In response to developments in the spread of the coronavirus, Bielefeld University has been operating in reduced basic mode since Monday, 23 April 2020. The idea is to take the most far-reaching measures possible to reduce the risk of transmission while simultaneously ensuring that the university can continue to operate on a necessary level. The present decree summarizes some of the existing regulations (contingency plan) once again while supplementing them with the occupational safety standards of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. All measures pursue the goal of protecting the health of employees, teachers, researchers, and students by interrupting the chains of infection.
Basically, and independently from the following contingency plan, the following applies:
Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, the crisis team at Bielefeld University headed by the Chancellor has been planning and coordinating the implementation of additional infection control measures, checking the effectiveness of these measures, and coordinating with interest groups.
The Vice-rector for Education and Teaching and the Head of the Department of Education and Teaching are responsible for developing and coordinating the measures for education and teaching together with the Deans of Studies.
Managers are responsible for implementing these measures in their respective areas of responsibility and must inform and instruct their employees about them.
Summer Semester—Online Semester
The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, together with the State Rectors’ Conferences of the Universities, Universities of Applied Sciences (HAW), and the Universities of Art and Music, has decided that the current summer semester will begin initially as a pure ‘online semester’ starting 20 April. To this end, teachers are converting their courses and examinations to digital formats as far as possible.
Events and meetings
In accordance with the Ordinance on protecting against re-infection with the coronavirus SARS-
CoV-2 (Corona Protection Ordinance) of 16 April 2020, in the currently valid version of 27 April 2020, universities are still not allowed to hold onsite events and meetings (see below for exceptions regarding teaching and examinations). Such events and meetings are characterized by having a certain structure and organization, an organizer or director, and a framework. Hence, this means that, for example, committee meetings, conferences, and further training sessions are not permitted onsite.
Exception for teaching and onsite events
The Corona Protection Ordinance and the general decree of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of 23 April 2020 currently permit only teaching and practical courses that cannot be held online and therefore must be held onsite because they require special rooms, equipment, or other special conditions (e.g. laboratories, workrooms, sound studios, or artistic coaching). However, the number of participants must not exceed 20 and all relevant safety regulations and hygiene rules together with the minimum interpersonal distance of 1.5 metres must be observed. The same applies to research within the framework of bachelor and master theses. For the prerequisites, see below ("Requirements for exceptions")
Exception for oral and written examinations
The Corona Protection Ordinance and the general decree of the Ministry of Labour, Health, and Social Affairs currently permit only oral and written onsite examinations that cannot be conducted online. However, it must be ensured that no groups of people form at the beginning and end of the examination and that all relevant safety regulations and hygiene rules are observed including the minimum distance of 1.5 metres—also in passages and hallways. For the prerequisites, see below ("Requirements for exceptions")
Requirements for exceptions
These onsite events along with oral and written examinations that are permissible in exceptional cases require an application in advance to the AGUS staff unit and subsequent approval. The AGUS staff unit will provide advice and control whether the safety regulations and hygiene rules can be observed. In particular, a hygiene protection concept must be drawn up and agreed. Measures (hygiene protection concept) are coordinated with the public health department [Gesundheitsamt] and have to be approved by the chancellor.
Students who cannot take part in courses / examinations due to relevant previous illnesses should be offered alternative forms of courses.
Examination work such as term papers, final papers, and the like can still be submitted. Students should submit their papers by email or via the submission folder in the learning room [Lernraum]. Any examination regulations requiring the submission of a printed version are currently suspended. In the case of final papers, an email containing the final paper in a form corresponding to the printed version must be sent to the responsible examination office as well as to the examiners. Students are requested to meet deadlines for the submission of study and examination papers (especially theses) as far as possible at least in electronic form. Teachers are requested to offer generous deadlines.
All service units are closed to the public until further notice. They can be reached by telephone or email.
The library has switched to providing a reduced basic service for students, employees, or lecturers and temporary lecturers at Bielefeld University.
