• Coronavirus

    disinfectant dispenser
    © Universität Bielefeld

Current Updates

Calendar week 13/2021

Dear students,

The current situation requires drastic measures at our university, and these also apply particularly to the field of teaching. This affects you directly, and you quite understandably have many justified questions.

In recent days, we have informed you regularly about developments and provided information on study courses and teaching during the Corona crisis on our homepage at https://uni-bielefeld.de/themen/coronavirus/studium-und-lehre/. However, much is still unresolved. As of today, the following applies: The state has postponed the start of the semester to April 20. Until then, attendance courses and written examinations have been cancelled and oral examinations can be held only in cases of hardship. The Ministry of Culture and Science, in consultation with the State Rectors’ Conferences, has now also decided to start the 2020 summer semester as a purely ‘online semester’. Your university aims to offer you a summer semester that is as full and adequate as possible starting April 20, 2020. Despite the lack of face-to-face teaching, you will be able to acquire credit points in the usual way throughout the semester. As far as possible, your lecturers will be converting their courses and examinations into digital formats. Internships, experiments, field trips, or visits to archives should be replaced by equivalent, contact-free arrangements if possible. Where this is not possible under the given conditions, courses will be postponed until the semester break or the following semester. It is not yet possible to say how far the situation may change during the course of the semester and allow us to recommence attendance courses. We shall immediately inform you and the lecturers about any changes.

A new epidemic law is currently being negotiated in the state parliament and will hopefully be passed shortly. This law will also authorize our Ministry of Science to take the necessary decisions in the current crisis situation. Universities and the Ministry have agreed that the standard length of study for currently enrolled students should be extended by one semester. We are waiting for a decision by the federal government on BAföG and child benefit entitlements. The universities of North Rhine-Westphalia have been advocating this strongly, and we assume that we shall soon receive corresponding decisions. To the best of our knowledge, the Ministry will also soon be issuing new regulations so that examinations can be carried out in a manner adapted to the present situation. You can be sure that we shall keep your legitimate concerns in mind during all this.

Your lecturers are planning to deliver their courses in distance learning formats for the coming summer semester, and they will offer alternative forms for taking examinations. They will do their best to offer you good courses during the time you are not allowed to attend face-to-face lectures so that you can continue to acquire the competencies you need to complete your studies successfully.

The lecturers all want to return to direct communication with you in the seminar room, laboratory, or lecture hall as soon as possible. They want to exchange ideas and discuss them with you directly. At the moment, however, they are having to turn to digital tools and develop other teaching concepts. We also ask for your understanding and patience here should anything not always work perfectly straight away. Your lecturers are highly committed, but they are also often breaking new ground.

We can assure you that everyone—in the faculties, in the administration, and also in the responsible Ministry—is working flat out to get the necessary regulations in place. Everyone is aware of how uncertain the situation is for you at the moment, and how much you are worried about how your studies will continue. As soon as the major decisions have been made, we shall be able to address your individual questions. The Rectorate wants to remain in close dialogue with you. Therefore, we are planning to set up a livestream at the beginning of the semester in order to answer frequent questions. We invite you to submit questions in advance. We shall be able to tell you shortly how and until when you can do this via the university's mailing list and social media channels.

Naturally, your contact persons in the faculties, in the Student Secretariat, and in the Central Student Advisory Office are available to advise you.

Please stay healthy.

With kind regards,

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer Prof. Dr Birgit Lütje-Klose

Rector Vice Rector for Studies and Teaching

Dear Instructors,

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to massively impact societal life and our ability to be together. Unfortunately, university operations are also still affected by this.

The 2021 Summer Semester will soon begin, but we will not be able to return to our usual ways of teaching and studying on campus: the upcoming semester will also be an online semester. In accordance with the Corona Protection Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia and the General Order governing teaching and examination procedures, only certain courses, such as lab practicals, sport practicals, and art courses are allowed to be held in person at this time. We had hoped for things to be different, and had created a collection of key points to facilitate teaching and examinations during the 2021 Summer Semester. Nevertheless, Zoom meetings will continue to be the rule. We do regret this. That said, Bielefeld University and its facilities, and above all our instructors, are well prepared for this third online semester thanks to the hard work you put in during the previous semesters. There were a few cases in which instructors experienced serious incidents in their online courses that had to be reported to the police. Concrete suggestions on how you can prevent disruptive incidents should you find yourself in such a situation can be found here:   https://www.uni-bielefeld.de/themen/campus-support/zoom/moderieren/sicherheit-im-meeting/. If you experience a serious incident during your online course, please report it to the Department for University Study and Teaching.

Many of you are probably wondering whether the situation might change during the semester to allow for courses to be moved from online to in-person instruction. University deans and the deans of studies, instructors, and representatives from the student body in particular have urged us to be concrete and reliable in our planning. Switching from online to in-person instruction in the midst of the semester could cause problems for many students, some of whom might not be living in Bielefeld or for those whose work schedules will not allow them to attend in-person courses. Switching delivery on short notice from online to in-person teaching would also entail a great deal of extra didactic and organizational work for instructors.

If you have not already done so, we must now request that you reschedule any hybrid courses you may still be planning to now be held fully online (see above for exceptions). Please document and communicate your course scheduling to students via eKVV. This decision was not easy for us, as we know how important personal, direct exchange between instructors and students is. We do therefore consider it important (and reasonable) to be able to hold individual courses on site during the 2021 Summer Semester if the infection rate allows for it and if both instructors and students agree to it. The Corona Regulations for the 2021 Summer Semester from the Rectorate are available here: https://uni-bielefeld.de/themen/pruefungsrecht/coronavirus/Corona-Ordnung-SoSe-21.pdf.

Another pressing issue is the use of work stations for students at the university. Current state regulations essentially allow for these to be used again with certain limitations, but the city of Bielefeld now falls under the so-called “emergency brakes policy.” This means that student work stations are not available until further notice.

Unfortunately, we also have to restrict access to the university library again. Books and other materials must be reserved online and can then be picked up on site. More information is available here: https://www.ub.uni-bielefeld.de/ub/coronavirus/.

One way to responsibly begin reopening despite the critical infection rates is to massively expand testing. Together with a specialist provider, the city of Bielefeld will be opening a community test center in the university cafeteria on our campus after the Easter holidays. We are encouraging our students and instructors, as residents of our city, to regularly get tested here, as well as at other test locations. Free testing is available once a week. In addition to this, Bielefeld University will also be providing Coronavirus self-tests to staff members at least once a week; self-tests can also be performed at the test center (more information soon to follow). For students who have to be present on campus for part of their studies, such as for laboratory work in the natural sciences or for sports courses, the university is also planning to provide Coronavirus self-tests, which can also be performed under professional guidance. The use of this self-testing option is voluntary but strongly recommended. Instructors will receive the necessary information on this from their faculty.

Despite these challenges, we hope that you have a rewarding lecture period. We will let you know of all additional measures and rules as they arise. Stay healthy and well, and be optimistic!

With best regards,

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer, Rector

Dr. Stephan Becker, Chancellor

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


Regulations for university operations during the Coronavirus pandemic at Bielefeld University

Organizational decree dated 23 March 2020

Updated version dated 10 March 2021, in force from 15 March 2021

This Organizational Degree has been updated on the basis of the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 5 March 2021; the General Order of the Ministry of Labour, Health, and Social Affairs dated 5 March 2021; the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance dated 21 January 2021; the Coronavirus Ordinance on Travel Entry from 8 March 2021; and the Quarantine Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 12 February 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.

Complete organizational decision

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 (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.

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)