• Coronavirus

    disinfectant dispenser
    © Universität Bielefeld

Current Updates

Calendar week 36 / 2020

Update of 01.09.2020 for employees: New organizational decision as of 1 September 2020

Dear colleagues and members of staff,

We hope you have had a relaxing and pleasant summer break. Social interaction is still subject to a high degree of uncertainty, especially in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases. At the same time, however, our understanding of coronavirus is improving and we can use this as a basis for selectively easing restrictions—also at our university. We have taken this into account with an updated organizational decision which will be valid as of today.

As already announced, there will be no return to full presence in teaching in the winter semester 2020/2021. Teaching will have to continue in a predominantly digital format. However, as much on-site presence and interaction should be made possible as is responsible and organizationally feasible for staff and students. At present, the faculties and responsible administrative units are planning teaching activities for the coming semester according to specific criteria with great commitment. It is a challenging task for all involved.

Starting in September, service units on site will at times be open to students. The infopunkt [information centre], Studierendensekretariat [Student Office], Central Student Advisory Service (ZSB), support desk in the BITS, and the examination offices will again, to a limited extent, be open to the public. They can also still be reached online or by telephone. The university library is also expanding its services. For example, a limited number of bookable workstations will be available for students, and external users can again borrow media. Further details can be found on the respective websites.

Regular contact with colleagues, a familiar working environment, and a functioning workplace are required to be able to work effectively. This is also reflects the preference of a large number of our staff. Others, for various reasons, have to keep their risk of infection as low as possible and therefore want to avoid their university workplace and the commute to work this entails. We wish to accommodate both sides and have therefore adopted the following guidelines until further notice:

  • Up to now, academics were to work from home—if their activity allowed it. This policy is being repealed. The following now applies: those who wish to work at the university may do so again. However, the rules of distance and hygiene must then be observed.
  • The goal for the staff in technology and administration is for everyone to work on campus again, at least from time to time. In this context, the desired goal is to have half of the workforce present. The actual staffing of the organizational units is based on the respective departmental requirements and accompanying circumstances (especially the space available). Superiors are requested to make appropriate plans.

Some members of staff in the library, the departments P/O [Personnel and Organization], FM [Facility Management], F [Financial Services], and SL [Learning and Teaching], as well as the Office of Occupational Safety, Health, and Environmental Protection (AGUS), and in the laboratories/workshops have had to work on site in past months because their work could only be done at the university. Their presence was necessary to keep the university running. Another topic we would like to mention is invigilation during examinations and tests. We know that this has been difficult for one or the other and that there have also been concerns. On behalf of the university, we wish to thank these colleagues for their cooperation and dedication.

Further changes to the organizational decision concern, among other things, the holding of academic conferences and events, dealing with groups of people who are particularly in need of protection, holding work meetings (if necessary with external guests) as well as official travel and return.

According to the decision of the federal and state governments, a two-week quarantine period is required when returning from risk areas. This can only be ended by a negative test after five days. During this time the work is done from the home office. If it is not possible to perform work from home, the supervisor must first check whether the employee concerned can be temporarily assigned another suitable task. Therefore do not travel to the defined risk areas.

More staff will be here from September onwards and more students at the start of the semester, then the question of food provision will also become increasingly important. We are talking to the Studierendenwerk about this. The Studierendenwerk currently has a snack service in the cafeterias (building X, main building) and a takeaway service in the canteen. The plan is also to partially reopen the dining halls during September, subject to the approval of the health authorities. However, it is currently not clear whether there will be enough seating for everyone. Many would like to eat outside the office—also together with colleagues. But please note that you are not allowed to eat in the university hall or in public corridors, pathways, stairs, lifts, and stairways. Weather permitting, please find places outside the buildings or, after consulting with your superiors, use meeting rooms or large offices in your working areas. You must, however, observe the rules of distance. We trust you will understand the reasons for this.

Please remember to keep a distance of 1.5 m and to wear a mouth-and-nose covering in the building. Hopefully, we will then be able to prevent infections in the university.

The updated organizational decision can be found here.

Stay safe and healthy.

Best regards,

Professor Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer

Dr Stephan Becker, chancellor


Regulations for university operation during the coronavirus pandemic at Bielefeld University

Organizational decision of 23.03.2020

Updated version of 31.08.020, valid from 01.09.2020

The university is currently still in a ‘university operation during the coronavirus pandemic’. From 01.09.2020, it will gradually be opened up further while still complying with the measures and regulations in force to prevent infection chains. This organizational decree has been updated on the basis of the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance of 12.08.2020 and the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (SARS-CoV-2 ASR) of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of 10.08.2020, and it summarizes the current measures.

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

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

  1. In principle, a minimum distance of 1.5 m must be maintained between persons. In the university buildings, a mouth-and-nose covering must be worn in all public areas and in all areas in which the minimum distance cannot be maintained.
  2. 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)