COVID Update: Staying COVIDSafe on our campuses

The below was emailed to all students on 8 July 2022

As the Australian winter exacerbates the spread of both COVID-19 and flu, it remains critical that we all take responsibility for keeping ourselves, and those around us, as safe as possible.

As one of Australia’s leading universities in public health, we have been making evidence-based decisions about our response to COVID-19 since the outset of the pandemic, following the advice of our own public health experts. La Trobe was the first Australian university to require vaccination for those attending our campuses.

I’d like to thank the more than 1,500 staff and students who participated in our recent COVIDSafe survey. Perhaps unsurprisingly, views on mandating vaccination, mask-wearing and other strategies varied widely. You can read the survey results here.

Following advice from our own public health experts, survey feedback from staff and students and our assessment of our health and safety obligations, we have decided to retain the existing vaccination requirement through winter until the end of Semester 2 activities this year. This will give us time to strengthen our other defences against COVID so that we can start to lift the vaccine mandate later in the year.

Vaccination requirement remains

With vaccination requirements now the responsibility of individual employers, we have a duty under the Work Health and Safety laws to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

Our public health experts have emphasised that COVID-19 vaccinations remain an important way to protect us from severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

On the advice of our experts in public health, we are now planning the process of phasing out our vaccination requirement. To ensure we have sufficient time to reinforce other protective measures, the existing vaccination requirement will remain in place until the end of Semester 2 activities.

You can read more about the role vaccine mandates have played and why they can be removed once other measures are in place, in this piece written by a team of our experts in the School of Psychology and Public Health.

In Semester 2, current arrangements for teaching and learning will remain, with online learning options available where possible, offering maximum flexibility for our students.

Face masks – the first line of defense against COVID-19

Our public health experts have advised that, along with keeping up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations, use of N95/P2 face masks is the most effective way to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

With Australia entering another wave of COVID-19, and following the advice of our experts, we strongly recommend that all staff and students wear high quality face masks in indoor settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible.

To assist with this, the University will be providing masks to staff and students on request, and we are updating our campus signage to encourage mask wearing. 

Further measures to keep you safe

I want to reassure you that we will continue to implement COVIDSafe measures across our campuses to reduce transmission risks. These measures include:

  • Providing Rapid Antigen Tests as well as face masks to staff and students who require them.
  • Hand sanitiser available throughout all buildings.
  • Appropriate ventilation in all rooms.
  • Use of safety risk assessments to manage risks and identify suitable mitigation.

Steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe

To keep yourself and those around you safe, and to ensure we can keep our campuses populated and vibrant, here is a reminder of the simple but effective behaviours you should follow:

  • Keep up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, including any recommended booster doses. Upload your proof of vaccination if you are enrolled in on-campus subjects.
  • Wear a high-quality face mask – in enclosed spaces indoors and outdoors where you cannot physically distance.
  • Get a COVID-19 test if you have symptoms (noting that with new variants on the rise, even people who have had COVID-19 recently should get tested if they experience symptoms).
  • Do not come to campus if you have symptoms, even if your COVID-19 test is negative.
  • Tell us if you test positive to COVID-19 by completing this form and also notify the Department of Health.
  • If you are a close household contact, you are encouraged, wherever possible, to study or work from home for seven days. If you are unable to work/study from home, you must test negative on a Rapid Antigen Test on at least five of the seven days of the isolation period and you must wear a face mask indoors.
  • Get a flu shot. These are widely available from pharmacies and GPs across the state.

We are all enjoying engaging with our campus communities again and, by maintaining these simple but effective measures, we will be able to keep our campuses lively while minimising the risk of illness and disruption.

We will continue to update you all with more information as the situation evolves. 

Thank you for your ongoing co-operation and support in keeping everyone safe.