The University of Göttingen, the UMG and our campus partners are working under high pressure to introduce comprehensive and regular SARS-CoV-2 tests for all University members who are willing to do so. This will enable us to control the initial risk of an infectious person being present at an event much better and we will achieve much greater safety on campus during winter semester.
As soon as the tests are available, we will inform you about the progress on this page and provide information about participation after the start of the program.
IntroductionReinhard Jahn (President):
No end to Covid-19 yet - what happens next at our Uni?
The winter semester is just around the corner, and there is still no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic. Even though the summer semester at the University of Göttingen could to take place in digital form with only a few restrictions – thanks to a joint effort by all those involved – academic and social life at the University has come to an almost complete standstill. It is true that most students have more or less achieved their academic goals for the semester. However, a survey at the end of the semester showed that almost two thirds of our students suffered from social isolation and motivation problems. No wonder - the University was eerily empty. It's not only the academic programmes, but also the many discussions with fellow students and teachers and the joint activities that make studying a unique experience and a lastingly formative phase of life.
What can we do to ensure that personal meetings are possible, at least to some extent, once more in our University in the coming semester? We have decided to hold some of the courses in person. Granted, it won't be quite like it used to be: distancing rules must be observed; lecture and seminar rooms can only be used to a limited extent; and in all University buildings, hygiene rules must be observed and a face mask must be worn ("AHA rules") if you are not in the planned seating.
Unfortunately, we now know that even compliance with these rules cannot reliably protect us against infection, especially if the number of infections continues to rise. There is a very real danger that we will then have to partly or, in a worst case scenario, even completely cease face-to-face events again – far from a welcome prospect! In order to avoid this as much as possible, we have decided to offer students and staff regular coronavirus tests during the semester, working closely together with the Medical Microbiology Institute of the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine. We will set up several test centres where you can register online for a particular time slot. Taking samples is simple and much less unpleasant than the usual nasopharyngeal swab - you simply put a sort of cotton swab in your mouth, let it soak up saliva and then hand the swab over to a member of staff (we are looking for temporary staff for this task!). If everything works as planned, the results will be communicated by email on the same day.
What do we stand to gain from these tests? They allow us to monitor the development of the pandemic in the University much more closely, especially if as many of us as possible take part in the voluntary tests. We will obtain reliable figures on the "level of infection", which can only be roughly extrapolated at present. We will be able to better estimate the risk for each teaching course. If there is an outbreak, we will be able to control it more quickly and thus be able to intervene in a targeted way instead of having to close down large parts of the University again. Of course, it could always be the case that you will receive a negative test only to become infectious a few days later. For this reason, even if you have a negative result, you must in no way neglect the precautionary measures and you must not regard the result as a carte blanche for a party without safety measures! Nevertheless, this will be a huge step forward in the face of otherwise total uncertainty, and it is a way to return to a more normal way of university life, at least in some respects, and with less risk.
We still have a lot of work to do before these tests are available extensively. For example, we will only be able to offer relatively few tests at the beginning of the semester and will only reach full capacity in the course of the semester. The financing is also not yet clear. Since we are unfortunately not supported by the state, we are dependent on donations. We are currently preparing a fundraising campaign and hope that this will enable us to finance as many tests as possible.
And what happens if the test is positive? Fortunately, most young people do not get sick at all or relatively much less and so the risk of a severe course of illness for this group is very low. Moreover, we have excellent medical care in Göttingen, and the disease can now be treated much better than at the beginning of the pandemic. Of course - people carrying the infection have to be reported to the public health department, and you will have to spend some time in isolation. On the other hand, if you don't fall ill, the time is manageable and the probability that you will be catch the infection again afterwards is low.
Regular screening is a chance for a bit more normality in university life, and we hope that there will be a high rate of participation. With your help, we can all get through the winter semester safely!