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© Universität Bielefeld

Current Updates

Calendar week 20 / 2021

Dear Students, dear Instructors,

As of today, the new Infection Protection Act of the federal government is now in force. With this law, postsecondary institutions are placed on equal footing with primary and secondary schools. Under a narrow interpretation of this act in which defined thresholds are reached, teaching and studying activities at our university would be impacted accordingly (e.g. impacting courses currently permitted to be held in person, such as laboratory practicals and sports classes, or use of the library). Institutions of higher learning are in close communication with the federal state government of North Rhine-Westphalia to determine what options remain for universities when it comes to their teaching operations and studying activities. The goal here is allow for the courses that are currently permitted to be held in person to continue.

Another difficulty here is that the rates of infection in Bielefeld have been fluctuating around the new threshold limits. The situation is therefore not clear at the moment.

The federal government of North Rhine-Westphalia has announced that provisions clarifying these issues for institutions of higher learning will be announced next week. We are therefore asking for your patience. We will let you know as soon as we have more information.

Until then, the current regulations will continue to apply. This also applies to upcoming examinations and the library.

Please note that students taking part in currently permitted in-person courses, e.g. natural science lab practicals, sports classes, will be required to undergo Coronavirus testing as a precondition of attendance starting next week. This also applies to students who are working in labs for their thesis research. Students for whom this applies will be provided more information on the new regulations directly by their instructors and faculties.

We thank you for your understanding.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer, Rector

Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor

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

Dear Instructors,

The desire for greater “normalcy” and a return to more presence-based teaching is palpable. Many of you have shared with us how much you miss the social contact and face-to-face interaction with students. We can understand this very well. Nevertheless, we will have to finish this current semester largely in digital form. It is our impression that you have been carrying out your work online in a conscientious and professional manner, one that is oriented in the service of your students. For this, we thank you again very much. Today, we would like to bring you up to date on the current situation and provide you with a sense of orientation, particularly surrounding the examination period.

For the 2021 Summer Semester, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has again made slight adjustments to framework regulations governing university operations as defined in the current versions of the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance and the General Order governing teaching and examination procedures.

  • In general, the following still applies: during the 2021 Summer Semester, university courses will continue to be held largely online. Presence-based courses are possible on the basis of exception for those that require special facilities or equipment, or fall under other framework conditions. Examples include laboratory practicals, sports courses, and music courses.
  • What is new is that the General Order now explicitly allows for individual face-to-face courses to be held for “first-semester” students from the previous 2020/21 Winter Semester as well as for first-semester students in the current 2021 Summer Semester. Additionally, in-person courses can also be held for students who are about to finish their studies. The prerequisite here for in-person courses is that no suitable online formats are available. Taking into account these regulations and space constraints, instructors may offer presence-based course formats for these students – provided that this is agreed upon with seminar/course participants. A maximum of 50 course participants is allowed, and hygiene regulations must be observed in compliance with hygiene policies.
  • Students attending in-person courses permitted by exception must provide instructors with proof of a negative Coronavirus rapid test or a self-declaration that an appropriate rapid test was taken at home in order to attend these classes. For this, students can take free public Coronavirus tests at the campus testing center. Proof of immunization is considered equivalent to a negative test result (immunity is defined as recovery from previous infection attested by a positive Coronavirus test, or two weeks after receiving the second dose of the vaccine),
  • It is still possible to carry out research activities on campus for Bachelor’s/Master’s theses as part of laboratory working groups. Testing is also required for this.
  • Looking ahead to the examination period for the 2021 Summer Semester, the General Order now stipulates that examinations may be conducted in presence if they cannot be held otherwise (e.g. online) for legal or practical reasons. The regulation states that “Practical reasons for an in-person examination could arise from organizational issues, for example, if an examination cannot be otherwise held due to space or staffing constraints.”
  • For examinations, we are operating under the assumption that if the number of test-takers exceeds 150, organizational and/or staffing reasons may speak against conducting a digital closed-book examination, thus allowing an in-person examination to be held. In-person exams are also allowed in cases where postponement would result in unreasonable hardship for the student (e.g. considerable delay in their progress in their degree program). Bielefeld University has once again rented off-site rooms for in-person examinations in addition to the existing lecture halls and sports center. The availability of such sufficiently large rooms, however, is limited. We therefore request the following: if possible, please hold your oral and written exams in the 2021 Summer Semester as online exams using the previously established formats (open-book, closed-book). Many of you have already successfully used these formats in the past semesters. Information on holding exams online is available at
  • In order to hold an in-person examination, the above-mentioned prerequisites must be fulfilled and documented. Discuss this with your dean or dean of studies, and let your students know as soon as possible. If you have any questions, your colleagues at the Department for University Study and Teaching are available to help.
  • There is no requirement to present a negative Coronavirus test result to participate in examinations, as there is no legal basis for this in the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance. Nevertheless, we encourage all students to get tested at the campus testing center before taking an in-person exam. Ultimately, we are all responsible for a safe and healthy community. Instructors should also get tested – unless you are fully vaccinated or recovered. Since there is no required testing, test results do not need to be provided by students or controlled for by instructors before an in-person exam.
  • For permitted in-person examinations, the established sign-in and registration procedure (participant lists in eKVV) is to be used, i.e. with individually assigned seats and without a QR code.
  • Since the 17th of May, approximately 550 individual, computer, and video conferencing work stations have again been available at the University Library. Current opening hours are Monday–Friday from 9am – 4pm. Starting on the 7th of June, hours are planned to be extended to 8am – 8pm. To use library workstations, a current, negative Coronavirus rapid test result or proof of completed vaccination/recovery is required. Some faculties are also preparing faculty rooms to be used as student workstations. More information is available here:

