VC makes urgent call to students to support COVID-19 response

23 March 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

It is my intention to write to you more comprehensively in a few days about several aspects relating to the management of COVID-19 at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and our general business continuity plans. We wish to do so following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message, which is expected later today, as it may very well influence our plans.

This communication is important, though. It is particularly targeted at those students still in residences across campus.

One of the first major decisions that the UCT executive took in response to the health threat of COVID-19 was to break early for the term 1 vacation, hence suspending classes and asking students to return home.

The decision was based on comprehensive advice from health experts and in line with the President’s declaration of a national disaster.

I am pleased that the majority of students heeded our call and took personal responsibility to return home. We are deeply grateful to those students and to the staff who assisted many to make the journey home.

Staff from the Department of Student Affairs (DSA) worked long hours over the last week and weekend to deal with cases where students experienced complexities in leaving. Only those students who were granted permission to do so will remain in residence. This is a small number of students. It must be noted that very strict terms and conditions will apply to these students. This includes moving into specific self-catering, single-room residences. There will be limited services available. Stringent access control will be applied in line with social distancing to contain the disease. Strict compliance will be enforced. In the event of a national lockdown, we may have to vacate even these students.

We understand there are students who are still making arrangements to leave. We will assist as far as possible and buses will be made available if needed. I urge students to work speedily to conclude their arrangements. Please reach out to the warden if you need further assistance.

I am very concerned that there are students who do not qualify for special permission to stay, but who have not vacated their residence rooms and have indicated that they are staying. This is most worrying. Your presence in the residence creates a health risk to yourself and to others. We realise that going home is not always an easy situation, but the answer is not to stay in residence. The residences must close and workers have to stay home so that we are all safe. UCT is not able to look after students who remain. We are appealing to you to take responsibility and adhere to the call to vacate the residences immediately.

We are clear that the most important public health principle is containment of the disease as far as possible, including avoiding social gatherings and minimising groups of people gathering in one space. We follow this principle by closing the residences, in an effort to minimise the risk of infection for both students and staff members.

By staying without permission, you are putting yourself, UCT staff and the wider community at risk.

UCT is doing everything in its power to ensure the continuity of the academic year. Special attention is being given to students in vulnerable situations, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Detailed communication on how we will ensure that vulnerable students are not disadvantaged will follow by way of another DVC Desk today or tomorrow. The DVC: Transformation will also communicate later this week about ongoing support for students with respect to mental health, student allowances and the services offered by the Office for Inclusivity and Change.

It is clear that we are all making sacrifices and trying to act differently to make a positive impact on the fight against this pandemic.

As an executive, we thank you for the part you are playing.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Updates will be posted on UCT’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 feature page on the UCT News website.

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UCT’s response to COVID-19

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March 2020 and to implement a national lockdown from 26 March 2020. UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.

Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, has in June 2022 repealed some of South Africa’s remaining COVID-19 regulations: namely, sections 16A, 16B and 16C of the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions under the National Health Act. We are now no longer required to wear masks or limit gatherings. Venue restrictions and checks for travellers coming into South Africa have now also been removed.

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.


Campus communications


Adjusting to our new environment 16:50, 23 June 2022
VC Open Lecture and other updates 17:04, 13 April 2022
Feedback from UCT Council meeting of 12 March 2022 09:45, 18 March 2022
UCT Council
March 2022 graduation celebration 16:45, 8 March 2022
Report on the meeting of UCT Council of 21 February 2022 19:30, 21 February 2022
UCT Council
COVID-19 management 2022 11:55, 14 February 2022
Return to campus arrangements 2022 11:15, 4 February 2022

UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre

On Wednesday, 20 July, staff from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences came together with representatives from the Western Cape Government at the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre at Forest Hill Residence to acknowledge the centre’s significance in the fight against COVID-19 and to thank its staff for their contributions. The centre opened on 1 September 2021 with the aim of providing quality vaccination services to UCT staff, students and the nearby communities, as well as to create an opportunity for medical students from the Faculty of Health Sciences to gain practical public health skills. The vaccination centre ceased operations on Friday, 29 July 2022.

With the closure of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, if you still require access to a COVID-19 vaccination site please visit the CovidComms SA website to find an alternative.


“After almost a year of operation, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, located at the Forest Hill residence complex in Mowbray, will close on Friday, 29 July 2022. I am extremely grateful and proud of all staff, students and everyone involved in this important project.”
– Vice-Chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

With the closure of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, if you still require access to a COVID-19 vaccination site please visit the CovidComms SA website to find an alternative.

Thank You UCT Community

Frequently asked questions


Global Citizen Asks: Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe & Effective?

UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) collaborated with Global Citizen, speaking to trusted experts to dispel vaccine misinformation.

If you have further questions about the COVID-19 vaccine check out the FAQ produced by the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation (DTHF). The DTHF has developed a dedicated chat function where you can ask your vaccine-related questions on the bottom right hand corner of the website.

IDM YouTube channel | IDM website


“As a contact university, we look forward to readjusting our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in 2023 as the COVID-19 regulations have been repealed.”
– Prof Harsha Kathard, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.