Rector: acting responsibly helps us maintain as normal a way of life as possible

Dear members of the university,

To recover from the extraordinary situation that hit the world in spring, a summer holiday is vital for all of us. However, we must remember to exercise caution when returning to work to make sure our life at the university and in the country as a whole could continue as normally as possible.

We want the upcoming academic year at the University of Tartu to be as normal as possible and keep distant working and distant learning rather as exceptions to the rule. Below, I want to outline three basic truths that each employee and student of the University of Tartu must follow, so that we could considerately continue our everyday activities in the corona era:

  • when returning from countries with a high coronavirus infection rate, adhere to the movement restrictions laid down by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • in the work and study environment, maintain the required distance with other people and comply with hygiene rules to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading;
  • stay home even with mild symptoms of a viral disease.

If you travelled abroad, make sure to consult the web page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the list of countries arriving from which you must stay in self-isolation for 14 days. As the epidemiological situation may change rapidly, plan all trips abroad with the consideration that you might be subject to movement restrictions when returning to Estonia. This could mean working from home and, for students, being absent from classes.

Coronavirus continues to spread in Estonia and the whole world and the best strategy to avoid infection is still to act responsibly. This means that we must accept new social norms and avoid contact with others when having mild symptoms of illness that did not affect our everyday life before. Even with the slightest symptoms of common cold, take time off and stay home. Staying at home with minor symptoms of illness should not make the employee feel ashamed nor lead to disapproval by the superiors and colleagues. We should embrace the principle not to come to work when ill. The university and its executives of all levels must ensure a safe working environment for all employees.

Each structural unit must think ahead whether and how employees of different positions could work from home. If this is not possible due to the nature of your position, use the health improvement days or take a sick leave. The University of Tartu pays its employees sickness benefit of 100% of the average salary for the 2nd to the 8th day of illness. The university decided to do that exactly to encourage its employees to address their health at the onset of the first symptoms of illness, instead of coming to work and spreading the disease to colleagues.
It is up to each of us to avoid being forced to work from home for months on end, to study only in front of the screen and to be concerned about the capacity of our medical system and the health of our more vulnerable fellow citizens.

May the upcoming academic year be safe for all of us!

Toomas Asser
Rector, Professor