A salute to all our UCT colleagues on the frontlines

25 May 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear students and colleagues

I want to remind you of a special cohort of colleagues who are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis we are all facing at the University of Cape Town (UCT). We need to salute these individuals who are taking on many different, often difficult, tasks to protect our safety and health. I want to start by acknowledging those whose work is behind the scenes.

Because so many of us have not been on campus lately, we don’t see the hard work that our colleagues in the Properties and Services Department (P&S) are doing to ensure that we have a clean, well-maintained, secure campus to return to. All buildings frequented by UCT students and staff who tested positive for COVID-19 before lockdown were identified, closed immediately and disinfected. P&S staff will do an initial clean of campus in readiness for the return of staff and students, according to guidelines provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Cleaning staff will be trained on DHET procedures for the daily cleaning for COVID-19. (According to DHET, disinfection is not required if buildings have been unoccupied for longer than 14 days.)

Our colleagues in Campus Protection Services continue to patrol our buildings and watch over our campuses. Some Information and Communication Technology Services workers also come on site to do essential work. Every colleague who is working on campus is issued with appropriate personal protective equipment and is briefed on hygiene practices such as physical distancing and hand washing. I express gratitude to each of you for serving the UCT community in this way.

Last week, some of our final-year medical students returned to resume their clinical course work. They are supported by colleagues who have agreed to work on-site to provide essential services in the Health Science Faculty, residences and clinics. On behalf of the university, I extend special thanks to colleagues in the Department of Student Affairs, Student Housing, Student Wellness Services, P&S and in the faculty. They are making it possible for these medical students to complete their degree. I also thank the students for returning to UCT at this critical time, to help serve patients who are suffering from a range of medical conditions.

Of course, the real battle is taking place in clinics, hospitals and laboratories. COVID-19 is a threat not just to the human body but also to the healthcare system in general. This is true around the world, but especially in developing countries. UCT experts in relevant disciplines, such as public health, are working long hours with government to develop effective strategies for the province and the nation. Our researchers, their students and staff are investigating the virus and seeking ways to fight it.

In the Western Cape, UCT health sciences practitioners are dealing with an exhausting combination of stresses, including sourcing essential supplies and equipment. Their strain is physical, mental, emotional and managerial, as they are responsible for teams as well as their own work, dealing with many different kinds of health needs in addition to the threat of COVID-19. I hear reports of remarkable dedication, not only of senior colleagues, but also of interns. I am proud that our final-year medical students will be learning from them.

They deserve not only the heartfelt thanks of the UCT community, but also of the Western Cape and South Africa. Their battle has not reached its peak yet. They will need our encouragement and solidarity as we head into winter, when flu viruses have the best chance of attacking. Please join me in thanking them for their selfless service.

With kind regards,

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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