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Weekly Update

Covid and College: Weekly Update for Lent Term 2021

To keep everyone up-to-date with progress and all things coronavirus in College, we will be issuing a weekly information containing headlines and hot topics.

Welcome to Lent term!

  1. If you are not in Cambridge…
  2. Testing
  3. Life at Girton
  4. Some Good News

1. If you are not in Cambridge…

  • Stay safe, keep in touch and please do talk to your Tutor if you are finding it hard to work from home. We are missing you and look forward to better times.

2. Testing

3. Life at Girton

  • Just over 40 percent of you have returned in line with government guidelines. It’s lovely to see you; we are open and here to support you as usual.
  • We are in a national lockdown and the rules are strict: no household mixing indoors; outside the rule of one applies but only for exercise. 
  • It is still all about hands, face and space!
  • Catering is in full swing: takeaway-only but as tasty as ever (please pre-order).
  • For more information on how to stay safe check out the 'Advice for Students' or 'Advice for Fellows and Staff' pages.
  • NOTE: Although single-person households can form a 'Bubble' with one other household, these need to be wholly within College AND they must be registered with College. 

4.    Some good news for everyone

  • It is ‘prize term’: all three competitions (the Ridding Reading Prize, the Hammond Science Communications Prize and the Mountford Humanities Communications Prize) will be online; safe, great for CV building, and cash prizes - what’s not to like…
  • It is ‘halfway’ term: the Chef is conjuring up some ideas for second years and for one-year Masters’ students for what would have been ‘Half-Way Formal’ on 9 February 2021. If you are at home you can still join in!
  • We are celebrating Lunar New Year – the Year of the Ox – which begins on 12 February 2021.

Michaelmas 2020 updates:

Take a look back at what was reported on weekly, during the Michaelmas 2020 term. The information below contains the latest information for that specific time period. 

The topics discussed this week are:

  1. End of term
  2. Testing
  3. Going home
  4. Staying here

1. End of term

This week at Girton there are no new self-isolating households following asymptomatic testing. Let’s hope for a hat-trick (run of three) on Thursday.

From Wednesday, Girton is in Tier 2 (High Alert): No visitors to households and no household mixing indoors; the two-metre rule stays firm, but the rule of 6 applies outdoors. The complete Tier 2 restrictions are here:

Our advice? Unless and until you leave for the vacation, stay here (at Girton) to stay safe (and still have fun).

  • Enjoy your take-away Christmas lunch on TUESDAY.
  • Join us on THURSDAY evening, and Friday if there is demand, for a very Girton Christmas (bookings now open).
  • Listen-up for festive cheer from the Choir and the Gir-ten as the week unfolds…

2. Testing

  • Wednesday is our last pooled asymptomatic testing round this year. 
    • Everyone who is eligible will be invited to participate (including those living out who registered by Monday 23 November – see email).
  • If you test negative, you can leave College with the confidence that you have done all you can to protect family and friends.
    • If you choose to self-isolate to minimise social contacts between a negative test and travelling home, place a note on your door (to advise friends) and email, so that we can support you.
  • If you test positive, you will have to self-isolate here for at least 10 days, but your tenancy covers it and there is still time to get away for Christmas.
    • Your housemates will have to self-isolate too, for 14 days.
    • Note to housemates: you can complete this self-isolation at home as long as you have tested negative, leave promptly (ideally within 24 hours), have no symptoms, travel where possible by private transport, and take account of the risks of having been exposed to the virus. 
  • If you cannot participate in pooled testing this week, it’s a bit more complicated…However: If you are still here next week but plan to travel, you may be eligible for an individual test in the week beginning, 7 December.

3. Going home

Leaving Cambridge is fairly straightforward if your destination is in the UK

  • The Government urges you to leave by Wednesday 9 December 2020, in case you later develop symptoms or have a positive test, in which case you will struggle to get home for Christmas. This is not a deadline required by law or by College, it is simply advice to help you make an informed choice about the safest time to travel.

For a safe and orderly departure, please book a slot:

If you are travelling abroad, we can provide written confirmation of a negative result from the final week of the University Testing Programme, but we cannot necessarily tick all the boxes required for every destination.

