• Coronavirus

    disinfectant dispenser
    © Universität Bielefeld

Current Updates

Calendar week 03 / 2021

Update of 22.01.2021 for employees - Consequences of the extended lockdown

Dear Colleagues,

Since Tuesday, we have known that the lockdown will be extended until 14 February 2021. The decision to do so was made by Chancellor Merkel and the minister presidents of the federal states. Of especially great concern are the Coronavirus mutations, which are many times more contagious.

This is why we are also extending our “reduced basic operations” policy for the university. This will be in place, however, for one month longer than the lockdown – until 14 March 2021. This is due to the period of validity of the new federal Coronavirus Regulations for Occupational Health and Safety (see below).

As of today, we do not yet know whether there will be a change in the regulations currently governing studying and teaching. However, we are assuming that there will be no fundamental changes to this. We will let you know as soon as we have more information.

For workplace health and safety, the new federal Coronavirus Regulations for Occupational Health and Safety are now available (draft as of 21 January 2021). This governs issues of Home Office, as well as other topics. The ordinance does not fundamentally impact our university regulations, as the following rules are already in force: only those who have to work on site for operational reasons may be on campus. Everyone else is to be in Home Office.

The Coronavirus Regulations for Occupational Health and Safety also define what precautions must be observed when working on site for operational reasons. Generally speaking, we also comply with these requirements. Something new, however, is the use of face coverings. If a distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained while performing work, you are now required to wear a medical-grade face mask or an FFP2 mask. The university has ordered a large quantity of so-called “surgical masks”, and three masks will be made available each day to staff members who have to perform work on site. As needed, the affected divisions of the university can pool their mask orders and send them to Bielefeld University’s Occupational Safety, Health, and Environmental Protection service (AGUS) at arbeitssicherheit@uni-bielefeld.de. Distribution of masks to employees is decentralized and is to occur at the divisional level.

And now for our urgent request: wear these surgical masks or your own medical-grade masks if you come into close contact with colleagues on the job and cannot maintain social distancing of 1.5 meters. Community masks are no longer permitted in this context due to the new federal regulations. There is one more change: elevators in university buildings may only be used by one person at most, effective immediately.

The general regulations of “reduced basic operations,” which will be in effect at Bielefeld University through 14 March 2021, include the following:

  • For technical services and administration, presence at the university is to be limited to the necessary minimum. Staff in technical services and administration are to work from Home Office to the greatest extent possible.
  • Work is only to be completed on-site if the technical or official circumstances compellingly require presence (i.e. minimum staffing requirements for contingency plans).
  • All others are to work from Home Office. If this is not possible in individual cases, staff shall be on call.
  • Details are to be determined by supervisors for their respective areas.
  • Working on site at the employee's own request (when not required for official business) is no longer allowed. This is not permitted during reduced basic operations.
  • However, short-term presence on campus is permitted if needed for official business – for example, to pick up mail or documents for working from Home Office.
  • During this time, mail must be picked up and outgoing mail deposited in the mailboxes in T7; parcels will be delivered on more limited schedules.
  • As a rule, researchers must also work from Home Office. There are some areas in which this is not completely feasible (e.g. research operations). On-campus presence must be reduced, however, to a minimum. The details of this will be determined by the managers and/or work group heads for your respective area.
  • The library is only open for the purposes of checking out or returning materials. Library work stations are not available for use.
  • Service areas (e.g. Student Advising and Counselling, Information Center, and Examination Offices) can be reached by telephone, email, or other electronic means.
  • The university is closed to the public.

It is very important that you strictly follow these rules. If you can work from Home Office, then please stay at home. Reduce your presence on site at the university to an absolute minimum. This also applies for researchers.

We appreciate your understanding.

Stay healthy and be well.


Best regards,

Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer

Update of 19.01.2021 for students - Impact of lockdown (beyond 31 January 2021) on tests and examinations at Bielefeld University in February

Dear Students,

Today, Chancellor Merkel and the minister presidents of the federal states are meeting to discuss extending the lockdown beyond 31 January 2021 – and possibly also tightening it.

We are operating under the assumption that the regulations that are currently in place for institutions of higher learning in North Rhine-Westphalia will also be extended. This will have far-reaching consequences for the upcoming examination period in February. Only test and examinations qualifying for an exception are permitted to be held in presence.

Professor Dr. Birgit Lütje-Klose has taken this moment as an opportunity to share a video message with you: https://youtu.be/Vy2pHZKBNm8

Your instructors are currently looking into whether and how their tests and exams can be converted to digital formats. You will be provided with information on this topic shortly – we appreciate your patience during this time.

Our goal is to keep exam cancellations to an absolute minimum.

We will certainly keep you updated on further developments and will contact you as soon as we receive more concrete information from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The lockdown comprises a psychological burden for many people. Many students are also suffering from social distancing and some even from loneliness. If you need help with these issues, please contact the office of Student Advising and Counselling (ZSB), which has put together a special webpage that provides resources and information on who you can contact for support:  https://www.uni-bielefeld.de/einrichtungen/zsb/corona/.

Stay healthy and well.

