ann20010 — Announcement

COVID-19 coronavirus measures at ESO

9 March 2020

Update (25 May 2020): 

ESO has had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 among its staff. All necessary safety measures have been implemented and colleagues have been informed.

Update (4 May 2020): 

By and large, the measures ESO implemented in the past few weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to apply for the time being. At the same time, ESO is stepping up preparations to ramp up operations, starting with bringing a very limited amount of staff back to the sites in Garching and Vitacura. This ramp up is dependent on the evolution of the pandemic in Germany and Chile, and is being done in line with national regulations and under strict safety guidelines at the ESO premises.

Update (9 April 2020): 

ESO has decided to extend the measures it has implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic until at least 3 May. The vast majority of ESO staff in Germany and Chile will continue to do mobile work, and the observatories will remain in a safe-state mode with no science operations taking place. All duty travel remains cancelled, with the exception of commuting to and from the observatory sites for the minimal teams currently working there. No visitors are allowed in any of ESO's premises, including the ESO Supernova, which remains closed.

ESO continues to closely monitor COVID-19 developments in Chile and Germany, and has a business continuity plan in place to ramp up operations when the situation allows it.

Update (2 April 2020):

The transition of all ESO observatory sites to a safe state was completed last week and science observations have now been paused. A minimal team remains on each site to ensure the safety of the facilities and the wellbeing of the remaining people.

Update (20 March 2020):

Following the latest developments in the COVID-19 outbreak, ESO management has decided to gradually cease science operations on all its observatory sites. ESO’s priority remains the wellbeing and safety of its staff and reducing the number of people at ParanalLa Silla and APEX is part of this effort. The sites are transitioning into a safe state with a minimal team on site to ensure the safety of the facilities and the remaining people.  

The management of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, has also decided to close its observatory on Chile’s Chajnantor plateau. The Joint ALMA Observatory announced the stopping of science operations, and that the ALMA observatory will shut down until further notice.   

Astronomers should check the ESO science pages for information relevant to the scientific community. 

Update (16 March 2020):

In light of recent COVID-19 developments, ESO has decided to implement further measures to fight the pandemic. Our highest priority remains the safety and wellbeing of staff and the public. Following the cancellation of public visits and activities, and the limitations in duty travel, ESO's observatory sites are transitioning into a restricted operation mode, reducing the number of staff on site while maintaining basic science operations. We are now also moving towards remote working for as many staff as possible in Garching, Germany and Santiago, Chile.

Original announcement (9 March 2020):

As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, ESO is actively monitoring the situation and taking measures to ensure the safety of its staff and the public. These measures are being taken out of precaution: no COVID-19 case has been confirmed at any of the ESO sites.   

In Germany, ESO has decided to close the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre during the month of March, to ensure the safety of staff and visitors. Public activities at ESO’s Garching Headquarters are also cancelled, including the planned Girls’ Day Event.  

In Chile, where ESO’s observatories and its Santiago offices are located, the organisation is suspending all public visits to ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories until further notice. Public activities at the Vitacura-Santiago office are also cancelled during the month of March, including the planned Open House Day.   

In addition, ESO is working to limit travel by staff and visitors, including visiting astronomers. We are promoting remote participation for international conferences and limiting duty travel to instances deemed to be mission-critical and time-critical. Visitors are asked to check with their ESO contact before travelling whether their visit or event is still on and, if so, what measures would apply for their specific case. 

ESO will continue to implement measures in response to the global spread of the disease as and when deemed necessary, taking a pragmatic, sensible and flexible approach to the situation. The situation will be reviewed in the coming weeks and further information will be provided if there are changes to these measures. 

We ask for the understanding of all those who may be affected by these measures. We are fully committed to putting the wellbeing and safety of people first.


Bárbara Ferreira 
ESO Public Information Officer 
Garching bei München, Germany 
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670 

Francisco Rodríguez
ESO Chile Press Officer
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 2463 3151

About the Announcement



Aerial view of ESO Headquarters
Aerial view of ESO Headquarters