  • You received an email about this on Friday 27 November.
  • Check these requirement on the Government's website

4. Staying here

  • If you need to stay, it’s within your Tenancy Agreement to do so, but we need to know; in this event please contact your Tutor.
  • If you are staying because you are self-isolating we will of course continue to support you.
  • Between 23 and 27 December you can form a three-household ‘Christmas Bubble’: 
  • For fun, check out our ‘Very Girton Christmas’ events page (on the College website, from 17 December).
  • From the Mistress and Fellows, from the Senior Tutor and Junior Bursar, from the Tutors and Directors of Study, and from the Bursar and other Officers of the College, we send Season’s Greetings and very best wishes for a safe, enjoyable and well-earned break!

The topics discussed this week are:

  1. This Week
  2. Going Home
  3. Festive Cheer

1. This week

  • This week at Girton there are no new self-isolating households following asymptomatic testing. Congratulations on staying safe!
  • It gets better: look out for ‘Bridgemas in a Box’ from your JCR and MCR committees on Wednesday
  • The last of the GirtOnlineEnts (see email for password):
    • Thursday at 6pm, chill out with live jazz standards; and if that’s not enough tune into Tim Boniface from the Cambridge Jazz Festival at 8pm
    • Friday at 5.30pm, wildlife Cameraman, John Aitchison, encourages us to ‘Focus on nature’
    • Sunday at 5.30pm, Girton’s famous Advent Carol Service will be live-streamed from the Chapel
    • And don’t forget to browse the JCR’s brilliant assemblage of Lockdown Links.

2. Going home

  • There is a Town Hall meeting at 6pm tonight (Monday 23 November) – a chance to ask questions on everything you need to know about getting home for Christmas.
  • The last pooled symptomatic testing round at Girton is on Wednesday 2 December: everyone registered and eligible can take part.
  • If you are not eligible for pooled testing but wish to travel home over the winter break, there are some individual tests in the week beginning, 7 December (you have had an email about this).
  • The government is encouraging you to go home between 3 and 9 December, to avoid having to self-isolate here beyond 24 December.
  • The University offer this: General information about travelling over the Christmas Vacation.
  • Note that you cannot travel if you have symptoms, or have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 10 days. You CAN travel home if you test negative after a positive pooled test providing you self-isolate before you leave here, and when you get there.
  • If you plan to go away for the holidays, please book a slot:
  • If you need to stay, we need to know…contact your Tutor.
  • While you are away, kitchens, bathrooms and more will be given a full and thorough deep clean ready for the new year.

3. Festive Cheer

  • The current restrictions are in force until the end of Wednesday 2 December. From Thursday 3 December, new local restrictions will be announced. There won’t be parties!
  • However, we invite you to have yourself a Very Girton Christmas in College on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 December. Our imaginative fun-loving Catering team are working on festive food, mulled wine, hot cider, outdoor treats and whatever other seasonal ventures are safe and within the law for you and your household. Full details follow!

This week’s main topics are:

  1. This week
  2. Next steps…
  3. A heads up

1. This week

  • More households than we hoped are self-isolating: if you have questions or need something you don’t have, email; for immediate help contact the Porters, for other support contact your Tutor.
  • If you are out and about, remember hands, face, space and no household mixing, except outside, and even then, only in pairs.
  • If you are delivering supplies, drop off only please, with masks at all times. 
  • For lockdown and isolation resources: 
    • Check media for a new JCR resource guide.
    • CUSU promises ‘Love in a time of COVID-19’
    • The  Girton College Boat Club is running circuits on Thursdays and Sundays from 5-6pm (see email for zoom).
    • Cambridge Sport has online options from the homepage.
    • Don’t miss GirtOnline Ents this Thursday at 6pm: Comedy Club with Dr Phil Hammond.

2. Next steps

There is a new system for following up positive pooled tests:

  • Follow-up test kits will be delivered to your household at around 10am, for those who provided the pooled test.
  • Follow the instructions and self-test in your room.
  • Drop the completed test into the box at your household entrance before 12:15pm (collection around 12:30pm).

We want to enjoy a safe yet festive end of term: email the Mistress's Office if you have bright ideas that are within the law!

3. A heads up

  • There is no ‘Town Hall’ this week; by next Monday we should be able to plan for the end of term, and for going home (or staying here). 
  • The government anticipates a student ‘travel window’ between 3 and 9 December; they point out that if you are here and have to start self-isolating after that date, you may not get home for Christmas Eve (so care is needed when lock down ends!).

