Updates on UCT’s response to COVID-19

20 March 2020 | Campus Announcement

Dear students and colleagues

This campus announcement aims to inform the University of Cape Town (UCT) community about developments around the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

1. UCT commences Term 1 vacation immediately

As a precautionary, proactive measure to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 and also in line with the recent address by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the UCT executive took a decision to break earlier than scheduled for the term 1 vacation and to suspend classes as from, and including Monday, 16 March 2020. Students were also required to vacate residences within 72 hours from 16 March. Term 1 vacation was to have started on Saturday, 21 March.

2. Support for students vacating residences

Arrangements have been put in place to assist students vacating residences. These include immediate payment of allowances for all students on financial aid, liaising with the Department of Home Affairs in cases involving international students, securing safe storage for students’ belongings and working with external agencies on travel plans for students. UCT chartered six buses to transport students to metros in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, 19 March. Students travelling beyond the metros were assisted to ensure that they reach their homes safely and conveniently.

The decision to close residences was taken following extensive discussions with experts in the field. The residences, where large numbers of students live in close proximity, pose a high risk in terms of spreading the infection. In addition, it presents a risk of a mass outbreak and this could add enormous further strain on a health system that will be stretched to capacity in the next weeks. Keeping residences open would have added significantly to the risk of the virus spreading rapidly and contributing to the swell in the rate of infections when our actions must rather serve to flatten the curve.

3. UCT’s equitable approach to responding to COVID-19

The university’s approach to dealing with COVID-19 is to play our part in efforts to slow the increase in the rate of new infections. This means practising social distancing and avoiding unnecessary close physical contact. This guiding principle underpins all decisions of the UCT executive.

Staff and students are encouraged to support one another by showing kindness and patience, and to continue with good hygiene practices. This cooperation will help to ensure UCT remains open, with work continuing remotely where possible.

4. Update on research activities

Research support offices, including Research Contracts & Innovation and the Research Office, remain operational, but as far as possible without physical contact. Staff can be reached through email and other digital technologies.

All scheduled workshops and seminars are being cancelled, postponed or rearranged to take place online. Staff are working towards offering many of the resources normally provided in face-to-face seminars through online platforms, such as Vula.

Where possible, postgraduate students are encouraged to continue their work off campus. Supervisors are encouraged to make use of digital technologies to stay in contact and provide necessary supervision support.

For updates please read the Research Announcement.

5. Second confirmed COVID-19 case

A second staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is in isolation for the next two weeks under supervision from the national Department of Health. Contact tracing has already begun to identify people who were in close contact with the staff member and to date they are all asymptomatic.

6. Teaching and learning responding to COVID-19

During the next semester, the university plans to move undergraduate courses online in all faculties – except in Health Sciences, for which a specific plan is being developed. In order to do this, a Teaching Online Task Team has been formed. It is made up of the faculty deans, colleagues in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, and other units in the Centre for Higher Education Development, Student Wellness, the Disability Service, the Libraries and the Information and Communication Technology Services Department.

7. UCT Human Resources and COVID-19

The Coronavirus outbreak means that UCT is redefining the workplace to include working from home where appropriate. Staff will, with due urgency, be duly authorised to do so by their line managers, and are legally protected in terms of the relevant legislation, while remaining subject to UCT’s staffing policies and protocols. This is in line with the principles of social and physical distancing, and is being implemented in order to ensure the safety of staff.

Ensuring the success of this approach will require alternative ways of working: prioritising electronic communication and other online functionality, reducing meetings and walk-ins, conducting consultations via email/circular wherever possible, and scheduling meetings only as an exception.

8. Jammie Shuttle Service updated vacation timetable

Due to COVID-19 there has been a further reduction of the Jammie Shuttle service in order to minimise close contact. The timetable is effective immediately and only covers three routes - Claremont, Hiddingh and a loop service covering Mowbray and Observatory (as part of the Health Sciences route). The service will not be operating at residences during the vacation period. Staff transport will be provided from Tugwell to residences. Should staff require transport in the afternoon back to Tugwell, they need to notify the driver and provide the times.


