Student health and wellness systems in place

15 July 2020 | Story Helen Swingler. Photo Lerato Maduna. Read time 6 min.
Appropriate health and safety measures have been put in place for the return of authorised students to campus.
Appropriate health and safety measures have been put in place for the return of authorised students to campus.

As the University of Cape Town (UCT) prepares for a phased return to campus of a small number of authorised students, Dr Memory Muturiki, director of the Student Wellness Service (SWS) in the Department of Student Affairs, spoke about the health and safety measures that have been put in place.

These measures have been detailed in the SWS’s COVID-19 Students Support Plan, which will be implemented and managed by the SWS COVID-19 Response Team.

In preparing for the students’ return, Muturiki said they had been guided by the university’s COVID-19 Return to UCT policy framework, a broader plan for the phased return to campus in the wake of the countrywide lockdown.

In a recent communiqué UCT chief operating officer, Dr Reno Morar, said “The framework is intended help us take individual and collective responsibility for managing the impact of COVID-19 on our working and home lives.” It also provides guidelines for UCT’s responses in the event of when staff or students contract the virus on campus.

Morar noted that it’s not business as usual on campus.

“The framework provides a way for UCT to work in the COVID-19 Cape Metropolitan ‘hotspot’ area. Staff and students are encouraged to work or study from home and only return to campus when invited to do so.”

Phased return to campus

Stringent health and wellness measures and facilities have been set up to minimise risks, said Muturiki.  

In May, final-year medical students returned to campus and in June and July international students and those with disabilities returned and will be returning. August and September will see the return of those students who have been identified as vulnerable. For this phase, COVID-19 screening stations were set up in the residences and at the main clinic while students continued to receive mental health support through digital and telephonic counselling.

Once the bulk of students (66%) has returned to campus, more SWS satellite clinics and counselling sites will be operating and will follow strict appointment and distancing protocols and virtual support where possible. These sites are at:

  • Ivan Toms main clinic (lower and middle campus) from 09:00 to 16:30
  • Health Sciences faculty (HSF SWS service point, Falmouth Building) from 08:30 to 16:30
  • Hiddingh Campus from 09:00 to 16:30
  • Sports Centre and Steve Biko clinics (upper campus) from 08:30 to 16:30.

Bookings for an SWS medical officer, psychiatrist, or clinical nurse practitioner can be made online at a time that suits the student or by contacting the SWS. Face-to-face consultations will only be arranged by the clinician after a virtual consultation indicates that this is required. These appointments will take place at the SWS main clinic in Mowbray by an appointment scheduled by the practitioner. The main clinic operates with limited onsite numbers and strict physical distancing protocols; therefore no walk-ins will be allowed.

Mental health support for students by the SWS practitioners has been bolstered through the SWS Peer Counselling programme. This involves a team of four peer counsellors who are postgraduates. The programme provides intervention in the form of individual counselling. Their focus areas are: counselling, health and wellness, academic support and social/emotional adjustment.  

Before and after arriving on campus

All arrangements have been documented in the SWS’s COVID-19 Students Support Plan. However, these are the important points to note.

Prior to their arrival on campus, students will receive:

  • a medical vulnerability checklist
  • information on self-quarantine and isolation protocols
  • a copy of the students support plan
  • a guide to living in residence during the pandemic
  • information on mental health support and peer interventions
  • the HigherHealth app for daily health monitoring.

On arrival at UCT, students will receive information on:

  • quarantine nurse screening procedures
  • health education and quarantine rules
  • an electronic symptom monitoring tool
  • discharge and post-quarantine procedures.

Muturiki said students are also strongly encouraged to take responsibility for their health. She said that students who had opted to return and have comorbidities are encouraged to consult their SWS healthcare worker or private doctor to ensure that it is safe for them to return to campus.


“Do not wait to arrive before obtaining health advice.”

“Do not wait to arrive before obtaining health advice. All of us health practitioners at SWS urge all UCT students to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by practising physical distancing and wearing … [personal protective equipment] PPE and [to] talk to us. SWS COVID-19 Student Line: 021 650 1271.”

Back in residence

All returning students will be screened by an SWS COVID-19 screening nurse before being allocated a room in the residence. They will also have to undertake an obligatory 14-day self-quarantine in their residence rooms, starting the day after their arrival, and are expected to abide by the quarantine rules of the residences. Students with COVID-19 symptoms will be provided medical care and treated in the designated isolation facility at All Africa House by the SWS COVID-19 Response Team.

People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of smell or taste, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhoea.

What to do if you are confirmed to have COVID-19 or have COVID-19-like symptoms? Contact the SWS triage line on 021 650 5620 during the day or the SWS COVID-19 Student Line or email

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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
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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
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Thursday, 6 August 18:26, 6 August 2020
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Thursday, 30 April 17:10, 30 April 2020
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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.

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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.