UCT preparedness for the new Level Three Lockdown regulations

04 January 2021 | Dr Reno Morar, COO

Dear colleagues and students

As you are aware, there has been an increase across the country in COVID-19 infections, admissions and deaths in the past two weeks. In many areas the number of new infections exceeds that seen during the first wave. President Cyril Ramaphosa therefore announced a return to Lockdown Level Three in the country.

The regulations under Lockdown Level Three, published on 29 December 2020, include a curfew between the hours of 21:00 and 06:00.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has in place all the necessary procedures and protocols to comply with Lockdown Level Three regulations. For example, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available from 4 January 2021 for all students and staff. We are also adhering to guidelines circulated by the Department of Higher Education and Training following the president’s announcement.

As we have done during all previous lockdown levels, we are applying a risk-based approach when assessing the occupancy rating and ventilation requirements for all venues on campus. As a result, ventilation systems in selected venues have been prioritised for mechanical upgrades. Guidelines on occupancy rating and ventilation requirements are available via email to Brent Proctor or Michael Langley in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Properties & Services Department. The Mechanical Ventilation Upgrade Project will be implemented in phases. The first phase is expected to be completed by 15 March 2021, in time for the start of the 2021 academic year.

Return to residence

The first groups of students will be returning to residences in early January 2021. Only students who have been invited to return to residence will be accepted. In addition, they will be required to undergo a “safe arrival” quarantine for seven days. All students, like all staff members, will be required to comply with all the protocols aligned to Lockdown Level Three, as detailed in the invitation.

All students are advised to please use the Higher Health App to assess their symptoms before departing from home on their way to residence. Students who have symptoms should delay their travel until they are cleared on the Higher Health App. They may call the Student Wellness Service (SWS) 24-hour COVID-19 Hotline on 021 650 1271 for advice.

Health support is available for students

SWS in the Department of Student Affairs will continue to provide pandemic-related support to students, including screening for symptoms on arrival to residence and providing information about the prevention of COVID-19 infection before arrival. UCT’s responses to COVID-19, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available on our dedicated web page.

Return to teaching

Under Lockdown Level Three, the University will continue to operate as a low-density campus that relies on physically distanced learning (PDL) in the first semester of 2021, which will start on 15 March 2021. Undergraduate teaching and learning, as well some postgraduate teaching, will use both asynchronous and synchronous online activities (asynchronous activities can be accessed at any time, while synchronous activities will require participants to attend according to a specific schedule); and face-to-face teaching of small groups in COVID-compliant venues under PDL conditions.

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) will manage its various programmes through a combination of online lectures and PDL in laboratories and on the clinical platform, according to COVID-19 health protocols. FHS students have been notified about when their respective programmes will start.

For postgraduate students, the mode of operation will depend on the nature of the programme, the number of students in the programme and the availability of venues. Laboratory, studio, seminar and group work will run on a roster basis to help maintain physical distancing. Fieldwork and internships will be set up to comply with both the needs of the programme and health protocols. Guidelines for fieldwork under COVID-19 conditions are available.

Physically distanced research activities will take place in low-density labs, studios and workshops that will operate on a rotation basis, to reduce the number of people in each space at any time.

Return to campuses

UCT’s preparations for Lockdown Level Three and for the first semester of 2021 are in line with international guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

All students and staff members will be required to produce their letters of authority, as well as evidence that they have completed the Higher Health Check app for COVID symptoms, in order to access campuses. All students and staff will also be expected to comply with COVID-19 guidelines and will be advised to take the necessary precautions if they are not already doing so. A dedicated communication is being prepared explaining the processes that first-year students will be required to follow. UCT may take disciplinary action against anyone on campus who shows continued disregard for these guidelines.

Our priority is to help each other to keep safe and healthy, as far as possible, so that we all can perform to the best of our abilities. The challenge of beating the pandemic remains ahead of us. This is a challenge we can win if we each practice the safety protocols and encourage others to do the same.

We look forward to welcoming all students and staff members to campus, and to helping to keep each other safe, healthy and ready to help make the world a better place.


Dr Reno Morar
Chief Operating Officer
Chair of the COVID-19 Co-ordinating Committee

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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.