Developing the framework for returning to UCT

29 May 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear students and colleagues

I know you may have questions about how the University of Cape Town (UCT) will reopen after the President’s announcement that the country will be moving to Alert Level 3 from 1 June 2020. We are developing a framework for the safe return of staff and students in a co-ordinated and phased manner, in line with the guidelines provided by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande and President Cyril Ramaphosa over the weekend. This framework is based on our foremost commitment to protect the health and safety of all our staff and students.

I want to start by repeating President Ramaphosa’s caution: that if you can work or study from home, you should do so to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The move to Alert Level 3 does not signal an automatic return to campus for us. We have been warned that tragically the COVID-19 outbreak could still get worse as we proceed into winter. The number of reported positive cases in the Western Cape is still high. As we move into Level 3 of the national lockdown framework, we need to be even more vigilant and continue following basic protective and defensive practices to mitigate against the impact of the pandemic on our personal and working lives. This is the reason for UCT’s approach to a planned, co-ordinated and phased manner to reopen UCT to staff and students. We want our students and staff to be an integral part of ensuring that we complete the academic year, while protecting everyone’s health and safety.

Under national Alert Level 3, depending on a tertiary institution’s capacity, no more than a maximum of 33 percent of students will be allowed to return to campus and residences. This is on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

A maximum of one-third of students set by the DHET is not a prescription. It is a guide to be considered in combination with governmental directives and institutional health and safety obligations. Therefore the number of returning students may have to be set at a level below the guideline of a maximum of one-third of the student body. The plan for a gradual and phased return of students, as health and safety conditions allow, does not at this point in any way mean that the current emergency remote teaching programme will stop. UCT will continue with remote teaching until the end of Term 3. The phased return to campus of some staff and students does not mean the resumption of contact teaching.

We will notify the groups of students who will be invited to return, and what date you can be back on campus. If you are a student and you do not receive notice from UCT to return, please remain at home and continue to study or work as you were doing before.

With regards to returning to residence, UCT students will receive an offer to return to residence. Accommodation in residence will be based on the number of students that we can safely accommodate under strict COVID-19 regulations. Students that are invited to return will be required to adhere to the need for quarantine on arrival and to practice strict social distancing. We will notify the groups of students who will be invited to return, and what date they can be back on campus. If you are a student and you do not receive an invitation from UCT to return, please remain at home and continue to study or work as you were doing before.

Senior executives and managers in all the faculties and departments are also preparing plans for the potential return of staff members who are able to work in various sites across campus. Further communication on researchers returning to university activities will also follow. If you are a staff member, your line manager will be in touch with you. There are also important engagements that we still want to have with staff groups and representatives.

Meanwhile, colleagues in the Properties and Services Department are ensuring that our facilities are prepared for the return of students and staff and this will take some considerable time still. We are working hard to ensure that all the requisite health screening, cleaning, sanitising and personal protection equipment that is needed is in place before we allow any further returns to campus. More details will follow over the next few weeks, but with the work still needed and precautions we want to put in place, we estimate that the earliest we could begin to see some staff or students returning to campus will be 1 July 2020. My colleagues and I will communicate further details over the next few weeks.

Developing this framework requires hard work and attention to detail. Thank you to colleagues who are working to organise the phased return to campus, led by Chief Operating Officer, Dr Reno Morar.

Lockdown and unlocking through the various alert levels has not been easy and the COVID-19 crisis is not over yet. We may have to go through these various levels of lockdown in a number of cycles still. This is a time to be patient and stay strong. Thank you for the compassion that you are showing to each other and yourselves. I am confident that if we continue to work together we can help each other and our nation to overcome the pandemic and its effects.

With kind regards,

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Read previous communications:

Creative Commons License 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 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

Read more  

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.