Coronavirus: Information for researchers

In General

  • The general rules of hygiene are to be observed.
  • Masks must be worn indoors.
  • From 20 December 2021, an obligation to work from home applies to the whole of Switzerland. If working from home is not possible, the presence at the workplace must be arranged in consultation with the superior.
  • Meetings can be conducted in person if all participants have a Covid certificate and maintain the distance of 1.50 meters. In this case, wearing a mask is not required. Discussions, meetings, etc. cannot be attended in person without a valid certificate.
  • Meetings should be held virtually wherever reasonable or possible. They can only be conducted in person if all participants have a certificate, wear masks and maintain the distance of 1.50 meters.
  • An area of at least 10 square meters per person per occupied workstation must be guaranteed.
  • A distance of 1.5 meters is to be maintained between two occupied workstations.
  • If, in exceptional cases, this distance is not achieved, the workplaces are to be moved accordingly, or head-high partition elements, movable walls or something similar are to be installed.
  • Each room with more than one employee present must be ventilated for 5-10 minutes every hour, where possible.
  • The ticketing system will continue uninterrupted.
  • Units will arrange emergency plans for the supply of animals in case of a shortage in the supply of animals (including weekends and holidays).
  • The planning of experiments is to be designed in such a way that in case of a "worst case scenario", meaning a complete lock-down of public life (restrictions of public transport, curfews), the stock of animals kept can be sustained with a minimum of personnel.
  • Borrowing books and taking them with you is to be preferred.
  • When this is not possible, the library's protection concept is to be followed (maximum number of workstations, distance regulations, ...).
  • The protective measures in public spaces of the Canton of Bern apply (also for work outside the Cantonal borders).

The University Executive Board is aware and concerned that the effects of the current situation on early career researchers can be challenging and also wearing / stressful in a variety of ways. Together with the institutes and faculties, the Executive Board is prepared to contribute to appropriate solutions for relevant problems. In particular, proven delays in the research project due to Covid-19 will be accepted by the Executive Board as a reason for the extension of an employment contract beyond the maximum period of employment if this has been agreed with the institutes and faculties involved as a purposeful solution.

It should be avoided that ongoing qualification work (doctorates, habilitations) cannot be completed due to the restrictions. The respective supervisors are responsible and the first points of contact, who discuss the situation on an individual basis with the early career researchers as part of the status review meetings and make appropriate amendments to the doctoral, postdoc or MAG agreements. In particular, it should be taken into account that persons with care obligations or other difficult personal constellations may have been or still are severely restricted in research and publication activities. Here it is important to look for individual solutions and to react flexibly to changing needs within the research team. Solutions are primarily sought within the institutes/research groups, or if need be within the faculties.

If employment term extensions are necessary, the superiors/supervisors will initiate this through ordinary proceedings (extensions beyond the maximum employment term are to be submitted in the usual way to the Executive Board of the University of Bern). 

The principle of subsidiarity shall apply if there are difficulties with financing employment extensions.  A request for funding may be made to the Executive Board only if sufficient grounds and justification can be provided as to why no alternative solution could be found, and if it can be proven why other funding options are not, or only partially, possible. The Executive Board of the University of Bern is providing a specific tool (“Tool to Record the Negative Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis on Early Career Researchers”) with such cases in mind. The tool was adopted at the Executive Board meeting of December 15, 2020 and is disposable for download on the internal space of the website of the University [intern > Dienstleistungen > Forschung > Covid-19 Härtefälle]. The exact procedure is described in the introduction to the tool. Junior researchers must contact their superiors/supervisors for an application.

You can find advice at the following contact points

Business and private trips

The situation for travel activities is currently rather unclear and can change at any time. Non-essential travel is therefore not recommended. You can find further information on this here.

Protection concept

The University of Bern provides a 4-stage, risk-adapted protection concept for research institutions, which consists of a combination of general and specific measures.

