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The number of people infected with COVID-19 is rising sharply again. Now that autumn has arrived, the pandemic situation is expected to intensify once more. According to the current Hygiene and Infectious Disease Concept, staff and students are subject to different rules for wearing surgical masks. The Vice-Rector for Talent Development: Study and Teaching, Professor Roger Gläser, talks about why this is – and whether the semester could turn digital.

Some 7000 new students have just enrolled. The University’s hygiene rules stipulate that they and other students must wear masks in seminar rooms and lecture halls. Staff, on the other hand, do not have to wear masks. Why this difference?

For legal reasons, it was not possible to generally compel all members of staff to wear masks. However, the Hygiene and Infectious Disease Concept still strongly recommends that they do so anyway. Since we, as a university, also have a legal duty of care under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (ArbSchG) for our students, all hygiene measures are coordinated with the responsible state authorities for occupational health and safety, the staff medical officers and our occupational safety specialists. In addition, by making masks compulsory for students, we are acknowledging the express wish of the representatives of the Student Council on the University’s crisis management team. Last but not least, by wearing masks, we all work together to create safe conditions in teaching for fellow students and employees who belong to vulnerable groups and cannot adequately protect themselves.

What else can staff and students do to protect themselves against COVID?

Particularly now that the cooler months have arrived and infection levels have begun to spike, it is again important to keep a minimum distance from other people and to wear a protective mask as a preventive measure in shops or when meeting in larger groups of people. We also recommend checking your vaccination status together with your family doctor and booking a booster jab if necessary. And, of course, it is important to follow the basic hygiene rules for washing your hands and when sneezing.

How likely do you think it is that this winter semester will remain an in-person semester?

There are no indications or requirements that suggest a restriction of campus life at this time. Our protective measures, in particular the wearing of a protective masks in rooms used for teaching purposes, are effective and efficient.