A pandemic is where the number of infections of some disease exceeds expectations and the disease is widely distributed. The main pandemics in recent years have been caused by varieties of flu; for that reason, ‘flu’ is used in this policy to represent any pandemic disease.
It is anticipated that a Pandemic Alert Level 4 (widespread pandemic across the UK) being declared by HM Government will trigger the University of Oxford to halt lectures and examinations, since these will be considered major causes of cross-infection. Should this occur, the Master will take advice and decide whether/when to implement the College’s Pandemic Plan, which is:
- All tutorials will be cancelled.
- All students who can go home will be sent home; however, students from abroad may not be able to travel and some physically and socially isolated students living out may need to be brought into College. (But NB: public transport will be highly disrupted, and incarcerating an infected individual on public transport or in a car with healthy people is undesirable.)
- All communal activities cease: Hall, Buttery, Pantry, JCR, JCR Bar, MCR Bar, MCR, SCR, and Library will close.
- Balliol, Trinity, New College and St John’s will be ‘buddy’ colleges, with their College Nurses and domestic staff assisting each other.
- Only those students unable to return home for reasons of distance, family, or their own severe illness will be permitted to remain in their rooms.
- Staff affected will be instructed to remain at home. In addition, some staff will have caring duties, of children or other relatives, that may prevent them from coming to work, especially if schools close.
- Housekeeping staff will cease cleaning rooms but will concentrate on removing rubbish (e.g. used tissues) and on cleaning the communal areas which flu victims will have to continue using in College: bathrooms and kitchenettes, especially hard surfaces and door handles and door edges, which will be major sources of contamination. Appropriate training must be given and personal protective equipment must be worn and used.
- The Computing Department will provide software for students to indicate their wellbeing or otherwise; this will likely be a web form requiring a daily tick. A lack of response will provoke a telephone call and a visit from a volunteer (a graduate officer or a medical student who will assess the victim against a checklist), who will alert the College Nurse and the College Doctor if required. Students without a PC in their bedrooms will need to email daily from one of the public access terminals in the Computer Rooms – again, an absence of contact will trigger an investigatory visit. If the two members of the Computing Department both fall ill simultaneously, then help will be sought from the computing departments at our buddy colleges, and vice versa. If computing systems fail, it may be necessary to have a team of people knocking on the doors of everyone living in College, every day, to ask them if they are all right, making an assessment of their needs, calling for further medical help (if necessary) and also distributing supplies (tissues, medication, food, etc.).
- Frozen ready-meals, reheated in microwaves, and bottled water may need to be supplied to flu victims. Once Alert Level 4 is announced, these items should be stockpiled.
- The Internet will be used to communicate the number and severity of flu cases to the College Doctors in order that decisions may be made regarding the downgrading/upgrading of the Pandemic Alert and the summoning of students back to Oxford.
The following preparations need to be made now in readiness for the implementation of the Pandemic Plan:
- The College must ensure that every student is registered with the College Doctor or other general practice in Oxford: this information will be recorded on the Record Cards held in Porters’ Lodge and in the College Office database. Failure to register with a doctor is now a decanal offence by the terms of the College Handbook.
- As a matter of routine, students will be encouraged to bring with them their own thermometer and supply of paracetamol or ibuprofen. They can be given general advice on how to prevent the spread of flu (use and disposal of tissues, staying out of circulation, etc.), and how to be a flu ‘buddy’ – i.e. in effect, everyone keeping an awareness of flu amongst friends and colleagues.
- General infection control training must be provided to housekeeping staff annually. First aid training should include a section on flu.
- Adequate volumes of PPE and other medical supplies must be held in stock (alcohol hand rub, aprons, masks, etc.). The Nurse has obtained an oxygen saturation meter.
- The computing systems must be tested.
- The College Pandemic Committee will meet at least annually, chaired by the Master. The Committee should include the College Nurse, the Dean, the Praefectus, the Domestic Bursar, the Senior Tutor, the IT Manager, the Accommodation Manager, the JCR President, the MCR President and the JCR & MCR Welfare Officers.
- The Pandemic Plan should be reviewed annually.
Written by Carl Woodall, then Domestic Bursar, in consultation with the then Dean (Douglas Dupree) and then College Nurse (Alison Nicholls). Approved by Executive Committee on 23 January 2008. Minor revisions made in consultation with the Domestic Committee, 27 July 2012, 28 May 2014