Limited reopening of UCT Libraries and other updates

14 October 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear students and colleagues

As we adjust to Lockdown Level One, this is an appropriate time to take stock of what facilities at the University of Cape Town (UCT) are available to students and staff members who are returning to campus in the phased approach that we have outlined in previous messages. Here is an update on campus facilities.

Limited reopening of UCT Libraries: In line with UCT’s approach to the completion of the 2020 academic year using remote teaching, along with the phased return to campus of some students and staff members by invitation, UCT Libraries will continue to offer a comprehensive virtual service. In addition, the network of libraries across campuses and faculties reopened for limited services during restricted hours. Please check the UCT Libraries web page for current information.

Under the restricted procedures, limited study spaces (maximum 100 people) will be available in designated areas. The number of users will be capped as per national and institutional regulations. 24/7 facilities will not be available.

Borrowing of library materials will be facilitated by a request-and-collect/pickup-and-go service, offering extended loan periods with automatic renewals. All material can be returned via book drop boxes, which are located at all sites. No borrowed material will be returned in person to UCT Libraries. There will be no short loan service, due to frequency of use, handling and quarantine considerations. While general browsing of the physical collections will not be permitted, you are encouraged to virtually browse the catalogue online.

This limited service takes into consideration UCT’s phased approach to the return to campus, institutional lockdown regulations, staff health risk assessments, and protocols for the return to work and reopening of buildings.

Computer labs will become available as and when decided by the relevant faculties. Because of the health and safety protocols that are in place, access to computer labs may be restricted and many labs remain closed while emergency remote teaching continues, unless they can be accessed remotely, such as in the Engineering & Built Environment faculty. Some labs are managed by Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS), but this is only under contract to the relevant faculties, which are responsible for assessing the need to reopen the computer labs.

International students who are not currently in South Africa need to confirm the entry criteria. South Africa’s borders were partially reopened from 1 October 2020. The Department of Home Affairs has indicated that if you are a student who travelled home at the start of lockdown, you can approach the South African embassy in your home country to validate your visa. The embassy validation is a requirement before you can travel, as it effectively reinstates your visa.

On 30 September 2020, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, announced that South Africa’s move to Lockdown Level One meant that international students who are currently outside South Africa’s borders may now return to their respective campuses. However, he pointed out that this is subject to any restrictions linked to each university’s own risk assessment and phased return, due to local context and conditions.

International students may only return to UCT if they have received a letter of invitation and a letter of authority to do so.

International students who are currently outside South Africa will need to meet the Co-operative Governance Traditional Affairs (COGTA) regulations and produce a document verifying that they had been tested within the previous 72 hours, showing that they are negative for the COVID-19 virus on arrival in South Africa; if not, they will need to go into quarantine at their own expense for at least 10 days before proceeding to their respective institutions. International travellers must have travel insurance to cover the COVID-19 test and quarantine costs. All these travellers will be subjected to COVID-19 screening on arrival.

UCT continues to encourage everyone who is able to work from home to continue doing so. Because of the responsibility we each have to help protect the health and safety of every person who enters campus property, some facilities will continue to offer a virtual service or will provide only a limited physical service. We will keep you updated as services change their status. Meanwhile, please ensure you have read the latest information that is available.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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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 regularly with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.


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Commemorating a year of COVID-19

At midnight on 26 March 2020, South Africa went into the first nationwide hard lockdown. A year later, we remember those who have died and those who have been affected by COVID-19, as well as the pandemic’s effects across society and campus. We are especially grateful for the front-line health workers who have done so much for so many.

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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.