Best regards,

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer

Rector, Bielefeld University

Update of 19.01.2021 für teaching staff - Calling on Instructors to Switch Exams to Digital Formats

Dear Instructors,

The current extended lockdown will be in force until at least 31 January 2021. We have already provided you with information on the impact of the lockdown on teaching and studying at the university.

Unfortunately, the number of infections is not declining to the extent as was hoped for, and politicians are already discussing an extension of these measures.

We therefore assume that presence-based examinations in February will still only be possible on a case-by-case basis. If this comes to pass, many exam schedules and thus thousands of students will be affected. Our students are already feeling uneasy and worried about their academic progress, or even their graduation.

Everyone – the Rectorate, the Faculties, and instructors alike – have a responsibility towards our students. You, the instructors, have done an outstanding job in the past months. The Rectorate has been proud to see how dedicated you have been, and how you managed to move your courses to distance learning in such a short period of time. You have adapted to the circumstances and designed new offerings that serve the interests of our students. These efforts were successful, as a survey from last semester attests. Our hygiene measures also proved to be effective during the past summer semester. We were optimistic that all presence-based examinations scheduled for this winter semester would be able to be held in person.

We are now being confronted with the next challenge: we must work together to prevent mass cancellation of exams without providing alternatives, as this would leave our students without their grades. Mass cancellations of exams would delay students’ progress towards their degrees and potentially cause problems for graduation or moving into a Master’s program.

There are plenty of options and formats for holding exams online. The eLearning/Media team has made digital platforms available to lecturers, and the Centre for Teaching and Learning (ZLL) is there to provide guidance in how to teach effectively using these platforms.

More information on this topic is available here:

Under the Coronavirus Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia, only a few cases will qualify for an exception for permission to hold an exam on campus; most exams will not be allowed to be held in person. There is little leeway here.

This is why we are now urgently calling on you to plan for an alternative, digital option if you have a presence-based examination scheduled in February. We recommend the “open-book” examination format. Bielefeld University, along with other universities, had good experience with this format during the summer semester. But “closed-book” formats are also possible: many exam modalities can be implemented well online using an “Safe-Exam-Browser” and exam proctoring via Zoom. Additionally, exams could be postponed into the semester break. As of today, however, we cannot say when the conditions will again allow for presence-based examinations, and whether sufficient space for examinations on campus will be available at that time.

We know that rescheduling at such short notice involves considerable effort. In addition to teaching, many of you also face the challenge of shouldering childcare responsibilities.

Staff from eLearning/Media and the ZLL are there to help with targeted guidance, training, and service. Special informational and training events can be offered to each university faculty on short notice. Beyond this, a webinar is also planned for January 26 at 10 am, where you can learn more about possible digital exam formats and see examples from last semester. Legal and didactic issues will also play a role. You will find the access data at the end of this mail.

Please get in touch early if you have any questions and also be patient if not all questions can be answered immediately. The teams of eLearning/Media and ZLL as well as from the SL department do everything possible.

Please accommodate your students as best as possible. Please understand that many students are facing a variety of problems in the current situation. Many students are suffering from social distancing, loneliness and isolation, and financial worries. Working from home is also not always optimal for distance learning, and work stations at the university are not currently available for use.

Given the situation, our common motto must be the following: give the student the benefit of the doubt.

If you are offering a digital exam, please advise your students to check out the sample digital exam provided by the eLearning/ Media team – and use it to prepare for the real exam. Experience has shown that a preparatory exam discussion with students has been very helpful – please schedule a meeting with your students in advance of the exam.

Exam proctoring for online “closed-book” exams requires more staff than would otherwise be needed in a lecture hall. We therefore want to set up a central pool of personnel and recruit administrative staff to help with online exam proctoring. Instructors can also sign up to help if there are not enough exam proctors available in their work group, department, or faculty. You will receive more information on this shortly.

We thank you for your understanding and continue to depend on your dedication.

Stay healthy and well.


Best regards,

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer, Rector

Prof. Dr. Birgit Lütje-Klose, Vice-Rector for Education and Teaching

Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor


Access data for the webinar on digital exams:


Meeting-ID: 951 3640 3841

Passwort: 464542

Schnelleinwahl mobil

+496971049922,,95136403841# Deutschland

+493056795800,,95136403841# Deutschland


The organizational order below is effective as per the emails listed on this site from Jan. 08, 2021 to Mar. 14, 2021.

Regulations for university operations during the Coronavirus pandemic at Bielefeld University

Organizational decree of 23.03.2020

Updated version of 30.11.20, valid from 01.12.2020

The university is still in a ‘university operation during the coronavirus pandemic’. This organizational decree has been updated on the basis of the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 30.11.2020, the General Order of the Ministry of Labour, Health, and Social Affairs dated 30.11.2020, and the Quarantine Ordinance NRW dated 30.11.2020. It summarizes the current measures at Bielefeld University.

All measures continue to pursue the goal of ensuring the health of students, teachers, researchers, and technical and administrative staff by interrupting the chains of infection.

In principle, and independently from the following contingency plan, the following still applies:

The university is still in a ‘university operation during the coronavirus pandemic’. This organizational decree has been updated on the basis of the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 05.11.2020, and it summarizes the current measures at Bielefeld University.

