Ever since the coronavirus outbreak, many of us have had numerous questions, some of which even ‘million-dollar’ questions. Information as to when life will return to normal is unclear to any of us, but what we do know is that if the restrictions imposed by authorities and health officials are respected, the rate of infection will slow down. Which is necessary until a vaccine is available.
The novel coronavirus is still a threat to the population and, as a result, people are still required to practice the safety measures against the virus, including social distancing and proper hand and respiratory hygiene. With educational institutions being closed as a result of the virus, universities have begun developing their online learning methods in order to make sure that students do not miss out on their education.
In this article, we have answered some of the commonly asked questions among students in Germany.
1. How Are German Universities Responding to Coronavirus?
German universities have been working in order to improve their online learning platforms ever since face-to-face teaching has been halted. Many instructors, as well as students, had to proceed with online study for the first time, as a result of the pandemic. While it is understandable that this is a first time experience, not only for students but also for many instructors, it is an essential step to avoid any large-scale disruption to higher education.
2. Will Universities Begin In-Person Teaching When Contact Restrictions Are Eased?
Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced an extension of contact restrictions until May 3. Before that date, these restrictions will be re-assessed once again. However, schools are to reopen gradually as of 4 May. Priority will be given to graduating students and students of grades considered relevant for school qualifications.
Although most universities may begin in-person teaching once May comes, there are also universities that have announced that they will be continuing with online classes, at least, up until the end of May. Universities will inform their students in due time.
3. How Have International Students’ Plans Been Affected by the Pandemic?
According to a survey conducted by Studying-in-Germany.org portal, 85% of current and potential international students in Germany say that their plans have been affected by the pandemic. It is an uncertain time for international students, everywhere, taking into account reintroduced border controls, travel restrictions, closed test centres, and especially the threat of the coronavirus on health. (Find the results of the survey here).
As a result of the pandemic, many students have also cancelled their Erasmus+ semesters and internships, and have returned to their home countries. Some scholarships and internship positions for the year 2020 have also been postponed or cancelled.
4. Will My Health Insurance Cover Coronavirus Expenses?
Public health insurance companies, like TK, have announced that the medical treatment in case of coronavirus infection is covered for international students. Private health insurance companies are also covering the medical expenses of coronavirus, as is the case with health insurance plans by Dr-Walter.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health in Germany, the healthcare fund has been covering coronavirus costs since 28 February 2020. The decision of whether a person is to be tested should be made by the attending physician.
5. Will Quarantine Costs Be Covered by My Health Insurance Plan?
No, quarantine is prescribed a precautionary measure, therefore the costs of it are not covered by health insurance. In case of infection by the virus during quarantine, health insurance companies will cover your costs.
6. Can I Close My German Blocked Account Due to Coronavirus?
Yes, you will normally be able to close your blocked account in Germany if you are not travelling to Germany due to coronavirus. Simply apply to close your blocked account through the standard procedure of the respective financial institution. Basically, you should contact the institution with which you opened your blocked account and ask them to close it.
Find more information for international students in Germany during coronavirus here.
7. What Am I Allowed to Do While Social Distancing in Germany?
You are advised to stay inside as much as possible and avoids large gatherings of people. While social distancing, you are permitted to leave your home to buy food or other essential activities, go to the doctor, or exercise outdoors. When you are out in public, make sure that you keep a minimum distance of at least 1.5 meters from other people. Additionally, make sure you keep the proper hand and respiratory hygiene whenever you are outside. Covering your mouth and nose is also required.
Find a detailed guide to social distancing here.
8. What Should I Do If I Think I Might Have COVID-19 Symptoms?
If you think you have coronavirus symptoms, do not go straight to your doctor’s office. The Germany-wide medical helpline for non-emergencies, 116 117, can help you with information on how to proceed. Call 112 if you find yourself in a medical emergency.
9. My Visa Will Expire Soon, How Can I Extend My Residence Permit in Germany?
To do this, you must contact the local foreigner’s registration office (Ausländerbehörde). According to The Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), the foreigner’s registration offices can issue fictional permits (Fiktionsbescheinigung) without any proof, as long as the application has been submitted in time.
10. Will Coronavirus Affect My BAföG?
According to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BAföG entitlement will not be impacted due to the postponement of the summer semester. Online studies and self-study also count as study activities.
11. What Options Do I Have If I Have Lost My Job as a Result of Coronavirus?
If you have lost your job due to coronavirus, you may go through online job portals for any work opportunities. There are many good opportunities available in areas that have increased personnel requirements in the industries like, food delivery services, supermarkets or grocery stores, gas stations, cleaning companies, or in the field of logistics. Explore your options during these challenging times.
12. I Am Currently Unable to Make Payments Due to Financial Difficulties. What Should I Do?
If you are currently unable to pay your rent, cellphone bills, or other subscriptions you might have, make sure to contact the respective companies and consult your situation. Ask these companies whether they can defer your contributions or allow you to pay a reduced amount for the time being. Many people are going through financial hardships as a result of the current situation, so different companies have been understanding regarding difficulties to make payments.
13. What Travel Restrictions Apply to International Students in Germany?
Germany, amongst many other countries, has imposed travel restrictions and border controls as a result of the pandemic. People entering Germany from Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg or Denmark, will be allowed entry if they are travelling to their home or legal residence in Germany. If you are travelling from non-EU countries, and are a holder of a long-term visa or residence permit and your home or legal residence is in Germany, you are allowed to enter the country. Keep in mind that as of 10 April, all people returning to Germany after several days abroad have to start a 14-day quarantine at home.
Read more about travel restrictions in Germany in our article here.
14. I Am an International Student in Germany and I Want to Travel to My Home Country. What Should I Do?
If you want to travel to your home country as a result of the pandemic, you will usually be able to do so. However, initially, make sure you contact your German university first. If you are residing in a student hall of residence, make sure to contact the administration of the hall of residence as well.
You are advised to get information on how your home country is dealing with the current situation and whether quarantine may apply upon arrival. You can get more information if you contact your home country’s embassy or consulate in Germany. You may also get more security and travel information through The Foreign Office of the German Federal Government.
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