• Coronavirus

    © Manuela Ewers

Current Updates

Update of 23.03.2020 for students - Coronavirus: Reduced Operations

Dear Students,

We are faced with an extreme situation that none of us have ever experienced before. It is a strain on all of us, and it also requires drastic measures for our university. We cannot rely on existing contingency plans or draw on experience for this. It means that we are constantly having to evaluate the situation for the university and make decisions under changing conditions.

On the one hand, we assume responsibility for society as a whole and take the most far-reaching measures possible to try and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. On the other hand, we see it as our mission to ensure that the university can continue to operate to the necessary extent—especially as this crisis will most likely continue for quite some time.

Important information for you: The state government has postponed the start of the semester, cancelled attendance courses and examinations until 19 April 2020, and is allowing oral examinations only in cases of hardship. As far as possible, teachers are converting their courses into a digital format so that they can continue to impart the competencies you need to complete your studies successfully. The same applies for alternative exam formats. We assume that it will not be possible for you to attend the university in person during the summer semester. However, credit points will be given as far possible for alternative study courses and exams. We shall continue to press the authorities to extend the entitlement to student grants (BAföG-Berechtigung) by one semester. The administrations of all universities and universities of applied sciences are striving actively to achieve such solutions.

We have already been responding to the crisis systematically since the end of January and have successively modified and scaled back our operations. If possible, we want to avoid closing the university completely, because this would greatly jeopardize the success of work by students and academics as well as many projects.

We believe that we have found a good way to deal with the current situation. Academics should not work on campus unless absolutely necessary. The standard workplace for staff in the service units is the home office. Where operationally necessary or technical requirements are lacking, they still work at the university, but then in individual offices.

Unfortunately, no workplaces are available for you at the university in the current situation.

The library has switched to a reduced basic service restricted to staff and students of Bielefeld University. It is only possible to borrow media that are indispensable for individual research activities or for studies provided these are not available in electronic form. Personal advice will only be provided electronically (by email, chat, or telephone). The reading areas are also closed.

All service units of the university can now be reached only by email or telephone. I ask for your understanding when all your concerns cannot be dealt with as quickly as usual. Nonetheless, contracts for student assistants and tutors will continue to be processed and issued.

The Studierendenwerk has closed the university canteen (Mensa) and the cafeterias.

We are now also closing the university buildings to the public. The main entrance to the main building and the entrance to building X at the security control centre are open. Only persons who still have to work on site or need to borrow media from the library may enter the university.

I am very much aware that the current situation is very difficult for you. You may also even be facing financial difficulties through losing your job—whether in gastronomy or trade. I am sure you have a great number of questions: What will happen with my studies? How will the situation affect my grant (BAföG) or my scholarship? What about my exams? Unfortunately, many of your questions simply cannot be answered at present. In a number of cases, we are waiting for decisions by the national or state government. However, I can assure you that with regard to anything we can regulate ourselves, we shall do everything in our power to be exceptionally fair. Nonetheless, I must ask you to be patient. We shall keep you informed about all developments.

Our goal is to carry on offering courses during this time so that the semester is not completely lost, even though we cannot work with you directly in seminars and lectures. We are already experiencing how teachers are using the opportunities provided by e-learning and how many of them also see that it offers new possibilities. Nonetheless, it cannot and will not be a complete replacement for direct teaching in lectures, seminars, and the like. In the coming semester, we shall only be able to offer you very restricted courses.

I am also aware that many of you are being very committed during this time. For example, you are organizing neighbourhood help schemes or engaging in other social activities. I find this very impressive, and it also makes me proud of you.

We hope that despite the distance and the reduction in personal contacts, we shall move closer together and that our university will be even stronger when we survive the crisis.

Thank you very much for your understanding.

The current regulations for reduced operations can be found here.

May you and your families stay healthy.

Yours sincerely,

 

Prof. Dr-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer

Rector

Update of 23.03.2020 for staff - Coronavirus: Reduced operations

Dear ladies and gentlemen, Dear colleagues,

We are faced with an extreme situation that none of us have ever experienced before. It is a strain on all of us, and it also requires drastic measures for our university. We cannot rely on existing contingency plans or experience for this. It means that we are constantly having to evaluate the situation for the university and make decisions under changing conditions.