The topics discussed this week are:

  1. The knowns, the unknowns, the known unknowns and more
  2. A Christmas Carol?
  3. Hot topic: wellbeing 

1. The knowns and the unknowns

- There are some things that Girton has little control over… 

  • England is in lockdown 2.0, Universities are staying open, and Cambridge has a residence requirement (because there is more to higher education than subject specialisms).
  • Blended learning is a broad label: it is inevitable that some have more and some have less face-to-face teaching; speak up if you are concerned.
  • By law, households cannot mix indoors at the moment except for risk-assessed educational and support purposes (but there is a still a lot we can do).

- You can only travel within and beyond Cambridge for some very specific reasons, but you can go out and about:

  • For education.
  • For outdoor exercise and recreation (no team sports and rule of one applies, but look out for our new fitness trail, plus footballs, skipping ropes, hula hoops and more!).
  • For medical reasons and appointments.
  • To escape injury or harm (including mental health crisis).
  • To shop for food and essentials.

- You can, as always, go home on compassionate grounds or for certain health reasons: your Tutor is your first port of call.

- There are some new house rules (no visitors to households, rule of six replaced by rule of one and only outdoors, see posters).

Other questions? Drop a line to our new COVID administrator at 

2. A Christmas Carol

  • Following asymptomatic testing this week there is one newly-isolating household.
  • The testing programme is being expanded and adjusted to make follow-up easier – look out for instructions, perhaps as early as this week.
  • Testing rates are high, especially on the main site. This is a great result not least because Christmas is on the horizon. Government is keen, as are we, to get you home for the holidays (if you wish).
  • Being in the testing programme will give you confidence to mix with family and friends when government rules allow; it may help plan for the end of term, who knows?
  • Even the kindest people in the world can tire of doing the right thing, but remember Blackadder’s Christmas Carol: it’s worth persevering!

3. Don’t worry…

We want to help and support you every step of the way to the end of this difficult term. In fact, we want it to be the best few weeks it can be. So keep sending feedback and suggestions.

- A full catering service will continue to operate: 

  • Boxed meals for take away, to eat in households or in Hall (where there is also study space).
  • The Social Hub, a take-away collection point, is also open 24/7 for study.
  • Grocery essentials are available from the Cafeteria.
  • Hot meals are now delivered twice a day to Swirles Court (collect from Swirles Porters' Lodge).

- The Thrive programme is still running.

- Your health and welfare are our priority:

  • There is 24/7 tutorial support: out of hours there is a Duty Tutor; contact the Porters if needed.
  • Support groups (<15 people) can meet; send inquiries and booking requests to
  • Outdoors, you can meet one person from another household. This is one way to find new friends. If you are lonely let the welfare officers know, and we will find ways to keep you company.
  • Library hours are extended; there is extra study space for individuals across College.
  • The Chapel is open to individuals as a quiet space: services are streamed; the Chaplain is available to people of all faiths and of none (he is in College Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays)
  • Council will soon report on what musical activity we can support, and what sports might be allowed (other than team sport). Watch this space!

- A few treats are in store…

  • The Matriculation Picnic – a take-way for households is on Tuesday 10 November…
  • Check out the GirtOnline Ents page (password in email/on Facebook). Highlights this week include:
    • Wednesday 6-6.45pm, join Dr Amy Donovan to continue the Girton Conversation on Our Fragile Planet (‘Natural’ disasters).
    • Thursday 6-6.45pm, bestselling author and alumna Wendy Holden hosts the Book Club: ‘How to write a best seller’.

The topics discussed this week are:

  1. Covid Q&A
  2. Thank You!
  3. GirtOnline Ents

1. Your questions answered

  • There is a new national lockdown from Thursday 5 November 2020. We’ll hold a ‘Town Hall’ on Monday at 6pm (details by email) to talk about the implications of the announcement. Please don’t worry: we, like the University, are committed to staying open; we are Girton and we’ll get there together!
  • No new cases of COVID have been detected through asymptomatic testing this week. Testing rates are high; can we try for 100% next week?
  • Other questions? Drop a line to our new COVID administrator at

2. Thank you!

  • Thank you for volunteering to help self-isolating students; it makes a world of difference.
  • Thanks to our brilliant sports captains: because of you, football, rowing, lacrosse, hockey, netball, rugby and more, have been up and running. It’s been a breath of fresh air.
  • We love music too: thank you Girton College Choir, GCMS, orchestra, Gir-ten, Dr Martin Ennis, Gareth Wilson, the Chaplain, Musicians in Residence and everyone who has lifted our spirits.

3. Social distance and how to get over it

In person

  • The Matriculation Dinner for households is on Tuesday 10 November; don’t forget to reply to your invitation.
  • Other events: news follows once we know more about the new guidelines.