The reduced opening hours are: Monday to Friday: 10.00 to 16.00; Saturday and Sunday and public holidays: closed.
Media that are absolutely necessary for individual teaching and research activities or for student work can be borrowed, but only if not available electronically. Individual and group workstations may no longer be used, but the short-term (!) use of the public PC workstations is still permitted—for example, to search in the Katalog.plus.
Only the main library entrances D1 and U1 in the main university building and the specialist libraries in Building X are open. There will be a visitor registration (§ 4 Corona Protection Ordinance of 16.04.2020). For this purpose, visitors must present their library card or UniCard. The Central Lending Department is closed. The self-service terminals should be used to borrow and return media. When in the library, it is obligatory in all public areas to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose.
Only electronic personal information services are available (by email, chat, or telephone). All loan periods are being handled generously. The University Library provides information about the details on its website:
Until further notice, technical and administrative staff are working in their home offices as far as possible. Work at the university is being carried out only as far as technical or official circumstances require an onsite presence (minimum standard of staffing in the sense of a contingency plan). In exceptional cases, employees can work at a university workplace in consultation with their superiors if this is desired due to the domestic situation (e.g. not being able to provide an adequate workplace, high noise levels, etc.). The management of departments and organizational units organize the necessary or desired attendances in such a way that longer personal contacts of employees are avoided if possible. Measures to ensure this include working with alternating teams or entering names in advance attendance lists. Workplace regulations must be observed (see Point IV below).
In agreement with the staff councils, the university has switched to trust-based working hours. This regulation is initially valid up to and including August 31, 2020.
Persons whose work is not covered by this contingency plan but who are unable to carry out their tasks in home office are not exempted from work but are on ‘on-call duty’ at home. All employees are asked to reduce their flexitime credits and/or take their remaining leave from 2019 if possible as their workload decreases.
In particular, fever, coughing, shortness of breath, as well as a loss of smell and taste can be signs of an infection with the coronavirus.
Employees with such symptoms are requested to either stay at home or leave the university premises immediately. Until symptoms have been clarified medically, an employee is assumed to be unfit for work. The managers must be informed of the incapacity for work as usual. The managers shall forward the information regarding the suspected case to the e-mail address email@example.com. Persons concerned should immediately contact a doctor or the public health authorities by telephone for clarification. If the suspicion is confirmed, the employee concerned is asked to either send the relevant information to the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or to ask the responsible manager to do so. In the case of confirmed cases of infection, the university will (in addition to the information provided by the public health department) identify and inform those persons for whom there is also a risk of infection through contact with the infected person.
The pandemic situation imposes a far-reaching and special duty of care for university employees. Therefore, special regulations for the protection of employees are in place that reflect the current state of knowledge. These regulations apply until further notice. Information about follow-up regulations will be provided.
Particularly in the case of certain basic diseases (risk groups according to the specifications of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)), there is - irrespective of age - a fundamental increased risk of a serious course of disease in the case of an infection with the corona virus (COVID-19). For this group of people, special protection is generally necessary. In addition, Bielefeld University distinguishes between high-risk groups (persons with a serious basic disease) and other risk groups according to RKI (basic diseases and/or advanced age) under the aspect of special care. Employees with serious underlying illnesses, who thus belong to the high-risk group, work exclusively and without exception in the home office for reasons of care.Working on university premises is prohibited until further notice.
Persons who do not belong to the high-risk group but who have underlying chronic diseases and are therefore assigned to the risk group can, under some circumstances, decide whether they wish to work in the university premises after consulting a doctor to determine whether this could constitute a health hazard. In this case, working on university premises is permissible in consultation with their management and in strict compliance with safety standards.
Anyone who belongs to a (high)/risk group or suspects that they do, can obtain appropriate proof from a doctor (including the university's company medical service) and forward this to the P/O department via their responsible manager (scan/photocopy is sufficient). For reasons of data protection, the type of previous illness is not to be indicated.
Similarly, employees who are looking after relatives in need of care with underlying illnesses (risk group according to RKI) in their home environment cannot be assigned to work on university premises.