On the one hand, we assume responsibility for society as a whole and take the most far-reaching measures possible to try and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. On the other hand, we see it as our mission to ensure that the university can continue to operate to the necessary extent—especially as this crisis will most likely continue for quite some time.

We have already been responding to the crisis systematically since the end of January and have successively modified and scaled back our operations. If possible, we want to avoid closing the university completely, because this would jeopardize the success of academic work and projects on a very large scale. If we are to defend this approach under the given circumstances, we require far-reaching regulations along with the continued cooperation of all of you.

We believe that we have found a good way to deal with the current situation. Academics should not work on campus unless absolutely necessary. The standard workplace for staff in the service units is the home office. Where operationally necessary or technical requirements are lacking, they still work at the university, but then in individual offices. We have switched to trust-based working hours here. This allows employees to organize their working hours flexibly and, for example, arrange childcare better. We would like to thank the many colleagues who are constructively supporting this change and have succeeded in implementing it in such a very short time. Meetings and committee sessions will be held via video conference. If, in exceptional cases, this is not possible, the distance and hygiene rules applicable to each contact situation must be observed.

However, there are also areas in which working from home is only partially possible. Here, domain-specific solutions are being found while minimizing social contacts. This applies particularly to professors and heads of research groups. They are responsible for their own domains and it is essential for them to adapt their working conditions to the circumstances.

If you are still working at the university, please minimize social contacts. Please only meet with a maximum of one person and then keep the minimum distance of 1.5 meters.

The library has switched to a reduced basic service restricted to employees and students of Bielefeld University. It is possible to borrow media that are indispensable for individual research activities or for studies provided these are not available in electronic form. Personal advice will only be provided electronically (by email, chat, or telephone).

The Studierendenwerk has discontinued all canteen and refreshment services. All service units of the university can now be reached only by email or telephone.

We are now also closing the university buildings to the public. The main entrance to the main building and the entrance to building X at the security control centre are open. Only persons who still have to work on site or need to borrow media from the library may enter the university.

In the current situation, we must not forget that our core task is teaching. The state government has postponed the start of the semester, cancelled attendance courses and examinations, and is allowing oral examinations only in cases of hardship. Our common goal must be to carry on teaching our students during this time so that the semester is not completely lost, even though we are prevented from working with them directly in seminars and lectures. We are already experiencing how teachers are using the opportunities provided by e-learning and how many of them also see that it offers new possibilities. Nonetheless, it cannot and will not be a complete replacement for direct teaching in lectures, seminars, and the like. We can only offer our students a very limited range of courses in the coming semester. We would like to thank all those who—both here and in many other places—are trying to solve problems and are committed to our tasks.

Some of our students are facing financial difficulties through losing their jobs—whether in gastronomy or trade. They have many questions. Unfortunately, we cannot answer all of these at the moment.

We are aware that many of you are having to cope with challenging situations in your personal environment. For example, many are worried about elderly or distant relatives with whom direct contact is currently not possible. For those of us who live alone, the restrictions designed to maximally limit contact have particularly serious consequences—this also applies to many of our international colleagues. Caring for children and relatives in need of care are also tasks that have to be rebalanced every day and are often not easy to master. We know that all these situations are additional challenges and require a lot of patience and strength from you.

We would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank you most sincerely for the great commitment you have shown in overcoming this crisis.

We also appeal to you to please act responsibly in these difficult times and find creative solutions.

We hope that despite the distance and the reduction in personal contacts, we shall move closer together and that our university will be even stronger when we survive the crisis.

The current regulations for reduced operations can be found here.

May you and your families stay healthy and overcome this crisis together.

Yours sincerely,

 

Prof. Dr-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer                                        Dr Stephan Becker

Rector                                                                                   Chancellor


Reduced operations

(supplemented on 23.03.2020)
 
The university has switched to reduced basic operation and is closed to the public. It may only be entered by students, employees or lecturers as well as freelancer staff who still have to work on site or borrow media from the library.
 
