The Federal University of Bahia decided to suspend, indefinitely, its academic and administrative activities, thus prioritizing the preservation of the health of its community – teachers, students, technicians and outsourced professionals -, in view of the prognosis of rapid expansion, during the coming weeks, of the new coronavirus pandemic in Brazil.

With this decision, taken unanimously by its University Council, meeting on March 18, 2020, UFBA meets the recommendations of the World Health Organization and national health authorities, as well as those of medical and scientific communities of various specialties in the field of health, certain to be contributing in the best possible way to minimize the transmission conditions of the coronavirus.

By failing to promote situations of contact and agglomeration – initially, those of an extracurricular nature, as announced on Friday (13/03), and now, also, of a curricular and administrative nature -, the University joins the collective effort that the entire Brazilian society must immediately assume in order to curb, as much as possible, the advancement of the coronavirus, contributing to the conservation of the service capacity of the public and private health systems.

The decision to suspend activities was taken in solidarity and articulated with all public institutions of higher education in Bahia. In this regard, specialists in epidemiology and infectology have been emphatic in the assessment that the interruption of activities in an isolated way has little impact, effectively, in containing the virus. Rather, what is truly effective is the joint and organized shutdown of public and private bodies, an action capable of massively reducing clusters and, therefore, slowing the transmission of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Covid-19.

Such suspension of activities, furthermore motivated by a sanitary emergency of this relevance, is unprecedented in the history of UFBA. For this reason, it could not have been the subject of a timely decision and announcement, before there was the necessary preparation of a special operating plan. Thus, only activities considered essential will be maintained, that is, those which, if not carried out, imply irreparable institutional damage, and which, being unable to be suspended, can be performed remotely or, when in person, in adequate and safe conditions. by professionals who are not part of the risk group (elderly, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women and lactating women).

Exception is made to activities that may contribute directly to the fight against coronavirus, including health care services provided by hospitals, outpatient clinics and laboratories at this University, which, on the contrary, will need to be intensified and redirected to prioritize case care. suspected and confirmed coronavirus. Therefore, as long as the health emergency continues, UFBA will make the knowledge, accumulated expertise and work capacity of its professionals available to society: researchers, staff from different health specialties and residents.

The suspension of activities implies an immediate interruption of the academic calendar, which will be redefined and submitted to the approval of UFBA’s Higher Education, Research and Extension Council, as soon as sufficient conditions of normality are presented. In this way, access to UFBA campuses will be restricted, conditioned to activities considered essential at this time, that is, those associated with fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Each unit must present an operating plan by March 25, paying special attention to this determination. Exceptional requests for authorization to operate, which contradict the proper physical distance measures now adopted, will be examined by the Coronavirus Monitoring Committee, already constituted by the Rectory and then endorsed by the University Council.

Among the activities that must be stopped, we can list the curricular field activities; competitions and public notices for monitoring, extension and student assistance; SiSU registration calls, BI / CPL progression and entry of indigenous, quilombolas and villagers, refugees and trans people; and the functioning of UFBA libraries and daycare centers, as well as outpatient care and regular exams, among others.

Administrative activities related to the maintenance of payments and contracts will remain under special duty; budget and accounting; emergency works and maintenance services; the laboratories whose operation cannot be totally paralyzed and the security and cleaning services, focusing on service places and university residences; maintenance of vivariums and other cultures of living organisms. And, while the University Restaurant and the food distribution points are closed, about 1,700 students will receive financial assistance for food.

The UFBA Ombudsman will make remote telephone calls available in two shifts to provide clarification about the new coronavirus, to the university community, at 71 98668-2929 and by e-mail  ouvidoria@ufba.br. The PsiU Psychological Program will continue to be accessible by phone at 71 98707-1041 (via WhatsApp), and the Dean of Student Assistance and Affirmative Actions will keep in touch with the community at proae.ufba.br. Fiocruz and UFBA, in partnership, are developing a web-phone service integrated with the state Health Department to guide the community in cases of suspected respiratory infection, with the collaboration of undergraduate medical and nursing students supervised by doctors. And soon, the coronavirus.ufba.br website will be online, which will concentrate the main actions and information from UFBA.

The stoppage of activities does not guarantee, however, victory in the fight against the coronavirus. In addition to reinforcing the already known preventive measures (such as washing the airways and hands frequently, covering the mouth when coughing and maintaining a prudential distance greater than 1 meter when approaching people) and, in case of contamination or suspicion, the recommendation for self-isolation for 14 days (leaving to seek hospital care only in case of persistent fever and feeling of shortness of breath), UFBA urges each member of the university community to disseminate, yes, two fundamental virtues for maintaining our health throughout this quarantine : knowledge and solidarity.

Each student and worker at UFBA will have, before him, the task of exercising scientific rationality, an essential mark of our community, becoming a multiplier agent of accurate information and backed by reliable sources. It should be borne in mind that the main social fear that the coronavirus brings is the contamination of a large number of people at the same time. In addition to individual contamination – which, although undesirable and dangerous, tends to manifest itself in a similar way to that of mild flu in about 80% of cases -, the contamination of large groups can exhaust the capacity of hospital care, effectively harming those more precisely. Therefore, as important as avoiding contracting the coronavirus is, in case of contamination, not being a disease-transmitting agent,

Each member of our community will also be faced with the task of exercising and promoting solidarity. It will then be up to the young people, as they are potentially more resistant to the coronavirus, assisting the elderly, the chronically ill and the pregnant women, inside and outside their families, taking on their tasks, when possible, and calming them, when necessary. It will be up to those who feel psychologically firmer to keep in touch, even if virtual, with the most emotionally weakened friends and family, offering them the support that is at their fingertips. Ultimately, it will be up to all of us to ensure that the necessary social isolation does not become distorted into the evil of individualism, acting with empathy, kindness and a sense of community, especially in spaces such as supermarkets, pharmacies and healthcare facilities.

We can only trust that we will overcome this challenge. Public universities are our nation’s heritage and project, representing our highest values. Thus, after successive weather conditions, we can only believe that, after all, whoever has the public university and the common interest at heart will win.