This interview was published on 11 March 2020. Due to the constantly changing situation, the contents communicated in it no longer reflect the current situation. Therefore, this interview has been backdated so that it no longer appears at the front of the university's various news feeds. For current information on the coronavirus, please visit the website https://www.su.uzh.ch/en/Coronavirus.html.
Thank you for your understanding.
President Siegert, what are UZH’s priorities in handling the coronavirus outbreak?
Like all other higher education institutions in Switzerland, UZH is basing its actions on the recommendations of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the cantonal authorities. These recommendations – which are constantly adapted as the situation evolves – provide the framework for how we can run the university in the weeks to come. Within this framework, we are doing our utmost to enable students to continue studying and for their achievements to be credited at the end of the semester.
Which specific steps is UZH taking?
Our task force is monitoring the latest developments so that we can take the appropriate actions. Within the task force, a working group is developing solutions for how teaching can be upheld at all seven faculties, taking into account the relevant situation. As of this week, the strategy of the FOPH has focused on protecting groups of people who are at a higher risk. For UZH, this means that we are providing students who have to, or want to, stay at home with alternatives to classroom teaching. These alternatives can include self-study materials through a teaching platform such as OLAT, but also podcasts. We are currently working on informing our teaching staff about these options. But on the whole, all courses will continue to go ahead. Our aim is for students – as far as the overall situation allows it – not to lose a semester. We will also inform the students about this matter separately.
What should staff do?
Employees who are not at high risk should continue to come to work as usual. If you come to work with public transportation, you should try to travel outside of peak times. All employees who are considered at a higher risk as defined by the FOPH are advised to consult with their line managers and work from home.
For how long will the current guidelines apply?
It’s difficult to predict how the situation will develop over the next few weeks. I assume that the coronavirus will continue to keep us busy for a longer period of time, it’s a matter of weeks rather than days. That’s what we’re preparing for. As of now, we’ve prepared for various scenarios, so that we can take swift, appropriate and coordinated action. We are providing up-to-date information about the latest developments. The coronavirus is presenting us with several challenges. I would like to thank all of the people who are actively involved in making sure that we can overcome this challenging situation in a great joint effort.
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