Dear Leadership Lekgotla colleagues
Greetings and best wishes for 2022, and welcome back for the new academic year.
I write to you following the message from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng that was distributed at the start of this week and that spelled out the approach the University of Cape Town (UCT) will take in 2022.
I am specifically writing to members of the UCT leadership, who play a critical role in ensuring the optimal running of UCT operations as we return to campus in greater numbers. Please share this information with all heads of departments and line managers in your faculties and departments.
As we enter our third year of living and working with COVID-19, it is important that we strike the delicate balance between prioritising the lives, health and livelihoods of the members of our UCT community and ensuring an optimal and sustainable academic project.
We know much about COVID-19 and we have learned much about managing it in the past two years, however, the situation remains unpredictable, and therefore we will need to be agile – adapt as necessary. We will continue to align with regulations and guidelines that are published and will keep you informed of this.
You will know from previous communications that the approach is to resume operations in 2022 in a manner that opens campus and returns us to in-person engagements across campuses.
We are keeping a constant and close eye on national and provincial announcements related to COVID 19. You will also be aware of Cabinet’s recent approval to changes to alert level 1 COVID-19 regulations.
As we endeavour to implement our return to campus arrangements in 2022, faculties and departments will have the discretion to determine their specific operational needs and implement plans to meet these needs. It is very important that you take into account the prevailing regulatory policies and prescripts as amended from time to time as new scientific evidence emerges.
Please make use of the updated Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic on UCT campuses in 2022 as a guide as you make the critical decisions in your area of responsibility that will ensure we support the academic project as needed.
All members of the Leadership Lekgotla have been asked to update their respective Risk Adjusted Return to Campus Plans. While these aim to see the return to campuses of as many staff and students as possible, it is guided by the overarching imperatives of the academic project and maintaining appropriate health and safety environments.
The discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 at the end of 2021 served as a reminder that new variants can emerge at any time. As such, we must remain vigilant in advocating for and maintaining those interventions that maximise the safety of our staff, students and visitors.
Following the prescribed health and safety protocols when returning to campuses and offices is non-negotiable.
This year, the absence of entry checkpoints across our campuses serves to emphasise the culture of self-management we are promoting. It remains the responsibility of staff and students to continue to complete the Daily Health Screening Questionnaire. This will serve as a prompt for each person to self-manage their presence on UCT campuses. It is incumbent on each person – be they staff, students or visitors – to be active participants in creating a safe and healthy campus environment for all.
Before the end of February, all staff and students must also complete the updated COVID-19 Induction for 2022. Face masks that cover the nose and mouth must be worn at all times, as required by the national Occupational Health and Safety adjusted regulations.
I can also confirm that UCT is piloting flexibility in respect of venue capacity and utilisation whilst still maintaining appropriate physical distancing. The UCT pilot is being implemented such that (a) the 50% capacity limitation is being relaxed given that engineering controls are already in place as well as introducing an added intervention of supplying KN95 masks to staff and students and (b) reducing and relaxing the 1.5 m physical distancing as an absolute requirement, meaning a reduction from 1.5 m to 1 m.
Please feel free to direct any questions and concerns about COVID-19 to the Occupational Health and Safety Committee member in your department or faculty. This will avoid delays in addressing any issues.
Students may also use the following contact details if they require further assistance in terms of the start of the academic year.
All UCT staff members needing assistance should please approach their line managers.
I look forward to a safe and productive year ahead, during which we continue to deliver on UCT’s world-class academic project.
Dr Reno Morar
Chief Operating Officer
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