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University lecturer reveals personal ordeal over exposure to Covid-19 concerns

Written by on 10/10/2020

A lecturer at the University of Sheffield has expressed his concern that students will still be exposed to coronavirus if face-to-face teaching is pushed ahead with.

Chris Millard, a lecturer in the History department at the university, has written an open letter to Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts as he said “quite frankly I do not know what else to do.”

Face-to-face teaching has been temporarily suspended at the University of Sheffield due to a rising number of Covid-19 cases.

But Mr Millard claims that the break is only to allow the university to re-calibrate its teaching spaces to 2m social distancing space.

In a letter that he has published online he said: “I am writing, in an entirely personal capacity, to express my dismay and anxiety over the University’s current strategy of pausing face-to-face teaching in order to recalibrate teaching spaces to 2m distance, rather than 1.5m.

“As I understand these guidelines,they mean that after the reorganisation, should any seminar participant test positive, the whole seminar group will not be required to self-isolate.

“The logic is that everyone should have been at 2m distance the whole time.

“This strategy seems to put the cart before the horse, focusing on the parameters of the test and trace system, rather than on exposure to a dangerous virus.”

He went on to say that proper ventilation of rooms is in fact a much harder problem to solve as distance is not the only factor in the spread of the virus.

Mr Millard added that he was concerned that the university was putting its financial position before student and staff health.

The letter added: “I do not doubt that universities are in a financial bind, and that government assistance is unlikely to be forthcoming.

“However, I am concerned at the risks of pushing forward with face-to-face teaching. How can one weigh financial loss against student and staff health?”

Later in the letter he described his mother-in-law, who worked as an agency nurse in care homes, who died after she was exposed to the virus.

Her family had to say goodbye on iPads and she died alone in hospital.

He added: “This might explain much of why I am motivated to write to you, I am angry and upset and frankly despairing.

“However, beyond these emotional responses, it is my firm belief that structural, collective responses are the only way out of this nightmare.”

A spokesman for the University of Sheffield said that the Vice Chancellor is to respond to Mr Millard personally before commenting in the media.