Changes to UCT’s approach to COVID-19

26 April 2022 | VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear colleagues and students

As an institution, the University of Cape Town (UCT) is continuously adapting the way we manage the COVID-19 pandemic. I am writing to you about two recent events that affect our approach in this regard.

On 4 April 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lifting of the COVID-19 national state of disaster. This means all regulations and directions are repealed. A draft of the new health regulations was open for comment until 24 April 2022. UCT will monitor this process and respond as required.

On 12 March 2022, UCT Council considered the recommendations of the panel it constituted late last year to advise on the implementation of a proposed mandatory vaccination policy at UCT. Council agreed that all members of the UCT community may declare, on a voluntary basis, their vaccination status and will receive support, information and counselling to promote voluntary vaccination for those who have not yet been vaccinated.

Members of the UCT community will be able to complete their Vaccination Declaration online on the UCT Online Health Centre and details of how to do this will be shared shortly.

Council’s decision underscored its in-principle support for a vaccine mandate policy. However, any implementation of such a policy in the future will require a special meeting of Council to consider the prevailing circumstances, including updated relevant information to guide a decision on whether to implement the policy.

Following the decisions of the President and UCT Council, the UCT executive recognises that COVID-19 still needs to be managed in our society and on our campuses. Our approach also recognises that for the most part, life and work must continue under health and safety conditions that protect all members of the campus community as much as possible.

As we move closer to a more “normalised” approach to COVID-19, our focus is to prevent future infections through the “3-V-s”: vaccination, ventilation and vigilance.

  • Vaccination: Council confirmed that vaccination remains one of the most effective mechanisms for protection against severe disease and death for the vaccinated individual, and therefore the focus should be on achieving high levels of vaccination on a voluntary basis at UCT. UCT has remained fully committed to being guided by science and we will continue to drive a vaccination campaign in an attempt to increase the number of voluntary vaccinated staff and students. UCT has an easily accessible vaccination site that is open all weekdays from 08:00 till 15:00 and most Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00.
  • Ventilation: It has emerged from expert opinion that ventilation of venues is a critical factor in prevention of infection. Work is ongoing on campus to ensure the ventilation of venues. Where there is no mechanical ventilation, ensure that windows and doors are open.
  • Vigilance: As the challenge of COVID 19 is ongoing we must as staff and students of UCT commit to remain vigilant and to take personal responsibility for our health and the health of others in our community. Being vigilant against COVID 19 includes maintaining mask wearing indoors, and particularly to avoid large indoor gatherings and ensuring appropriate hand hygiene.

The most important commitment you can make as a member of the UCT community is to adhere to the 3-V principles.

Our removal of entry checkpoints across our campuses earlier this year aligns with the “normalising” approach to managing the pandemic. The COVID-19 Coordinating Committee (CCC) advised, based on expert opinion, that the use of the Daily Health Screening Questionnaire will cease. UCT staff and students will therefore no longer be required to complete the Daily Health Screening as a means for entering the campuses.

COVID-19 is still a notifiable disease

The national health regulations published on 15 March 2022, require every employer to report positive COVID-19 testing outcomes. Please refer to the COVID-19 Online Resource and News Portal for further information on COVID-19 precautions and reporting. If one staff member or student tests positive, it is still vital to alert every close recent contact so that they can monitor themselves for possible symptoms. We urge you all to take personal responsibility for your own health and that of others, including staying away from campus when you are feeling unwell or experiencing symptoms.

Health experts predict a new wave of infections to be likely in the next few weeks as we approach winter and the normal flu season. However, we need to be prepared to adapt to circumstances as they shift.

Please refer to the latest frequently asked questions to remain up to date with the latest amendments that will determine how UCT will operate.

The executive and I also join Council in recognising the important work done by the advisory panel on the vaccine mandate. This panel worked under significant time pressure. On behalf of Council, we thank the Chair, Associate Professor Tracey Naledi of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Deputy Chair, Professor Pierre de Vos of the Faculty of Law, as well as each of the panel members for the valuable work they have done. We also thank all UCT staff members and students, those co-opted to the committee as well as others who participated in the public consultation process and who worked and engaged vigorously on this important matter.

UCT has made it this far through the pandemic because of the personal commitment of so many individuals on our campus. I thank each of you for helping to ensure a healthy work and study environment for yourself, your department and the entire UCT community.

Yours sincerely

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

In July 2022, the University of Cape Town (UCT) revised its approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic on UCT campuses in 2022.
Read the latest document available on the UCT policies web page.

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