Check out the GirtOnline Ents page (password in email). Highlights this week include:

  • Monday 2 November, 7-9pm, sign-up for the LGBTQ+ Community Quiz.
  • Wednesday 4 November, 6-6.45pm, join Dr Arik Kershenbaum to continue the Girton Conversation on Our Fragile Planet - 'Is rewilding the answer?'
  • Thursday 5 November, 6-6.45pm, join the Poetry Society for a ‘Firewords’ party!
  • Friday 6 November, 6-7.30pm, GLIDE event (Black Lives Matter).

The four main topics discussed this week are:

  1. Change to visitor policy
  2. Your feedback
  3. Hot topic: the cure for cabin fever
  4. You can still make and meet new friends!

1. Change to visitor policy

  • This week, no new cases of COVID have been detected through asymptomatic testing. 
  • While testing rates stay high, and cases remain low, we can allow visitors into households (one at a time, one per day), by day or overnight.
  • In order to participate, households will need buy-in from all their members and an agreed list of guests (one per household member). You can begin receiving guests once you have read, completed and submitted the appropriate form, remembering that guests to College, whether visiting households under the new policy, or coming into our public spaces under present arrangements, must check in at the Lodge.

2. Your Feedback

3. Isolation blues

  • If self-isolation – the risk, the reality, or just the feeling of being alone - makes you feel anxious or depressed, contact your Tutor, the Chaplain or another support service.
  • If you have Cabin Fever, here is the cure (check your email for the password): View our weekly Isolation Ents page.
Highlights this week include:
  • Wednesday at 6-6.45pm: join Professor Chris Ford to continue the Girton Conversation on Our Fragile Planet (what, really, can you do to limit climate change?).
  • Thursday at 6-6.45pm: Revd Tim Boniface plays Jazz standards on piano, flugel and piano to chase away those isolation blues.

4. The spirit of Girton

  • Hall is set up for households to dine in together. Why not have a night out at home?
  • There is a lot of under-used public space in College, which you can use and enjoy to meet and make friends (list follows). 
  • Face coverings, social distance, and the rules of 6 are all still mandatory, but that does not mean you can’t have fun!

The four main topics discussed this week are:

  1. Testing update
  2. Hot topic: self-isolation and how it works
  3. England’s three tiers
  4. Face Mask policy change

1. Testing Update

2. Self and household isolation

  • If you experience symptoms, report them to the lodge: that is Day 1 for self and household isolation.
  • If your household pooled test is positive, that too is Day 1 (Thursday at Girton).
  • If you test positive, you should self-isolate for 10 days. However, if that followed a pooled test and you go onto develop symptoms, then the onset of those symptoms is your new Day 1 (count 10 from there).
  • If someone in the household tests positive, other household members should isolate for 14 days (although an individual who then develops symptoms counts a further 10 days, even if it takes you beyond the first 14).
  • There is a lot more detail and advice on the webpages.

3. A geography lesson: England’s three tiers

  • Tier one, like Cambridge: carry on as we are.
  • Tier two, like London: avoid visiting, don’t stay overnight, contact your Tutor if in doubt.
  • Tier three, a few areas especially in the NW: visit only in exceptional circumstances with Tutor’s explicit permission.

4. Face coverings and good news

  • We are adopting the University’s new policy on face coverings, and wearing them indoors in meetings and events lasting more than 15 minutes. View the University's policy.
  • The Cloister corridor one way system has been taken out.
  • Hall is set up for households to dine together. Why not have a night out at home?
  • There is a lot of under-used public space in College, which you can use and enjoy, keeping to the rule of 6.
  • If you are isolating and OK apart from a touch of cabin fever, check out the new ‘Isolation Ents’ page… (url coming soon).

The four main topics discussed this week are:

  1. Girton House Rules
  2. Testing
  3. Your Feedback (poll now closed)
  4. Hot Topic: What is close contact?

1. Girton House Rules

2. Testing

3. Feedback (poll now closed)

  • Let’s keep the conversation going!

4. Hot Topic: What is close contact?

Examples include:

  • Close face-to-face contact (under 1 meter) for any length of time - including talking, or being coughed on.
  • Being within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes - including in a car.
  • Spending time together at home or in household space.
  • Sleeping together/being in a close relationship.
  • Note: close contact is not usually possible if you are separated by a perspex (or equivalent) screen.

If in doubt, or in need of more detail, please check with your Tutor, the Lodge, or College and Government websites.

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