Update on COVID-19

March 12

Dear KAUST Community,

The CCMT and the Coronavirus Taskforce continue to meet regularly to proactively appraise the situation, and set strategy and necessary policies that continue to strike a balance between protecting the community and minimizing disruption.

I want to emphasize, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases currently on campus and we are working hard for that to continue to be the case.

The following are items that we wish to update you on today.

Remote working
The University is now enabling managers to support their team members to work their normal daily working hours from their residence on campus, Jeddah or another location. This may include varying their start and finish times. Every team, department or division at KAUST is different and not all work may be conducive to working remotely, so team members are asked to talk with their manager and team to establish expectations on working remotely. This arrangement might change depending on the business need and the status of COVID-19. Team members will be expected to report back to their offices at any time. Therefore; working remotely outside the kingdom will not be considered a practical option.

Remote working, once agreed, must be approved by the responsible VP or Dean. KAUST leave and benefits policies will also be reviewed as the status of COVID-19 changes. Full details of the Emergency Management Remote Working Procedures can be found here. Managers and personnel are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the document and the requirements required under the Procedure, prior to implementation. For advice or guidance about the Procedure, managers can contact their HR Partner for support.

Critical service staff
A plan is in place to ensure that critical service staff will be accommodated in on-campus residences.

Remote teaching
Remote teaching has begun at the University. As of March 11, all in-class courses were successfully moved online across the three academic divisions. 

Research continuity
Research groups have been asked to make contingency plans to maintain research continuity. The University will also maintain central services critical to maintaining research activities. Support for research continuity and the safe shutdown and reopening of labs is being put in place in order to minimize, as far as possible, consequent disruption.

Social distancing
Social distancing means "remaining out of places where people meet or gather and maintaining distance from others" and it is an effective mechanism to tackle the spread of a virus outbreak. An infected person in a large gathering can infect others rapidly and social distancing measures can help to slow the spread. 

The KAUST Coronavirus Taskforce are advising that you consider the following social distancing tactics:

  • "Touchless Greetings" are becoming a new norm across the world. Consider the gesture of touching your heart, bowing your head, or trying an elbow bump instead
  • Maintain a distance from others - 2 meters where possible
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Indoor events: Maximum attendance should be no more than 50% of the usual venue capacity, with a maximum of 50 people - virtualize if possible
  • Outdoor events: Maximum attendance should be no more than 150 people. Consider cancelling, postponing, or virtualizing if possible
  • Work or study from home, if possible and approved by your line manager
  • Older adults, people with compromised immune systems, and those with underlying health conditions may want to consider staying at home as much as possible to reduce the risk of exposure

KAUST mosque operations are complying with recent guidelines from the KSA Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

Tamimi and campus facilities
We aim to continue business as usual, and this includes Tamimi stores, the diner, and dining services and facilities, and we have the contingencies in place to do so. Social distancing will apply in all shared spaces including reduced seating and the encouragement of takaway.

As of today, March 12, the cinema has a reduced capacity of 50 people per showing. We will continue to monitor the cinema and all other recreation facilities.

Building Blocks Daycare will remain open for registered children.

Off-campus transport
The off-campus shopping buses have been suspended for the next 30 days. We will review in the coming weeks with the goal of returning to business as usual as soon as possible. The hospital buses will continue to run for people with hospital appointments.

Personal visitors
All personal visits should be cancelled for the next 30 days. This position is subject to review. Exceptions will be assessed by the CCMT and on an individual basis.

This is an update to the previous measures put in place on March 1, 2020.

KAUST recommends that ALL travel plans and that ALL non-essential travel is postponed. As part of our continuing review process we are now able to put the following in place to support people who have been impacted by KAUST travel restrictions.

If you are advised by KAUST to remain in a high-risk region, you will not be required to use annual leave or unpaid leave. 

If you have made adjustments to personal travel plans, including plans for immediate family (spouse, children and parents) to visit you at KAUST due to KAUST-imposed restrictions and are unable to recoup costs:

  • Claims will be reviewed for those who made changes due to a location being added to the KAUST-designated high-risk list
  • You should make every attempt to get refunded by the hotel/airline, reimbursed through insurance, or other means. Keep records of your efforts
  • If you are unable to get reimbursed through these or other means, and can submit evidence to demonstrate your attempts, your claim will be reviewed against qualifying criteria on a case-by-case basis
  • The details of this procedure are being confirmed and we will make a further announcement when we are ready to begin receiving claims

Thank you for all your support and cooperation.

Tony F. Chan

KAUST President