Dear colleagues and students
I write to update you on and share important information relating to the COVID-19 subvariant XBB 1.5.
You may have picked up in the news that the COVID-19 subvariant XBB1.5 has become dominant in a number of countries and that some have taken precautions to prevent its spread.
On 10 January 2023, the South African National Department of Health (NDoH) shared an update on COVID-19, including information on the highly transmissible XBB.1.5 variant.
The department notified the public that this subvariant had been identified in South Africa. However, the department mentioned that although it is more transmissible (spreads more easily), there is currently no indication of any change in the severity of illness and fatalities caused by this subvariant.
The NDoH emphasised that it remains important to be vaccinated and/or receive booster vaccinations in order to prevent severe illness and death. As this subvariant is more transmissible, the department encourages the wearing of masks and the continued practice of good hand hygiene (washing of hands regularly).
Testing for COVID-19 should be considered if you are symptomatic. Testing centres will continue to follow the relevant guidelines and protocols as the department advises from time to time.
Based on current available information, the NDoH will not impose restrictions on neither international nor local travel within South African borders. No COVID-19 restrictions have been imposed at UCT and the wearing of masks continues to be a voluntary practice.
We urge all within the UCT community to continue with our 3-V’s approach (vaccination, ventilation and vigilance) as set towards the end of 2022:
Should you present with COVID-19 symptoms and test positive, please isolate for at least seven days. Please note that absence by staff from work or by students from academic activities will be treated as normal sick leave.
We wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2023 as the new academic calendar begins.
Dr Reno Morar
Chief Operating Officer
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