit FAQ (Campus Business Continuity Team)

Local-Unit-FAQ

Research-Facilities/Buildings

Activity / Function

Research Facilities/Buildings - see further info at Research continuity Guidelines for Access to Research Facilities & Buildings 

Access to Research Facilities (desk-based research/office work and science-based laboratory work).

  • Prior approval is no longer required.
  • All offices, labs, etc are now fully accessible with the capacity limit based on ventilation - capacity/ 2m physical distancing in research areas should be decided upon at a local level (research managers/Local Heads) – to ensure researchers can continue to work safely, the 2m physical distancing will depend on the room size, ventilation etc. Consult Buildings & Estates for capacity/ventilation requirements/advice (see next row below)
  • Researchers are strongly advised to continue to wear facemasks - strongly recommended to wear facemasks indoors (depending on room size, occupancy, ventilation) and crowded spaces. However, see tables of requirements below for Human-Focused Research Studies-Research at Interface and Volunteers on Campus and Fieldwork (non-human) Studies/Domestic Travel.
  • Maintain Covid-19 Response Plan documentation.
  • The current level of cleaning will be maintained.
  • All normal access routes can be used.  Buildings and Estates are removing the one-way signage.
  • Infection control measures must continue.

Ventilation

  • Adequate ventilation must be ensured in research areas including laboratories, write-up areas, areas for desk-based research, office spaces.
  • For institutional guidance to ensure ventilation meets requirements, and for advice regarding capacity limits see Mechanical Ventilation FAQs and UCC Ventilation Strategy. Local Heads and research managers should contact B&E, Paul Prendergast, pprendergast@ucc.ieBEreception@ucc.ie for further guidance and queries.
  • For CO2 monitors, contact Pat Mehigan in Buildings & Estates, p.mehigan@ucc.ie 
     

Restaurants & Catering

See UCC Emergency Management Team - Teaching Delivery, Research, and On-Campus Activity  for updates on restaurants and cafes on campus

Campus Business Continuity Team Local Unit FAQs

Local-Unit-FAQs

Human-Focused Research Studies-Research at Interface and Volunteers on Campus

Activity / Function

Human Focused Research Studies (Research at Interface with Society and Volunteers on Campus)

All Human-Focused Research, inc. face-to-face interviews.

  • Prior approval  by Head of School (or Dept)/RICU Director is no longer mandated by Research Business Continuity Team -prior approval requirements to be decided upon at a local level, ie prior approval may be deemed necessary by local Heads (Schools/RICUs), and in some instances Heads of Colleges, for certain activities.
  • Cross-infection, physical distancing, wearing of facemasks, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with protective measures in place should be detailed in Covid-19 Response Plan documentation. Additionally, 'What to do in a case/suspected case of Covid-19 (for researchers/research participants), the nature of the study, who is undertaking the research, PI responsible, CREC/SREC approval, risks assessments, should also be provided, see Research Business Continuity Team Guidelines for Human-Focused Research.
  • Measures must be put in place to ensure that participants are contacted prior to the study visit to ensure they are not a case/suspected case of Covid-19, nor have they been requested to restrict movements, owing to being a close contact.
  • Cross-infection measures must be put in place for the study visit to protect both participants, researchers, other persons in the community.
  • Where travel is required to undertake the study, this must be incorporated into the Covid-19 Response Plan documentation.
  • Physical Distancing:
    • 2m social distancing should continue as much as reasonably practicable between the researcher and participant. Some studies may require this distancing to be reduced e.g., taking a physical measurement – in these cases, as previously, Covid-19 Response Plans should detail cross-infection-measures to take all necessary precautions to limit transmission.
    • Scheduling of study participants should continue to avoid congregating.
  • Facemasks:
    • Researchers/participants: strongly advised that wearing of  facemasks should continue, unless the study requires/study protocol removal of facemask for a limited time-period.
    • Where facemasks must be removed (owing to the nature of the study), as previously, Covid-19 Response Plan Documentation must detail additional cross-infection measures in place to prevent transmission

 

Additional Guidance for Research at Interface Studies

For all settings, researchers must comply with the organisation/community-based/school Covid-19 protocols they are based in - these requirements must be detailed in the Covid-19 Response Plan documentation.

See table below on Travel, for further information/requirements where researchers have to undertake travel as part of their research at interface study, and See national Transitional-Protocol-COVID-19 for guidance on business trips, work in community settings.

Additional Volunteer on Campus Studies

Volunteer Declaration Form, must continue to be used for the study visit see Templates & Resources for Researchers

Fieldwork (non-human) Studies

Activity / Function

Fieldwork (non-human) Studies

Fieldwork (no interface with society)

 

Prior approval no longer mandated by Research Business Continuity Team.

All activities can continue with appropriate protective measures in place.

Covid-19 Response Plan Documentation must still be maintained/updated/drafted, detailing location and nature of study, researchers undertaking the work, the identified PI, cross-infection measures, inc. any consideration to community setting (if applicable), and detail the travel being undertaken (with due consideration being taken to associated Covid-19 requirements for travel, see table below on Travel), as necessary. 

Strongly advised that wearing of facemasks should continue where public transport is being used and/or for carpooling arrangements for research-travel purposes.

 

See Research Continuity Guidelines for Fieldwork.

See national Transitional-Protocol-COVID-19 for guidance on business trips, work in community settings.

Travel for Research

Activity/Function

Travel for Research

 

Travel domestic/international for research is permitted, in line with national guidelines and UCC Travel and Events.

Domestic Travel

  • Permitted, and no prior approval is required, with all necessary precautions in place.
  • Transitional-Protocol-COVID-19  - see guidance for business trips and carrying out work in community settings.
  • Where domestic travel is being undertaken by the researcher/s for a research study, measures must be detailed in the study Covid-19 Response Plan Documentation.
  • Face-masks are strongly advised for 
    • public transport, taxis and at stations/airports/ports
    • carpooling (where researchers are sharing a vehicle - good ventilation is also required).

International travel

  •  Prior approval for research activities, inc. international travel, is no longer a requirement by UCC Research Business Continuity - prior approval requirements to be decided upon at a local level, ie prior approval may be deemed necessary by local Heads (Schools/RICUs), and in some instances Heads of Colleges, for certain activities
  • Details of international travel being undertaken must be given in the Covid-19 Response Plan Documentation (or as part of a Covid-19 Response Plan for a given study, where travel is being undertaken by the researcher/s).
  • Researchers must comply with gov.ie advice See gov.ie/travel for more details:
    • requirements of jurisdiction researchers are travelling to/from;
    • the requirement for a Digital COVID Certificate
    • requirements of transportation company (airline/ferry etc).
  •  Insurance
  •  Further Covid-19 travel advice from

Other guidance

Use of the gov.ie Covid-Tracker App and the UCC Covid Tracker and Day Pass App is recommended

 UCC Researchers travelling abroad are recommended to avail of and use the EU Digital Covid Certificate

Further Guidance

Activity / Function

Further Guidance

 

 

Do use the UCC COVID Tracker App daily before coming to campus;

 

Do take up of the opportunity to avail of the State’s programme for vaccination against Covid-19

 

Do consider enrolling in the UniCoV Study comparing Antigen Testing with Saliva testing to detect asymptomatic Covid-19 infection.

 

Research and Innovation

Taighde agus Nuálaíocht

Office of Vice President for Research & Innovation 4th Floor Block E, Food Science Building UCC

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