Further information on the reduced basic operation (in German, English translation will follow shortly)

Current status and regulations on the coronavirus

Information about studies

(updated on 18.03.2020)

  • In view of the dynamic development in the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Culture and Science NRW, in agreement with the universities and universities of applied sciences, has decided to postpone the start of lectures for the 2020 summer semester until April 20. The end of the lecture period will still be 17 July.
  • All current lectures and seminars (or also preliminary courses) requiring the physical presence of lecturers and students will be cancelled up to and including April 19. Lecturers are requested to conduct their courses with digital instruments (some learning) if possible.
  • According to a further decree issued by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 16 March 2020, all examinations and oral tests up to 19 April 2020 will be cancelled and postponed to a later date. Bielefeld University is making every effort to set up secure conditions for also carrying out examinations in electronic form.
  • Examination papers such as term papers, final theses, and so forth can still be submitted. Students should submit their theses by email or via the submission folder in the virtual learning area [Lernraum]. Should the examination regulations provide for the submission of a printed version, this regulation is no longer valid. In the case of final papers, an e-mail with the final paper, which corresponds fully with the printed version, must be sent to the responsible examination office as well as to the examiners. Whether practical work within the framework of Bachelor's and Master's theses can continue to take place while still observing the currently applicable hygiene regulations should be coordinated in the individual work fields.
  • University Library: Books can still be borrowed, but the reading rooms are closed. Users should use the extensive electronic services. You can find current information of the university library here.

  • All PC pools will be closed.

  • From now on and until further notice personal visits to the service units (e.g. Student Secretariat, Examination Office, Infopoint, Central Student Advisory Service, International Office, etc.) are no longer possible. Your questions and concerns can be dealt with only by e-mail or telephone.

  • All university sports events will be cancelled for the time being. The UniFit, sports hall, and swimming pool will be closed.

  • The dining halls and cafeterias of the Studierendenwerk Bielefeld will be temporarily closed from 19 March 2020 until 17 April 2020. Personal consultations are suspended for the time being. Contact should be made by e-mail and telephone. All information can be found on the website of the Studierendenwerk (in German).

Work-related and study trips and information for returning persons

Work-related and study trips

On 31 January, the Rectorate of Bielefeld University issued first recommendations and directives regarding the People's Republic of China. Because more countries and regions are now affected by the coronavirus, the University has expanded its existing prevention measures (based on the risk areas designated by the Robert Koch Institute) and is now, on 27.02.2020, announcing internal university regulations for the following countries/regions:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Iran
  • Italy - (supplement dated 10.03.2020)
  • in France: Grand Est region (this region includes Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne), (supplement dated 11.03.2020)
  • in Spain: Madrid (supplemented on 14.03.2020)
  • Austria: (supplemented on 16.03.2020)
  • Switzerland (supplemented on 14.03.2020)
  • the US states: New York, California, Washington (supplemented on 16.03.2020)
  • Egypt (supplemented on 23.03.2020)

 

Employees of Bielefeld University who are planning work-related trips to the above-mentioned countries/regions are urgently requested not to travel until further notice. Any existing travel authorizations are hereby revoked. In well-founded exceptional cases and in agreement with the university management, the following may deviate from this regulation.

Lecturers at Bielefeld University who are planning study-related trips, excursions, and so forth to the above-mentioned countries/regions are urgently requested to check the necessity of the trips and the possibility of postponing them until further notice. If necessary, the university will cover direct costs that have already been incurred or that arise from cancellations.

Students are also urgently requested to postpone planned study-related trips, excursions, and so forth to the countries/regions mentioned above and, if necessary, to contact their teachers.


(Supplement dated 09.03.2020)

In principle, official trips that are not urgently required should be cancelled. Employees should also question whether it is currently necessary to invite external persons who have to travel to Bielefeld to attend meetings or whether such invitations could possibly be postponed until a later date. In case of doubt, please consult your supervisor.

Apart from these measures, the Rectorate currently sees no reason to restrict regular work-related communication (meetings, sessions, etc.).


Information for returning persons

 

University employees (technical, administrative, and academic) who have been in the above-mentioned countries/regions for work-related or private purposes during the past 14 days must not enter the campus of Bielefeld University during the two weeks following their return. This is to minimize the risk of infection. In case of symptoms, please contact a doctor urgently (please contact the doctor's surgery in advance and do not attend the doctor’s surgery unannounced). The two-week waiting period must be observed even without symptoms of illness. University employees will not be disadvantaged by this. Even if they are unable to work from home during this period, they will still be entitled to full remuneration.

