With 64 active cases of the COVID-19 (Corona) virus in South Africa, institutions across the globe are taking drastic but necessary steps to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The universities of Cape Town (UCT) and Witwatersrand (WITS) are among these establishments to follow suit. This comes after the announcement that a Wits medical student and UCT staff member both tested positive for the virus.
Following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on the 15th of March declaring Covid-19 a national state of disaster, UCT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, released a statement announcing the immediate commencement of the term 1 vacation (instead of its original start-date on the 21st of March).
This means that not only will classes be suspended, but all students living on the university’s campus must vacate the residences within 72 hours from 16 March 2020.
“We were persuaded of the importance of this step as a precautionary, proactive measure to minimise the risk of spreading Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The most important public health principle is containment of the disease as far as possible, including avoiding social gatherings and minimising groups of people gathering in one space.”
Professor Phakeng continues by saying that term 2 will commence once the prevailing and quickly changing circumstances has been assessed, adding that a case of the virus on campus has been confirmed.
“The staff member is in isolation at home. The Western Cape Department of Health has begun the contact tracing process and is contacting all those who were in close contact with our colleague as per the protocol prescribed by the provincial and national health agencies.”
The university has also suspended the approval of any university-related international travel and cancelled all conferences and events until the end of June 2020.
For the same reason, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have also suspended classes and graduation ceremonies amid the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
Wits spokesperson, Shirona Patel, says support staff at the university are still expected to go to work but must avoid close personal contact to prevent transmission among staff members.
Patel says that "Employees are requested to maintain social distance and, where possible, meetings and group work should be conducted telephonically, online, or via video conferencing."