Information about COVID-19 testing, medical leave and vaccinations

16 August 2021 | Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear colleagues and students

The third wave of COVID-19 is causing an alarming rise in cases across South Africa and in the Western Cape. We want every member of the University of Cape Town (UCT) community to know what to do if:

  • You think you need to be tested for COVID-19 but cannot afford it or don’t know what to expect
  • You are worried about how COVID-19 might affect your medical leave balance
  • You are eligible for a vaccination and would like to get one.

If you are showing COVID-19 symptoms and have been advised by a health practitioner to be tested for the virus:

  • You can receive a free test at any of the Cape Town Health testing facilities, which operate from Monday to Friday every week.
  • Find your nearest Western Cape testing facility.
  • If you are a member of a medical aid, the cost of COVID-19 testing may be covered by your plan, so please check with your medical aid provider. At the testing site, you will be offered a choice of giving a sample swab from your throat or your nose. You will receive a SMS within 24 hours to tell you the result.
  • Please stay at home and follow the advice of your health practitioner. You will need to self-isolate if you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms or if you have been diagnosed as positive.
  • It is unacceptable to come onto campus with symptoms or after testing positive for COVID-19. If you have symptoms, you have an obligation to protect others from being infected. UCT retains the right to follow the appropriate measures to address such unacceptable behaviour by staff members, students and other members of the community.

If as a staff member you are worried about how COVID-19 might affect your medical leave balance:

  • If a staff member is required to work on-site and suspects that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, they must complete the “special leave” process online or via HR forms submitted via email, including the necessary proof thereof. The COVID-19 guideline for special leave of 10 days will apply for quarantine purposes.
  • If a staff member is required to work on-site and is diagnosed with COVID-19, that staff member must not return to work. The staff member must report their absence to their line manager, complete the sick leave process and notify UCT’s Occupational Health and Safety Unit (OHU) in the Department of Properties and Services.
  • A staff member who is working remotely and is diagnosed with COVID-19 must complete the sick leave process if they are not able to work.
  • A staff member who is working remotely and suspects they have been exposed to COVID-19 but are not showing any symptoms is required to continue to fulfil their duties through remote work.
  • A member of staff who has recovered from COVID-19 must contact their line manager for back-to-work discussions. OHU may be consulted for relevant information.
  • Staff are required to complete normal leave applications for any of the various types of leave, whether they are working remotely or on-site.
  • Please note that staff members’ health details are considered confidential and are not to be divulged to colleagues without permission from the staff member who is on sick leave. Information about COVID-19 exposure, positive testing and return to work is reported to OHU only for the purpose of reporting UCT statistics to the National Institute of Occupational Health.

If you are eligible for a vaccination and would like to get one:

  • Anyone who is over 35 years old and has registered on the EVDS system may visit any vaccination site that will allow walk-ins, or book an appointment through your medical aid.
  • As announced by national government, anyone who is over 18 years old will be eligible to be vaccinated as of 1 September 2021.
  • Please take note that some vaccination sites only accept people who have been notified to come in at a specific date and time, because they have only a limited supply of vaccine for each day of service.
  • Other sites are more flexible; for instance, we understand that the site in the Cape Town International Conference Centre does accept walk-ins, but this may change and it may mean standing in a queue.
  • View the list of COVID-19 vaccination sites in the Western Cape.

If you are unsure of your medical history or have any questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Please consult with your health practitioner or contact one of the following COVID assistance facilities:
  • National hotline: 0800 029 999
  • Provincial hotline: 021 928 4102
  • Toll-free hotline: 080 928 4102
  • Email:
  • WhatsApp "Hi" to 060 012 3456

Everyone who is receiving the vaccine needs to ensure that they:

  • Are not currently experiencing any flu symptoms or have had flu symptoms in the previous two weeks;
  • Have not received a COVID-19 positive diagnosis in the previous 30 days; and
  • Have not received any other vaccinations (such as for flu or hepatitis) in the previous two weeks

UCT’s Community of Hope Vaccination Centre at the Forest Hills residence complex will be operational as of 1 September 2021. We are partnering with the Western Cape Department of Health to vaccinate eligible members of the public and all eligible UCT staff and students. From 1 September 2021, anyone who is at least 18 years old will be able to be vaccinated.

Individual personal behaviour remains an important factor in preventing the spread of the virus.

As a community that cares for each other and our families and friends, we need to each take individual responsibility to help prevent a significant rise in COVID-19 infections. Please continue to take the necessary precautions:

  • Avoid large gatherings, enclosed spaces and crowds as far as possible
  • Wear your mask at all times when outside your home or residence room
  • Keep a distance of at least 1,5 m from other people, and
  • Sanitise or wash your hands regularly to help prevent the risk of infection.

The pandemic has raised some unusual issues for everyone around the world. UCT is working to develop ways to help you through these issues, so please share your questions and concerns:

  • Students can direct their COVID-19 questions and concerns to Student Wellness Service at 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours)
  • Staff members can speak to their line managers or talk to UCTHR on 021 650 5685

UCT’s highest priority is your health and safety and that of your loved ones. Please do all you can to keep yourself and others well.


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 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.


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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.