At this point, you are probably also wondering what to expect for the 2021/22 Winter Semester. Unfortunately, we are not yet able to provide you with concrete information on this. We anticipate that progress in vaccinations and the convenient options for rapid testing will allow our campus to open up and significantly increase the amount of in-person teaching possible. This, however, depends on many factors that we cannot directly control. For this reason, we again ask for your patience. In the interest of our instructors and students, our goal is to provide you with a clear sense of direction and dependability in planning as soon as possible.

We will let you know of any changes and developments as they arise.

With kind regards,

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer, Rector

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

Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor


Organizational decree dated 23 March 2020

Updated version dated 22 April 2021, in force from 16 April 2021

Bielefeld University continues to be in a state of “university operations during the Coronavirus pandemic.”

In response to legal requirements and in regard to the spread of Coronavirus and associated rising incidence levels, the University has returned to “reduced basic operations” as of 21 April 2021.

This Organizational Degree has been updated on the basis of the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 19 April 2021; the General Order of the Ministry of Labour, Health, and Social Affairs dated 31 March 2021; the third SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance (draft bill dated 19 April 2021; the Coronavirus Ordinance on Travel Entry from 17 April 2021; and the Corona Testing and Quarantine Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 11 April 2021. This Organizational Decree summarizes the current measures at Bielefeld University.

All measures continue to pursue the goal of safeguarding the health of students, instructors, researchers, and technical and administrative staff.

In principle, and independent of the following contingency plan, the following still applies:

  • A minimum of 1.5 meters social distancing must be maintained between all individuals.
  • The only exceptions to observing minimum social distancing requirements include e.g. mandatory meetings for professional or educational purposes.
  • In addition to the requirement to maintain social distancing, wearing a face mask is also required in all university buildings. (Exceptions include wearing a mask in staff offices and other workplaces provided that adequate social distancing is observed and for individuals with a medical certificate exempting them from wearing a mask.) At permitted courses and examinations held in person for students, wearing a medical-grade mask is required of all those in attendance even if social distancing is maintained. (Exceptions exist for individuals with a medical certificate exempting them from wearing a mask, practical sport courses, laboratory activities, and music instruction). Wearing a medical-grade mask is also required when going to the library (e.g. students/researchers/external visitors).
  • Wearing a high-quality mask (surgical mask or an FFP2 mask) is required in work settings in which social distancing of at least 1.5 meters cannot be maintained between individuals, or if other protective measures (such as appropriate partitioning with Plexiglass) are not available (see point IV.3).
  • Individuals with respiratory symptoms or fever (unless medically cleared as having another etiology) are as a rule not allowed on the university campus.
  • Bielefeld University is offering two free Corona rapid tests per week to all employees. Testing can take place once a week at the campus testing center (located in the cafeteria of Building X). At the campus testing center, staff members can also pick up another rapid test for home use. Staff members includes all individuals employed by the university (salaried employees, civil servants, support staff). Use of Coronavirus rapid tests is voluntary and is not a prerequisite for on-site presence. The University strongly encourages all employees to take advantage of these testing opportunities.
  • Individuals fully protected by vaccination (i.e. after receiving second vaccination) may in principle return to working on site (see Section III.3 for details).

Additional information

General information and links

Tips for hygiene

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 ( and 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.

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 (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)

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