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Coronavirus Disease 2019 updates

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March and implement a national lockdown from 26 March.

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.

Campus updates

  •  Information
  •  Normal
  •  Caution
  •  Alert

Daily updates

Friday, 5 February 14:20, 5 February 2021
Monday, 4 January 16:50, 4 January 2021
Friday, 18 December 11:30, 18 December 2020
Thursday, 19 November 09:30, 19 November 2020
Friday, 13 November 12:40, 13 November 2020
Friday, 16 October 10:05, 16 October 2020
Wednesday, 14 October 12:50, 14 October 2020
Tuesday, 22 September 14:10, 22 September 2020
Friday, 11 September 10:05, 11 September 2020
Monday, 31 August 12:20, 31 August 2020
Wednesday, 12 August 10:20, 12 August 2020
Friday, 7 August 11:24, 7 August 2020
Thursday, 6 August 18:26, 6 August 2020
Monday, 27 July 14:00, 27 July 2020
Wednesday, 15 July 09:30, 15 July 2020
Monday, 13 July 14:25, 13 July 2020
Monday, 6 July 16:20, 6 July 2020
Thursday, 25 June 10:15, 25 June 2020
Tuesday, 23 June 12:30, 23 June 2020
Thursday, 18 June 17:35, 18 June 2020
Wednesday, 17 June 10:45, 17 June 2020
Tuesday, 2 June 12:20, 2 June 2020
Friday, 29 May 09:25, 29 May 2020
Monday, 25 May 14:00, 25 May 2020
Thursday, 21 May 12:00, 21 May 2020
Wednesday, 6 May 10:00, 6 May 2020
Tuesday, 5 May 17:05, 5 May 2020
Thursday, 30 April 17:10, 30 April 2020
Tuesday, 28 April 10:30, 28 April 2020
Friday, 24 April 09:35, 24 April 2020
Thursday, 23 April 17:00, 23 April 2020
Wednesday, 22 April 14:25, 22 April 2020
Monday, 20 April 17:45, 20 April 2020
Friday, 17 April 12:30, 17 April 2020
Thursday, 16 April 09:45, 16 April 2020
Tuesday, 14 April 11:30, 14 April 2020
Thursday, 9 April 09:00, 9 April 2020
Wednesday, 8 April 15:40, 8 April 2020
Wednesday, 1 April 15:50, 1 April 2020
Friday, 27 March 11:40, 27 March 2020
Thursday, 26 March 18:30, 26 March 2020
Tuesday, 24 March 15:40, 24 March 2020
Monday, 23 March 15:40, 23 March 2020
Friday, 20 March 16:00, 20 March 2020
Thursday, 19 March 09:15, 19 March 2020
Wednesday, 18 March 16:00, 18 March 2020
Tuesday, 17 March 12:50, 17 March 2020
Monday, 16 March 17:15, 16 March 2020

Campus communications

New SRC and other updates 16:44, 4 November 2020
Virtual graduation ceremonies 13:30, 21 October 2020
Online staff assembly and other updates 15:09, 30 September 2020
Fee adjustments and other updates 15:21, 16 September 2020
Call for proposals: TLC2020 10:15, 26 August 2020
SAULM survey and other updates 15:30, 5 August 2020
COVID-19 cases and other updates 15:26, 5 August 2020
New UCT Council and other updates 15:12, 15 July 2020
Upcoming UCT virtual events 09:30, 15 July 2020
Pre-paid data for UCT students 14:25, 22 April 2020
Update for postgraduate students 12:55, 20 April 2020
UCT Human Resources and COVID-19 16:05, 19 March 2020
UCT confirms second COVID-19 case 09:15, 19 March 2020
Update on UCT COVID-19 response 13:50, 11 March 2020
Update on COVID-19 17:37, 6 March 2020


Video messages from the Department of Medicine

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.

Useful information from UCT

External resources

News and opinions

Statements and media releases

Media releases

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Statements from Government


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.