All measures continue to pursue the goal of ensuring the health of students, teachers, researchers, and technical and administrative staff by interrupting the chains of infection.

In principle, and independently from the following contingency plan, the following still applies:

  • In principle, a minimum distance of 1.5 m must be maintained between persons
  • Irrespective of compliance with the minimum distance, there is a principle obligation to wear a mouth-and-nose covering in all university buildings (exceptions are: in employees’ offices and other workplaces as long as the minimum distance is observed, persons with a medical certificate exempting them from wearing a mask, practical sports events, laboratory work, music lessons). Teachers are exempt from this obligation during their lessons provided they respect the minimum distance and ensure compliance with this. Until further notice, a mouth-and-nose covering must be worn at all student workplaces (library, university hall, gallery and bridges, seminar rooms). This also applies to outdoor courses with more than 25 persons.
  • Persons with respiratory symptoms (unless diagnosed medically as having another cause) or fever are principally not allowed to stay on the university campus.

Complete organizational decision


Additional information

General information and links

Tips for hygiene
Interview with Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Hornberg

What do we know about the coronavirus and how to avoid transmissions?

Interview with Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Hornberg, Professor of Environment and Health and founding dean of the Medical Faculty OWL

Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Hornberg
Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Hornberg

Ms Hornberg, what’s so special about the coronavirus and how dangerous is an infection?

Coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s and can infect not only humans but also various animals such as birds and mammals. It is assumed that the precursors of the novel coronavirus come from animals in the wild.

The current illnesses are caused by a new type of corona virus, with the official name "SARS-CoV-2". The respiratory disease it causes is called COVID-19.

As with other respiratory pathogens, an infection with the novel coronavirus can lead to symptoms such as coughing, a runny nose, a sore throat, and fever—just like a common cold. In patients with pre-existing conditions, the virus can take a more serious course with, for example, breathing difficulties or pneumonia. Up to now, most of the patients who have died were already suffering from chronic diseases. Currently, the proportion of deaths in which the virus has been confirmed by laboratory tests is about two percent. However, this only includes data on patients who have been treated in hospital.

How is the virus transmitted?

As far as we currently know, the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. The main transmission route is droplet infection. This can be directly person to person via the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract or also indirectly via the hands that are then brought into contact with the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose or the lining of the eyes.  Transmission is also possible if only mild or unspecific signs of disease are present. Novel coronaviruses have also been found in stool samples of some infected individuals. However, we do not yet know conclusively whether it can also be transmitted this way.

How can you personally protect yourself against an infection?

In terms of preventive health protection, it is important to adhere to the same hygiene measures that also protect against influenza (flu) infection. These are as follows:  

  • Do not shake hands
  • Regularly carry out good hand hygiene (wash your hands thoroughly with sufficient water and soap several times a day)
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands
  • Observe the coughing and sneezing etiquette (e.g. cough and sneeze into the crook of your arm, use disposable handkerchiefs)
  • if possible, keep at least 1-2 meters away from anybody who is coughing and/or sneezing.

What should people do if they are worried that they have been infected?

First of all, they need a medical examination to determine whether the suspicion of coronavirus is justified. This requires the presence of at least one of the following two constellations:

  • Acute symptoms (fever, cough, a runny nose, a sore throat, and/or infection-related breathing difficulties) or unspecific general symptoms AND contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
  • Acute symptoms (fever, cough, a runny nose, a sore throat, and/or infection-related breathing difficulties) AND having been in a risk area (www.rki.de/covid-19-risikogebiete and www.rki.de/covid-19-fallzahlen) within the last 14 days before the start of the illness.

If you suspect that you might have caught the disease, contact a doctor by telephone. Tell the doctor that you suspect that you have become infected with the new coronavirus (and, if appropriate, where you have travelled home from) and discuss what you should do next by telephone before going to a doctor's practice.

Why is there a quarantine recommendation for people who have been in risk areas or who have had clearly documented contact with sick people?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) estimates that people who have been in a coronavirus risk area or have had contact with a COVID-19 infected person in the previous 14 days are potentially infected or sick. Persons who have stayed in a risk area designated by the RKI should - even if they have no signs of illness— avoid unnecessary contact with other persons.

The aim of quarantine measures is to interrupt chains of infection and to slow down the spread of the virus as much as possible. This should provide time to find out more about the virus and treatment options, identify risk groups, prepare protective measures, and maintain treatment capacity in the clinics.

Additional links with general information

Hotline city of Bielefeld

(Supplement dated 09.03.2020)

0521 51-2000: The hotline of the city of Bielefeld can be reached under this number from Friday, 6 March, for all questions concerning the corona virus. From Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., municipal employees* will provide general information and advice on prevention. Outside service hours, the service point of the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung (Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians) is available at 116117. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Hotline Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel

(Supplement dated 03.03.2020)

Concerned citizens should please follow the nationally established structures and contact their family doctor or the public health department by telephone. A "telephone hotline" has also been set up at Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel (EvKB) for justified suspicions: Tel. 0521 772-77777. It is attainable from 8 to 16 o'clock.

Source: Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel (in German)