  • Getting to work: In public transport, wearing a mask is compulsory.
  • Social distancing: Social distancing still applies. This has an impact on the number of people permitted per room. The following currently applies: 1.5 m distance in the working area and at least 4 m2 per employee in closed rooms.
  • Masks must be worn in buildings. Masks do not have to be worn in the workplace if no one else is in the same room.
  • Hygiene measures: Washing and sanitizing hands after contact, touching door handles and surfaces and after using toilets is an important protective measure.
  • Laboratories and other open research institutes must provide employees with hand sanitizers and, if possible, skin protection products.
  • Protecting vulnerable people: The top priority is the protection of health, particularly with people at especially high risk. In case of doubt, individual medical risk assessments should be obtained for potentially vulnerable people.
  • The crisis management team still recommends dividing researchers into shifts or into teams working strictly separately from each other (decoupling of shifts), especially in cases where tight space restrictions make it difficult to observe the distance rules.
  • Overview regarding research activity: The ticketing system for the approval of general research projects will cease to apply on July 1, 2020. Existing "tickets" are being transferred to project lists, which must be updated by the institutes/departments. The institute directors are responsible for updating project lists correctly. These contain information about the people involved, the activities carried out and the basic nature of the project. In the event of a situation requiring new measures to control the spread of the virus, these lists form the basis for the coordination of any measures that the crisis management team would have to take. Updated project lists shall be made available to the crisis management team within 12 hours on request. 
  • For in vivo experiments the ticketing system still applies and the Experimental Animal Centre (EAC) remains the responsible approvals authority (internal link). A cautious strategy is particularly required in this area to prevent any "ups and downs" in case of setbacks. People with responsibilities in this area will remain in contact with the EAC.
  • Each research institution designates and reports changes in the existing safety arrangements (in german) (health protection and safety officer GeSiBe list) to the Risk Management Office through the dean's office. As a rule, one health protection and safety officer GeSiBe (with deputy function) is appointed per university unit. In the case of more complex institutions in different properties, the managing directors must appoint additional contact persons for occupational safety (KOPAS) for clearly defined rooms.
  • The GeSiBe are authorized on behalf of the managing directors to ensure compliance with this protection concept and have the right to issue instructions in this regard.
  • The University offers free PCR testing with advance registration for students and employees with a Unicard. They can be tested at three different locations in Länggasse. Further information is available here.
  • In the event of a confirmed Sars-Cov-2 infection, the measures set forth by the FOPH will be followed, which will be provided by a doctor.

Safety arrangements

The institute directors and heads of department are responsible for occupational safety, health protection and environmental safety in their unit and have a health protection and safety officer (GeSiBe) at their disposal.

Depending on the size of the university unit, the directorates will appoint additional contact persons for occupational safety (KOPAS). Accordingly, they will define job descriptions for the GeSiBe or KOPAS, entrust a person suitable for the performance of the function with the corresponding tasks and competencies and grant sufficient time, financial and other resources to enable implementation of this task.

It should be noted that responsibility in the areas of occupational safety, health protection and environmental safety is necessarily the responsibility of the institute's management or the head of department and cannot be transferred to the GeSiBe or KOPAS. Corresponding information can also be found in the guidelines of the Executive Board of the University on the duties and employment of full and associate professors at the University of Bern dated 23 August 2011 (in German), and in the leaflet «Overview of the most important duties of the managing directors of the Institute» (in German) dated 20 December 2009/06.10.20152.

Further explanations of the responsibilities for safety arrangements can be found in the Safety and Environment Guidelines (in German) of the Risk Management Unit.

COVID-19 information for applicants and project management

On the university’s internal research website, you will find current COVID-19 information from the SNSF, EU Horizon 2020, US NIH and US DoD for applicants as well as for ongoing third-party funded projects. The website is accessible from within the University and Inselspital network or via VPN. For questions please contact the Grants Office.

Website collecting the most relevant studies and guidelines in connection with COVID-19

On www.update-covid.ch, a platform of the Knowledge Management Taskforce of the Inselspital and University of Bern, you see the most relevant studies and guidelines in connection with COVID-19. Target audience are healthcare professionals from all specialities.

Protect yourself and others - hygiene rules (FOPH)