Students, third parties (e.g. external companies), and guests of Bielefeld University who have been in the above-mentioned countries/regions for study-related or private reasons in the past 14 days are also requested not to enter the campus of Bielefeld University in the two weeks after their return. Teachers are asked to be accommodating towards students who are affected by this. For those affected, solutions will be found to avoid any disadvantages (e.g. if having to take examinations).

Faculties and institutions are asked to inform affected persons who are not yet at Bielefeld University about these measures. This applies in particular to persons travelling from the above-mentioned risk areas for conferences, events, or the like.

Bielefeld University is taking these precautionary measures to protect all persons at the university. If necessary, these measures will be adapted regularly in line with the current situation, and this will be communicated accordingly.

Affected parties can register at coronavirus@uni-bielefeld.de

Workplace regulations for employees
  • We need to pay particular attention to caring for those particularly vulnerable persons for whom infection with the disease would be an incalculable life risk. For this reason, appropriate measures have been taken for the so-called high-risk groups and for pregnant women after consultation with the company doctor. They work in the home office. If this is not possible, they are released from duty until further notice.

Academics:

  • The workplaces examine the extent to which the tasks of the academic staff can be carried out from home and coordinate this assessment with the deans of their faculties. Physical presence at the university should be restricted as far as possible.
  • Academics are asked to refrain from official trips — that is, not to attend conferences and congresses at the present time. Should this result in cancellation costs, individual solutions will have to be found.

For employees in technology and administration:

  • Checking HomeOffice options
    Supervisors check the extent to which the tasks of their respective employees can be performed in the home office and agree this assessment with the management responsible for the area as a whole (department heads, deans, etc.). Consideration should also be given to forming teams that alternate between working at the university and from home. However, it is necessary to ensure that the emergency plans already made in the central administration are being followed. 
  • Trust-based working hours
    For the period from 19 March 2020 up to and including 17 April 2020 so-called "trust-based working hours" apply. This means that no bookings are made at the time recording terminals during this period. Instead, a clock-in/out correction is made daily in the SAP system ("Leave request" "Other absence" posting). This applies regardless of whether work is done in the home office or at the university. If you have already planned and, if necessary, requested leave or flextime days in the above-mentioned period, the posting is only made for the period outside the planned leave. It is also possible to take flexitime days at any time. This procedure automatically posts the individual standard working time that applies in each case. The capping of existing flextime credits is suspended once. Due to the change to trusted working time, it is then not possible to build up additional flextime credits in the above-mentioned period.
Hygiene measures and behaviour with disease symptoms

The principal recommendation is to wash your hands regularly with sufficient water and soap and to use the disinfectants provided in the washrooms and entrance areas of the university. In addition, please comply with the coughing and sneezing etiquette (cough and sneeze into the crook of your arm). Employees, lecturers, and students are also expressly asked not to shake hands and keep their distance from each other. Naturally, this should not be interpreted as unfriendliness in these cases.

Supplement dated 28.02.2020

Anyone who feels ill and experiences flu-like symptoms should contact their family doctor, and most importantly, only by telephone. The doctor will give instructions on how to proceed. This is to prevent other visitors in the waiting room from being infected. Those who are ill should avoid large and crowded gatherings out of consideration and preferably stay at home.

Source: City of Bielefeld (in German)

Events outside of teaching operations

 

  • All public events of the university will be cancelled by 30 April. This regulation applies to events that are open to people who are not studying or working at the university (e.g. public lectures). For example, the ‘Kinder-Uni’ [Children's University], which was to take place on 13, 20, and 27 March, is being cancelled.
  • All conferences and congresses planned at Bielefeld University for the summer semester are cancelled. This also applies to third-party events. This does not apply to academic working group meetings involving the participation of external academics who travel to Bielefeld University for this purpose. In this case, however, it is necessary to check whether it would be possible for guests to participate via video conference. Those responsible should carry out a risk assessment in accordance with the recommendations of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). They can also obtain advice from the Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Protection Department (AGUS; contact: coronaviraus@uni-bielefeld.de).

  • The chairpersons at all internal working sessions, meetings and committee meetings should check whether the meeting is necessary. If this is the case, the meetings should be held as video conferences. If this is not possible, the premises should be chosen in such a way that the seating distance between the participants* is as wide as possible (at least 1 metre).
    ​Session leaders should ensure that the participants register in a contact list. This information will help the health authorities to be able to contact all persons if there is any suspicion that any of the participants might have or are suffering from Covid-19.


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)