The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) to be “a public health emergency of international concern.” The current situation and the as-yet unpredictable trend for Germany as a whole present all of us with major challenges. The welfare of its employees is of utmost importance to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, its institutes and research institutions, as is providing professional care and support, and protecting all of Fraunhofer’s business partners.
In view of the current situation with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the COVID-19 respiratory disease, and the risks they involve, all employees at Fraunhofer locations in Germany and across the globe have been informed about how to conduct themselves, what precautions to take, who to contact, and where to find relevant information. In addition, we have put together a catalog of preventive and accompanying measures so as to ensure we all minimize the risks, act responsibly, and also adopt a measured approach. The option of working from home has been made available across the board and is being utilized. Employees have been requested to refrain from non-essential business travel and to use telephone- and video-conferencing technology for any planned face-to-face meetings. If an employee is suspected of being infected or has returned from a high-risk area, working from home is mandatory (currently for a period of 14 days). Employees are also advised not to travel to certain regions for the time being (see the Robert Koch Institute’s list at https://www.rki.de/EN/Home/homepage_node.html). Until further notice, meetings of more than five people are to be avoided. In matters of hygiene, we refer you to the recommendations of both Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health and the Robert Koch Institute. We have put in place a number of immediate supporting measures at all our locations.
We have prepared for any confirmed or suspected cases of infection by drawing up detailed pandemic response plans, and our established crisis management system, which also covers interaction with the relevant authorities, is also in place. In order to contain the potential spread of infection, we have adopted measures such as the targeted domestic isolation of suspected cases, the possible closure of premises, and support in investigating possible chains of contact.
As regards tradeshows, conferences, congresses, and other events, we remain in close contact with the relevant organizers. Although we assess each case and context individually and with due care, we have taken the precaution of canceling our participation in all events and tradeshows, initially until the end of May. Further events may possibly have to be canceled as well.
The Executive Board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has adopted these far-reaching measures out of its duty of care not only toward its employees and their families, but also to Fraunhofer’s business partners and participants at its events. We are aware that, depending on the further course of the pandemic, these measures could, in individual cases, result in restricted availability and in delays to projects at Fraunhofer’s headquarters, its institutes and research institutions. We will keep our information channels open and update our partners on an ad hoc basis. Please bear with us during this exceptional national and global situation. Despite everything, we of course consider it crucial to ensure all our units continue to function, and that projects and orders are properly managed – while still protecting all those concerned.