Here, proof of care for a chronically sick relative should be provided through a written declaration to P/O department with prior notification of the responsible manager. To protect personal data, this declaration should not state the nature of the relative’s chronic disease.
Official travel should be reduced to the absolute minimum, and technical alternatives such as telephone or video conferences should be used as far as possible. If official travel is absolutely necessary, the appropriate protective measures must be taken—for example, if possible, travel to and from the place of work by car rather than by public transport and maintain sufficient distance from other people at the external workplace.
Working meetings/discussions should always be held in digital form or by telephone. If, in exceptional cases, a discussion has to be held onsite, its duration must be limited to the shortest amount of time absolutely necessary. In addition, it must be ensured that the size of the room is sufficient to maintain a safety distance of at least 1.5 m throughout together with good ventilation (open windows). If the safety distance of at least 1.5 m cannot be maintained safely, a mask covering the mouth and nose must be worn.
According to the current Corona Entry Regulation, persons who have been abroad for more than 72 hours must proceed directly to a 14-day domestic quarantine after entering the state of NRW and inform the local health authority about their previous stay abroad. This means that these persons can start work only in home office. Employees who are subject to the above-mentioned regulation must also report immediately to their responsible manager and at email@example.com after returning from abroad.
The buildings will remain closed to the public until further notice. However, they are open to persons covered by the aforementioned regulations for operating in reduced basic mode including permitted teaching and examinations. Access is also permitted for persons who have to be present at the university for operational reasons or who are present for previously agreed reasons (e.g. by invitation). The main entrance to the main building and the entrance to Building X at the security control centre are open.
A sufficient distance of at least 1.5 metres to colleagues must be maintained even for shorter personal contacts. Employees are requested not to gather in groups.
Offices and social lounges with an area of up to approximately 20 square metres are to be used by one single person only (the area corresponds to a typical office room).
For laboratory work (laboratory workstations with technical ventilation, fume hoods, weighing chambers, large equipment, etc.), the general and customary laboratory hygiene rules must be observed. A distance of 1.5 metres from colleagues must also be maintained here. Laboratory workstations must be set up accordingly (e.g. no shared use of laboratory benches).
The rooms used must be ventilated regularly. Ventilation reduces the number of fine droplets containing pathogens that may be present in the air. The following guideline applies to ventilation: length of brief intensive ventilations: 3–10 minutes after 60 minutes in an office; after 20 minutes in meeting rooms. Length (doors and windows open simultaneously) according to season: summer: 10 minutes, spring/autumn: 5 minutes, winter (outside temperature < 6°C) 3 minutes.
Transparent screens are to be installed in areas in which staff have to deal with the public (consultation with AGUS).
In those areas in which the above-mentioned work organization measures are not possible, alternative protective measures must be introduced. To develop alternative protective measures, please contact the AGUS staff unit directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tools and work equipment are to be used on an individual basis wherever possible. Where this is not possible, regular cleaning must be provided, especially before handing over to other persons. Otherwise, suitable protective gloves must be worn when using the tools, provided that this does not result in additional hazards (e.g. getting caught up in rotating parts). Here, limits on wearing time and an employee’s individual disposition (e.g. allergies) must be taken into account.
When using public areas on the university campus (e.g. stairs, doors, university hall, public areas of the library, corridors) where it may not be possible to maintain sufficient distance or when using areas in which experience shows that people congregate (tool and material stores, washrooms, changing rooms, elevators, etc.), it is mandatory to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose. The obligation also applies to areas in which a separate hygiene protection concept has identified the need to wear a mouth-nose cover.
Basically, the following applies: the safety distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained—even when wearing a mask covering the mouth and nose.
Personal protective equipment and masks are exclusively for individual use! (Reusable) Masks must be taken home after work (do not leave them out at the workplace). This does not apply to special areas such as genetic engineering facilities. Liquid soap, towel dispensers, and disinfectants are available for cleaning the hands.