Updated 13 March 2020
Staff and students are advised to refer to this page for advice and updates on Coronavirus.
Due to the recent developments in the situation concerning the novel coronavirus COVID-19, we are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, students, visitors and members of the local community which is of the utmost importance to us.
We know that many of you may be feeling anxious about the virus. We want to let you know that we have set up an internal working group which will closely monitor the spread of the virus, keep abreast of new and changing advice and guidance from the health authorities. The group will maintain regular communication with staff, students, external stakeholders and our local community.
The working group is taking immediate action to manage the current situation, but is also planning business continuity arrangements should the situation deteriorate. It will also keep under review the need to postpone events, meetings and tours planned at the Aga Khan Centre.
We will refresh this page with regular posts as more information becomes available and send you internal bulletins – please look out for these. However, the situation is changing rapidly, if you have any concerns about your health you should contact the free telephone helpline NHS 111 or NHS 111 online and check the Public Health England (PHE), NHS and Gov.uk websites for the latest advice official advice.
For residents of the UK
As there is now a MODERATE risk of infection, we ask all employees, students and visitors to the Aga Khan Centre to be vigilant about their own health, aware of those around them and to comply with a number of new measures which are being put in place to protect you.
The most common signs of infection include respiratory difficulties, fever and cough. Advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to take the precautionary measure of washing your hands frequently, using soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) or an alcohol based sanitiser.
All staff, students and visitors are therefore asked to:
- Use a sanitiser, and to wash their hands thoroughly with soap, on arrival at the building, after using tissues to cough or sneeze, after using the bathroom and before eating. A stand-alone sanitiser unit has been placed in the entrances of the Aga Khan Centre and of Victoria Hall. Sanitisers have also been placed at the reception desk, in all pantries and in the staff and student lounges.
- Always cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, using a tissue if possible. Discard all used tissues in an enclosed bin (situated in the pantries and staff and student lounges) or flush them away in the bathroom.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sneezing or coughing, has respiratory problems or who has a fever, particularly if you have an underlying immunity issue or health condition which could make you vulnerable to infection.
What to do if you have any concerns
- If you experience cold and flu symptoms yourself, even if you have not travelled to an identified country of risk or have not been in contact with someone at risk, please stay at home, and take care of yourself as you would normally do.
- Ask advice from a pharmacist. If your symptoms persist, call NHS 111, rather than going to your GP surgery or hospital. More advice and FAQs are available on the NHS website.
- Please note that more than 80% of those infected with COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms, such as fever and cough, and they recover as they would do from seasonal flu.
Advice for people travelling abroad:
- The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all travel to some countries and areas affected by coronavirus, and against all but essential travel to other affected areas.
- The situation is changing rapidly so please check the FCO website for the latest travel advice for the specific country or area you are planning to visit. Remember that circumstances may change during your trip, and you may be subject to travel restrictions or required to self-isolate on your return to the UK.
- As a precautionary measure, all international travel on IIS business is suspended until further notice and you are asked to use Zoom, Skype and other channels of communication for international meetings until face to face communication can be resumed.
- All those returning to the UK from China, Iran, and parts of Asia and Europe where the virus has been diagnosed will be placed in quarantine through the NHS for a period of 14 days.
- If you have booked or are planning a personal trip or holiday abroad over the next few months, please seek out the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, the embassy of the country you are planning to travel to and your travel insurer and be prepared to comply with any restrictions on travel, cancellations, quarantine arrangements on return etc. Please keep your line manager and HR informed prior to travelling.
- All those returning from countries with high infection levels will be subject to quarantine through the NHS for a period of 14 days or are strongly advised to self-isolate. You are advised to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people during this period and to contact your line manager and HR immediately. Any medical advice given and the result of the COVID-19 test, should you be advised to take it, should be passed on to HR and will be placed on your personal record. Any period of isolation will be recorded as paid leave, but as long as you are not actually feeling unwell, you should discuss with your line manager what work you can undertake at home.
- IIS employees and students returning to the UK and who are advised to self-isolate should contact their line manager and HR, or Student Services, immediately.
- If you are concerned about your health, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do next. Do not go to your GP surgery.
Other precautionary measures
- Do not travel abroad at all if you are feeling sick as there is a likelihood that you will be quarantined.
- Ensure you are up to date with recommended vaccines and consider getting your annual flu vaccination if you have not already done so.
- Large internal gatherings will be postponed and public tours of the AKC will be suspended until further notice.
- Visits to the AKC from overseas colleagues will be rearranged at a later date.
- Catering at events / meetings, with the exception of biscuits or snacks in closed packets, will also be curtailed.
- For the moment, the Aga Khan Library will not accept new requests from external users to use the resources or work in the Library.
- We are currently reviewing the delegate list for all events planned at the AKC during March, April and May. Delegates and visitors may be asked to participate in events via Zoom or Skype, but events and meetings will only be postponed as a last resort.
