Dear students and colleagues
Because of the high rates of community infection of COVID-19, more of us in the University of Cape Town (UCT) community now know someone who has tested positive. It is more important than ever that we each continue to do our part to protect each other – especially people who are more vulnerable to the disease. We recognise that many members of the UCT community are dealing with anxieties, pain and illness and some are grieving for loved ones who have succumbed to COVID-19. This is an extraordinary and painful time for many and I wish you strength as we go through the next months.
Before the lockdown took effect in March, UCT began issuing regular updates on our institutional responses to COVID-19. By May, we had reported that eight staff members and students had tested positive for the virus; these have all recovered fully. However, these reports did not include students in the Faculty of Health Sciences, or staff in that faculty who are joint staff members in the Provincial Department of Health (PDoH) or the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS).
In light of the rising infection rate, I am writing to explain how we will report new cases at UCT. We do not normally report on the health condition of UCT community members. However, we chose to do so with the COVID-19 cases for the following reasons:
To exercise leadership in how we respond to COVID-19, we all must provide responsible, accurate reporting and work together to manage the impact of the pandemic with compassion and care.
Anybody can contract COVID-19. Many who caught it have recovered fully. This is a time to show empathy and support to each other, because so many of us are affected by anxiety and physical stress. While physical distancing is necessary, we can show kindness in how we talk and treat each other, and through messages of support via phone, email or online messaging.
If someone is self-isolating to prevent the spread of the virus, please respect their right to confidentiality about their health status, without making assumptions about them. Most important is that we do not stigmatise each other or allow others to do so. We all need care, encouragement and time to rest and heal. Please remember the UCT services available to support your physical and mental well-being.
Since our last report on COVID-19 cases in May, there have been some delays and complexities in reporting new cases. We learned of additional cases involving UCT Health Sciences staff members and students working with the PDoH or the NHLS. These infections were reported officially to the relevant government offices, but not to UCT. Each of these cases were notified and contact tracing teams followed government protocol to identify and manage their contacts. Going forward, all cases involving jointly appointed staff and students will continue to be reported in this manner to the PDoH and NHLS, and not via UCT’s channels.
We have decided that cases of COVID-19 infection among Health Sciences staff and students performing health system work need to be reported separately from cases involving the rest of the UCT community, because UCT members in the health system group are at far higher risk of infection.
As a result, here are the new COVID-19 cases since we last reported on 14 May 2020:
UCT will update these figures on a regular basis.
As we plan for the phased reopening of the university, we all need to take collective responsibility for our safety as a community, by following safety and hygiene procedures. You must follow these practices if you are invited to return to campus. The Return to UCT Policy Framework, which will be released soon to the broader UCT community, provides containment strategies to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
Please stay safe and strong.
With kind regards
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
Read previous communications:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March. This was followed by the implementation of a national lockdown, which has been in effect since midnight on 26 March and has recently been extended to 30 April. The intention of this drastic measure is to “flatten the curve” and contain the spread of the coronavirus to enable healthcare workers to more effectively treat those affected.
UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated regularly with the latest COVID-19 information.
Getting credible, evidence-based, accessible information and recommendations relating to COVID-19
The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.
To watch more videos like these, visit the Department of Medicine’s YouTube channel.
The Covid-19 crisis has reinforced the global consequences of fragmented, inadequate and inequitable healthcare systems and the damage caused by hesitant and poorly communicated responses.24 Jun 2020 - >10 min read Opinion
Our scientists must not practise in isolation, but be encouraged to be creative and increase our knowledge of the needs of developing economies, write Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice-chancellor of UCT, and Professor Thokozani Majozi from the University of the Witwatersrand.09 Jun 2020 - 6 min read Republished
South Africa has been recognised globally for its success in flattening the curve, which came as a result of President Ramaphosa responding quickly to the crisis, writes Prof Alan Hirsch.28 Apr 2020 - 6 min read Republished
In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”
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.