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"WE ALL must diligently wear face coverings, observe physical distance, and wash hands. And WE ALL must avoid groups of more than 10 people and restrict our social network as much as possible."
Hello KAUST community,
As the summer comes to an end, I want to bring clarity to how we're all going to come back together for a new semester safely and effectively.
I have to thank the KC3, the sub committees that have supported the work of the KC3, and all of the staff and community members who have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. Your work is strongly appreciated.
As announced earlier, we're moving to a new phase of our reopening plan in which we remove restricted movement and rely, even more heavily, upon each one of you to keep KAUST safe. Over the coming weeks we'll have a significant increase in the campus population due to repatriation flights and additional students coming to campus. This will increase the degree of mingling of people both in work and in leisure and we need to be extra vigilant.
In the past few weeks we have seen a noticeable uptick in new cases of COVID-19, with some presenting with symptoms. These cases point once again to the importance of the Keeping KAUST Safe guidelines as a means of stopping the spread of the virus - please familiarize yourself with these guidelines.
The short version is, however, that WE ALL must diligently wear face coverings, observe physical distance, and wash hands.
And WE ALL must avoid groups of more than 10 people and restrict our social network as much as possible. Over the coming weeks you'll be tempted to let the kids have play dates, to have dinners at each other's homes, and to let down your guard more generally.
If we fail to adhere to the Keeping KAUST Safe guidelines, we risk reversing the hard won progress we've made as a community. And we risk being forced to go back to a more restricted lockdown - something WE WILL put into action for everyone's safety if necessary.
To date, we've had no severe cases or fatalities. And the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom more generally seems to be improving - so there have been some hard won gains.
But I must emphasize again - in all of our personal decisions about mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing and more, we must keep our community's priorities in mind - safe resumption of work in our labs, lecture halls and children's classrooms must take precedence.
Now for some good news.
Many services are operating again, albeit with some specific conditions about how they should be used and accessed.
Please enjoy using the services and facilities, while always observing the Keeping KAUST Safe guidelines that I mentioned a few moments ago.
Go to the pool, but keep your distance.
Book a time to work out at the gym, but wear a mask.
Enjoy food from one of our many eateries, but please sit two meters apart and do so outside.
With regard to the return of our colleagues, a lot of hard work has gone into ensuring that charter flights are available to bring everyone back to campus safely and in time for the Fall semester.
In total, we're bringing back over 700 people to campus. And I want to underscore again, doing this safely has required an enormous amount of forethought and work on behalf of our HR and Government Affairs staff, as well as Health, Safety and Environment, Facilities Management, the Core Labs and more.
We must honor the sacrifices they have made by wearing masks diligently, limiting contact and washing hands - you're likely to be sick and tired of hearing about this for the past six months, I know I am, but it is perhaps more important now than at any other point in our journey through this pandemic.
Upon our colleagues' arrival, we are working to ensure that everyone safely completes quarantine and, as appropriate, gets tested. We have learned a lot over the last 6 months and we have worked hard to ensure that we're able to support our colleagues while ensuring the rest of the community remains safe.
We have mandated that colleagues return from abroad, and with good reason. We need all hands on deck by August 22nd to ensure a safe resumption of the full functioning of our campus for the Fall semester.
Everyone working from out of the Kingdom will be expected to return by this date provided that there are no government-imposed travel restrictions in the country you are residing in. And thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Government Affairs department, all expired visas and Iqamas have been automatically renewed - so this shouldn't be an obstacle for any of you.
All employees who have been out of the Kingdom will need to have registered on a KAUST charter flight or take commercial flights should they become available. Anyone who is still out of the Kingdom after August 22nd must coordinate with their line manager to use annual leave, or unpaid leave as appropriate.
Remote working at KAUST or within the Kingdom after August 22 remains an option for VPs and Deans to approve. For many of you, the "new normal" with regard to working arrangements will most likely include working in shifts, working different days, and working remotely within the Kingdom.
Let's continue to work together through this transitional time to get the work of our proud university done, while keeping everyone safe.
This will not be easy, but it is a time we shall all be called upon to lend a helping hand to colleagues, to summon additional patience, and to deal with obstacles as they arise with a sense of humor.
We will get through this, and the lessons we learn will stick with us for decades to come.
Thank you to all of you for your insights and words of encouragement during this challenging period in our history.
Let's work together to Keep KAUST Safe and continue the important research, innovation and education work we've all come here to do.
Thank you and be safe,