The University has announced that in person activities will return following weeks of confusion over the escalating spread of COVID-19.
“I’m pleased to confirm that Welcome Week activities will go ahead as planned, with a hybrid of online and face-to-face activities.” said Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott in a campus-wide email.
Meanwhile, students remain in limbo over teaching delivery as the University will not confirm whether classes will proceed in-person or virtually until 7 February amid reports that USyd staff have been directed to work from home. Last year, USyd announced that large lectures with more than 120 students will be delivered remotely.
Scott argues that the decision is a recognition of a “new normal” of “living with COVID”. Yesterday, NSW recorded 13,206 positive COVID-19 cases with 27 deaths and 2,779 hospitalisations. However, at its purported peak, the current wave witnessed over 60,000 positive results in a single day in mid-January.
Compulsory COVIDSafe measures will be imposed on all Orientation events, with students expected to demonstrate either their fully vaccinated status, a negative PCR within the previous three days or negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on the same day. Other requirements include COVIDSafe Marshals, masks in all indoor settings and venue check-ins.
Other restrictions currently in place within the state until 28 February include a prohibition on “singing and dancing” and density limits at hospitality venues such as nightclubs and an indoor mask mandate. These rules are expected to affect clubs and societies’ COVIDSafe protocols during Welcome Week.
“After two years of online learning, this feels like a very special moment.” USU President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat said.
“Our staff will be masked, we will have contact tracing, COVID marshals, hand sanitiser [and] encourage social distancing. All of our main events also take place outside which decreases the chance of catching COVID-19 significantly. ”
USU Staff and volunteers are subject to a vaccine mandate, whilst students themselves are able to attend campus with a negative test, even if they are unvaccinated.
Welcome Week is due to commence on 14 February with the majority of events taking place between then and 18 February, including USyd’s Welcome Fest.