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Partial, limited reopening from 23 April – research labs only

Announcement from the senior management: The Ministry of Higher Education and Science has now formally granted permission to Aarhus University and the rest of the universities in the country to begin partially reopening research labs. Note that the reopening applies to research activities above and beyond critical functions in addition to coronavirus-related research that is already in progress.

2020.04.22 | Sys Christina Vestergaard

Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Foto

The partial, limited reopening will begin on Thursday 23 April. Affected employees will be informed directly on Wednesday 22 April. This applies to researchers, including postdocs and PhD students, at Health, Nat and Tech and to a lesser extent at Aarhus BSS. It also applies to lab technicians and other technical support staff.

A few Master’s degree students whose projects involve lab work will also be given access to the labs. These are students whose projects are particularly dependent on access to labs for their completion. Master’s thesis students will be given access by agreement between the head of department and the thesis supervisor.

Limited re-opening as directed by the ministry – all other work must still be performed remotely

We stress that this is a limited reopening, the scope of which has been determined by the ministry. This partial reopening will be extremely limited and closely coordinated, not only with the other Danish universities, but also across AU’s faculties. The limited reopening only applies to lab work. All other work than agreed lab work must still be performed from home.

An absolute, non-negotiable condition for the partial reopening is that we must take the necessary precautions to avoid spreading the virus. And the reason we are not being given full access to our labs is to help prevent the spread of the virus in society at large. In some places, it will be necessary to schedule access at different times of the day if having everyone present at the same time would be unsafe.

Staff will be required to comply with a number of rules in order to be allowed to resume their work in the labs. There will also be an extra focus on cleaning.

Initially, a total of approx. 400 researchers will be allowed to be present at AU simultaneously, in addition to a limited number of Master’s thesis students. This will be coordinated at the individual departments by agreement with the dean.

Full confidence that everyone will respect the conditions for the phased reopening

The faculty management teams will closely monitor work in the labs to ensure that the agreed limits on access are respected. We are fully confident that AU staff will respect the conditions for the gradual reopening.

This is a very limited reopening. We are well aware of the fact that there are research activities that do not take place in labs which are also increasingly challenged by the physical shutdown of the university. The senior management team at Aarhus University is monitoring the situation closely, and will regularly assess how the controlled, phased reopening of the university can be organised in a responsible manner, in relation to general developments and the instructions of the authorities.

Rules for using research labs

As a result of a national agreement on the expansion of the first phase of a controlled re-opening of society, a partial reopening of research laboratories for staff and students has been authorised.

Through Universities Denmark, special rules have been laid down for work in research labs effective as of 21 April.

  • At any given time, a maximum of 25 per cent of normal staffing may be present in each lab (for example, max. three people in a 12-person lab).
  • Labs must be booked online to ensure coordination and registration of access.
  • Everyone must wear gloves in all labs, regardless of classification.
  • Staff may not work side-by-side, and staff must comply with the authorities’ recommended social distance of 1.5 -2 m.
  • An agreement with the individual employee’s immediate supervisor must be made regarding how lab work is to be organised, with due consideration for the situation of the individual.
  • Only one person at a time is allowed in rooms under 10 sqm.
  • After completing work, employees must disinfect all contact surfaces, including light switches, handles, keyboards, equipment, etc.
  • Reduced lab service.
  • Touching other people in the lab is NOT permitted. Employees must perform their activities in isolation.

 In addition, the partial reopening of the labs is conditional on compliance with these instructions from the Danish Health Authority:

  • Maintain social distancing, practice good hand hygiene, and cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
  • Do not come to work if you feel unwell or if you have coronavirus symptoms.
  • If you develop symptoms of the disease, you must stay at home until you have been asymptomatic for at least two days. If you start getting symptoms at work, you must go home immediately.
  • Avoid spending longer periods of time in the same room with people.
  • Take breaks in separate rooms and maintain social distancing.
  • Only one person in the elevator at a time.
  • Access to break rooms and the like is prohibited.
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