UCT preparedness for the new Level Three Lockdown regulations

04 January 2021 | Dr Reno Morar, COO

Dear colleagues and students

As you are aware, there has been an increase across the country in COVID-19 infections, admissions and deaths in the past two weeks. In many areas the number of new infections exceeds that seen during the first wave. President Cyril Ramaphosa therefore announced a return to Lockdown Level Three in the country.

The regulations under Lockdown Level Three, published on 29 December 2020, include a curfew between the hours of 21:00 and 06:00.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has in place all the necessary procedures and protocols to comply with Lockdown Level Three regulations. For example, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available from 4 January 2021 for all students and staff. We are also adhering to guidelines circulated by the Department of Higher Education and Training following the president’s announcement.

As we have done during all previous lockdown levels, we are applying a risk-based approach when assessing the occupancy rating and ventilation requirements for all venues on campus. As a result, ventilation systems in selected venues have been prioritised for mechanical upgrades. Guidelines on occupancy rating and ventilation requirements are available via email to Brent Proctor or Michael Langley in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Properties & Services Department. The Mechanical Ventilation Upgrade Project will be implemented in phases. The first phase is expected to be completed by 15 March 2021, in time for the start of the 2021 academic year.

Return to residence

The first groups of students will be returning to residences in early January 2021. Only students who have been invited to return to residence will be accepted. In addition, they will be required to undergo a “safe arrival” quarantine for seven days. All students, like all staff members, will be required to comply with all the protocols aligned to Lockdown Level Three, as detailed in the invitation.

All students are advised to please use the Higher Health App to assess their symptoms before departing from home on their way to residence. Students who have symptoms should delay their travel until they are cleared on the Higher Health App. They may call the Student Wellness Service (SWS) 24-hour COVID-19 Hotline on 021 650 1271 for advice.

Health support is available for students

SWS in the Department of Student Affairs will continue to provide pandemic-related support to students, including screening for symptoms on arrival to residence and providing information about the prevention of COVID-19 infection before arrival. UCT’s responses to COVID-19, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available on our dedicated web page.

Return to teaching

Under Lockdown Level Three, the University will continue to operate as a low-density campus that relies on physically distanced learning (PDL) in the first semester of 2021, which will start on 15 March 2021. Undergraduate teaching and learning, as well some postgraduate teaching, will use both asynchronous and synchronous online activities (asynchronous activities can be accessed at any time, while synchronous activities will require participants to attend according to a specific schedule); and face-to-face teaching of small groups in COVID-compliant venues under PDL conditions.

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) will manage its various programmes through a combination of online lectures and PDL in laboratories and on the clinical platform, according to COVID-19 health protocols. FHS students have been notified about when their respective programmes will start.

For postgraduate students, the mode of operation will depend on the nature of the programme, the number of students in the programme and the availability of venues. Laboratory, studio, seminar and group work will run on a roster basis to help maintain physical distancing. Fieldwork and internships will be set up to comply with both the needs of the programme and health protocols. Guidelines for fieldwork under COVID-19 conditions are available.

Physically distanced research activities will take place in low-density labs, studios and workshops that will operate on a rotation basis, to reduce the number of people in each space at any time.

Return to campuses

UCT’s preparations for Lockdown Level Three and for the first semester of 2021 are in line with international guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

All students and staff members will be required to produce their letters of authority, as well as evidence that they have completed the Higher Health Check app for COVID symptoms, in order to access campuses. All students and staff will also be expected to comply with COVID-19 guidelines and will be advised to take the necessary precautions if they are not already doing so. A dedicated communication is being prepared explaining the processes that first-year students will be required to follow. UCT may take disciplinary action against anyone on campus who shows continued disregard for these guidelines.

Our priority is to help each other to keep safe and healthy, as far as possible, so that we all can perform to the best of our abilities. The challenge of beating the pandemic remains ahead of us. This is a challenge we can win if we each practice the safety protocols and encourage others to do the same.

We look forward to welcoming all students and staff members to campus, and to helping to keep each other safe, healthy and ready to help make the world a better place.


Dr Reno Morar
Chief Operating Officer
Chair of the COVID-19 Co-ordinating Committee

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