Last week the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) announced a framework that would require staff and students who have not received the Covid-19 vaccine to prove that they are not infected with the virus.
This would be achieved through weekly Covid-19 testing and, as it stands, would come at the student/staff member’s own expense.
The Wits Student Representative Council has rejected the proposal from the university. They said ‘We reject the social isolation of students and workers after being required to prove that is not infected through screening and weekly SARS-CoV-2 test with their masks on to further be isolated by not being allowed in social spaces or gatherings such as attending in person graduations’.
Wits SRC Secretary-General Nhlonipho Nxumalo says that in section 12 of the constitution people have a right to freedom of choice. She explains that while rights may be limited, the government has not yet gazetted any law that makes the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.
She explains that for a poor student who is getting R1500 from Nsfas to travel from Braamfontein to Hillbrow is impractical. She says the SRC would welcome the proposal should Wits make Covid- testing free on campus.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at Wits, Lynn Morris explains that Wits have taken this position to ensure that their campus is safe. She says that vaccines work and it’s really important that everybody gets vaccinated against Covid-19. She does however say exceptions can be made on medical grounds.
Brown said, “people who do choose not to vaccinate will still be allowed on campus but they will have to follow particular protocol and the reason for that is again to just ensure that they aren't exposing other people on the campus”.
The Vice-Chancellor says that making Covid-19 tests available on campus would be part of the discussion should the proposal become a policy at WITS. She said, “we don't have a plan for that but we are making it clear that it is for their own personal cost because you know vaccines are free so people have that option to take the vaccine at no cost”.