Business Continuity Planning
We have set up an internal business continuity planning group which will closely monitor the spread of the virus, keep abreast of new and changing advice and guidance from the health authorities and will maintain regular communication with staff, external stakeholders and our community. This group is taking immediate action to manage the current situation, but is also planning business continuity arrangements should the situation deteriorate. The members of the group are:
Head of HR
Head of Communications
Head of IT
Selina Kassam Ramji
Secretary to the Board of Governors
Student Services Manager, DGS
Head of Publications and Operations, DARP
We have also set up drop in sessions, every Tuesday and Thursday so that you can come and speak to the business continuity planning group members and ask any questions you have in person. They will be held at the following times:
- Tuesday 17 March at 11.30am in room 810
- Thursday 19 March at 2.00pm in room 810
For further information please contact the gov.uk, nhs.uk or FCO websites, or the embassy of any country you are planning to travel to.
If you have any general concerns or queries, please refer to Human Resources (HR).
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the symptoms of the virus that we should be looking out for?
The main symptoms are similar to those of flu – coughing, sneezing, fever and breathing difficulties.
- What is the Institute doing to protect employees and ensure they are well informed about the virus?
Our first priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of our employees and students and to try and balance this with maintaining business as usual as far as possible. We have been reviewing closely the medical and travel advice published by the government agencies and NHS and have produced briefings to staff, circulated by email. Given the spread of the virus, the frequency of circulation will be increased as appropriate. We have also linked this to a briefing on the IIS website
- What is the Institute doing to prepare for a situation where the virus spreads significantly?
We have set up a business continuity planning group with cross Institute representation to monitor the spread of the virus, keep abreast of new and changing advice and guidance from the health authorities and plan for the weeks ahead as well as for different possible scenarios.
- What precautions can I take to protect myself?
The key piece of advice from the World Health Organization is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, preferably using soap and water or a sanitizer. Hand washing is particularly important when you come in to the building, before you eat and after you use tissues or the bathroom.
- Is the Institute going to adopt more flexible working and working from home practices?
Yes. We recognise the heightened anxiety amongst staff about the risks associated with commuting and being in close proximity with other people and we are asking Heads of Department and Unit to manage flexible working arrangements at a departmental local level on a temporary basis. This will include working from home, if this is possible, and staggering working hours to avoid peak commuting times.
- One of my staff / colleagues has a cold. Should they still be at work?
At the moment, anyone who catches an ordinary cold should stay at home, use the cold and flu remedies that they would normally use and contact the NHS 111 advice line or online https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 if their symptoms persist or if they are particularly worried. Please keep your line manager informed and record your sickness on PEP.
- I think I have been infected by a friend who thinks they have the virus. What should I do?
Please apply caution to protect your own health and wellbeing, but also common sense. There is an abundance of information in the public domain and on social media, some of which is rumour and speculation and can be misleading. Anyone who feels they have symptoms of the virus should immediately contact NHS 111 and seek professional medical advice. Individuals who display the symptoms, and those they have come into contact with, will be asked to take the Covid-19 test and/ or will be asked to go into a period of quarantine, normally for 14 days.
In such cases, you must keep both your line manager and HR informed. It is essential that we record such absences and also test results on PEP as we will be expected to monitor our workforce carefully and to report on cases of quarantine, testing and diagnosis.
- I contacted the NHS 111 helpline and was advised to self-isolate, what do I need to do now?
You must follow any medical advice given to you. Periods of isolation or quarantine will normally be for a 14 day period. As mentioned above, you must keep both your line manager and HR informed of any advice you receive.
- I’m beginning to feel anxious from what I’m reading on social media. What support can I get?
We completely understand that there is a lot of anxiety amongst our employees. Please talk to your line manager or HR if there is something practical that we can help you with. We have also scheduled drop in sessions where you can speak to members of the BCP team on Tuesdays and Thursdays:
Tuesday 17 March at 11.30am in room 810
Thursday 19 March at 2.00pm in room 810
The Institute also has an Employee Assistance Programme in place with a 24/7 confidential helpline, if you prefer this option. The Freephone number is 0800 015 5630.
- I’m planning a business trip, but am not sure if that’s a good idea. Where do I get advice from?
Because of the accelerated spread of the virus, all international travel on Institute business is suspended until further notice and you are asked to use telephone, email, Zoom or Skype to communicate, as appropriate, until face to face contact can be resumed.
- I’m planning a holiday, but am not sure if that’s a good idea. Where do I get advice from?
If you have booked or are planning a personal trip or holiday abroad over the next few months, please seek out the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, the embassy of the country you are planning to travel to and your travel insurer, and be prepared to comply with any restrictions on travel, cancellations, quarantine arrangements on return etc. Please keep your line manager and HR informed prior to travelling.
This FAQ document will be updated and circulated internally to staff and students regularly. If you have any questions you want to ask regarding the Institute’s response to the Covid-19 virus and the arrangements we are putting in place, please contact a member of the Business Continuity Planning Group or HR