3 March 2020, by Newsroom-Redaktion
With regard to the growing number of coronavirus infections in Germany and in Hamburg, the President of Universität Hamburg Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dieter Lenzen addresses employees and students of the university.
Transcript of video:
Dear Members of the University, dear Staff, dear Students,
I speak to you today to address the currently increasing numbers of coronavirus infections in Germany and in Hamburg. After consultation with the Hamburg Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities and the other universities in Hamburg, we are obliged to take a variety of measures, which I would like to broadly describe to you now. You will receive more detailed information over the next few days.
Arrangements will affect a number of areas, but let me first talk about what our goals are. The measures we are implementing have 3 goals: The most important is to do everything we can to maintain the health of our staff and students. The second is to do our best to prevent or at least slow the spread of the coronavirus. The third goal is to achieve transparency, both internally and externally. I would also like to explain the actions to be taken.
We have developed a 5-step plan, which will be implemented according to the situation. For the moment, we are identifying specific thematic areas. The first is travel and travel restrictions. Travel is not permitted to high-risk areas which have been defined by the Robert Koch Institute and are displayed on their website. Work-related travel to these areas will not be approved. Work-related travel which passes or transits through these high-risk areas is also not permitted. We will be determining whether travel to other areas is really necessary or whether it can be postponed. This also applies to field trips which would otherwise normally take place in various subjects. People returning from high-risk areas are required to contact their supervisor before returning to the office to determine whether or not this is permissible. This also applies to all those returning from private trips to high-risk areas. Your supervisor will clarify with University leadership how they are best to proceed in such cases.
Finally, we also need to consider how we will deal with students coming from high-risk areas. As we do not know them, we are sending a separate notification specifically to students. They are asked not to come to the University on returning from high-risk areas, but to stay home for 14 days. If this means students miss lectures or seminars, this absence will not be counted against them. Attendance will be presumed as having taken place.
External visitors who have been invited by faculties or administrative departments will be treated like employees. On return or arrival from high-risk areas, they are to observe the same rules.
Finally, all areas are requested, where possible, to postpone visits from international delegations.
Another part of our measures affects those individuals who, with or without symptoms, have come to the University. This refers to people who know they have come into contact with infected persons. In this case, the local department of health must be contacted immediately. People returning from high-risk areas who do not have any symptoms are requested to observe their own health, and to contact their supervisor immediately should any symptoms emerge.
There was much discussion, also among the universities, about mandatory presence at the workplace. We presume that all areas, including all faculties and administrative departments, will make extensive use of home office arrangements. That means that where physical presence in the workplace is not specifically required, people may apply for home office, which will be approved. All areas are also encouraged to make use of telecommunications, both for teleconferences and one-to-one communication wherever possible.
The third aspect affects events at Universität Hamburg. Firstly, we require everyone conducting an event or meeting with more than 10 people present to keep participant lists. These should include the full name, department, and contact email address. Should any member of staff or student be diagnosed with the virus, we can contact the other persons who may also be affected.
Generally, events must also be assessed for necessity. Events that are absolutely essential may of course take place. External events, for example, specialist congresses, may take place only when this has been agreed between University leadership and the event organizers. Cancellation costs will be mutually clarified.
Where possible, a substitute should be planned for canceled events. This may include using electronic means of communication or postponing the event. In the name of precaution, we find it reasonable to cancel or not to schedule events planned before the end of May. We will, however, be updating this position as the situation develops.
We ask high-risk individuals who have come from high-risk areas as identified by the Robert Koch Institute and who were intending to take part in any events to please reconsider. As things stand, the summer semester will definitely commence. Should this situation change, we will inform all relevant individuals. This also applies for examinations carried out in advance of the summer semester. The cafeterias will remain open. Department heads and offices of the dean will determine if internal meetings are strictly necessary.
The fourth aspect of our plan deals with hygiene measures. We ask everyone to give their own personal hygiene the highest priority.
We know that washing hands thoroughly and often, for up to 3 minutes[b1] , is an appropriate protection against corona infection.
You should also use your elbow to cover a cough or a sneeze, and turn your head away from people when you cough. This should all be something we all do as a matter of course, but it is worth remembering now. This also applies to shaking hands. We have asked all our faculties and departments to hang signs asking people not to shake hands. Experts agree that face masks and gloves do not help prevent infection. Objects such as door handles or other frequently touched surfaces do not need to be specifically decontaminated, as viruses do not survive long on flat surfaces. This virus can barely survive on such surfaces. It is therefore not necessary to take any special measures in this regard. However, frequently used toilet facilities and other similar areas will be cleaned more often.
For any other information, please read the FAQs on our homepage. The FAQs contain links to important information which will help you better evaluate the situation.
This summarizes our main points. This is not a time to panic, but to take responsibility. For other members of the University, but also for society as a whole. We will be grateful to you if you follow these instruction and recommendations, and we are sure that if we all do our bit, the effects of this disease will be much milder than if we do nothing. So, there is no reason to panic, no reason for particular concern, but instead to take reasonable care. Apart from these concerns, I wish you all a good start to the semester in a few weeks. Thank you.