Health questions and contacts | UCT’s response to COVID-19
(Updated 2 September 2021) Classic symptoms used in screening for COVID-19 remain relevant, but health authorities have warned that the Delta variant of the virus is seeing previously uncommon symptoms become much more common.
The classic symptoms are: Cough, sore throat, fever, loss of smell and/or taste, and shortness of breath.
Symptoms associated with the Delta variant are similar to those of the common cold: Headache, blocked/runny nose, sneezing, and weakness/fatigue. These symptoms were less commonly seen with previous coronavirus variants, but should now not be dismissed because they could well indicate COVID-19 infection.
(Updated 2 September 2021) The following definitions and actions have been provided by UCT’s Occupational Health and Safety Division and the Health Advisory Working Group.
“High-risk” means the contact has had close (of less than 1,5 m) and/or long (more than 15 minutes) exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus, or has been in the same room together for more than two hours, especially if the room is poorly ventilated. As such, there is a high chance of being infected and transmitting the virus to others. The risk is increased if the contact has not been wearing a face mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE), or washing hands regularly.
“Low-risk” means the contact has not been closer than 1,5 m to a COVID-19 positive person and the exposure has been shorter than 15 minutes, and has been following health and safety protocols. This person has a lower chance of being infected and transmitting the virus to others.
A close, high-risk contact of a confirmed COVID positive case may:
Required action for a “High-risk” contact
For those in close contact with a COVID-19 patient: Quarantine for 10 days from the time of last contact.
For those who test positive for COVID-19: Isolate for 10 days from day one of symptoms, or from the date of the positive test. Isolation is extended beyond 10 days in cases of ongoing fever, until 48 hours after the resolution of fever. For severe COVID-19 cases, isolate for 10 days after oxygen is no longer required, and the patient has been clinically stabilised.
Required action for a “Low-Risk” contact
No need for quarantine.
No need for contact tracing.
What is a contact of a contact of a COVID case?
When you have been in contact with a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 positive case.
No need to quarantine.
No need for contact tracing.
Monitor for symptoms and if present, self-quarantine for 10 days.
(Updated 22 June 2021) Strict protocols remain in place. Staff and students are reminded to continue practising vigilance, to wear suitable masks, to maintain a social distance of 1,5 m from other people and to follow strict hand sanitising regimes. All teaching venues have been examined and necessary maintenance has been carried out to ensure they are safe and have appropriate ventilation.
In complying with COVID-19 health and safety regulations, UCT is providing three cloth masks to all staff members and students who report to campus. Staff and students must always wear their cloth masks on campus and while commuting to and from campus. They should wash their used cloth masks daily and wear a fresh mask every day. Additional personal protective equipment will be provided to health system staff.
From 19 April to 24 December 2021, UCT will make available study spaces for students not living in residences, but whose internet connectivity and/or studying conditions are negatively impacted by structural and systemic inequality. These spaces will operate from 08:00 to 20:00 (Monday to Friday) and will be monitored by marshals, who are trained senior students reporting to the Department of Student Affairs.
UCT remains committed to maintaining a low-density campus. Students should only access the campuses in cases of absolute necessity, and not if they are at risk medically. If in doubt, please contact the Student Wellness Service.
A full assessment of laboratories for social distancing, air conditioning and ventilation, as well as layout to maximise capacity, has resulted in a decision to open some faculty laboratories. These will operate at 50% capacity for face-to-face teaching, while others have made laboratory computers accessible remotely. To help students plan, Information and Communication Technology Services has a dedicated webpage detailing laboratory availability.
Student Housing will open their computer labs for use from 16 April 2021. Lab assistants have received COVID-19 marshal training; areas in the labs have been demarcated; and the necessary personal protective equipment has been supplied.
Virtual library opening hours are 08:30 to 17:00 Monday to Friday, but physical opening hours vary and can be ascertained here. Students may access the UCT Libraries resources via the Libraries website and the dedicated Virtual Library Support page.
(Updated 13 September 2021) Please access the instructions for completing a Personal Health Vulnerability Assessment.
If you don’t find a Return to Campus Invitation link under your action items in the Health Centre, please contact your line manager who can check in with your Head of Department (HoD) to ensure that your Return to Campus Invitation is activated for you, as this requires HODs to first approve the line managers’ Exposure Likelihood Assessment submission as required for all staff, regardless of the anticipated timelines for staff to physically come back onto campus.
(Updated 15 July 2021) To ensure the safety of staff and students before any return to campus, which is UCT’s highest priority, everyone is required to complete the 2021 COVID-19 Induction training.
The process will only take about 15 minutes, and the training can be accessed online. Please ensure you complete the process before logging out, because you are not permitted to return to complete it at a later date. If you log out before completion, you will be deemed to not have completed the training.
(Updated 10 June 2021) Every student or staff member who comes onto campus must have their UCT student or staff card. They are required to present the outcome of their personal health risk assessment on the UCT Daily Health Screening app (which replaced the Higher Health Screening app from 5 June 2021) to the Campus Protection Services officers at checkpoints or faculty entrance points as required.
As of 5 June, the Higher Health app may no longer be used. All UCT staff and students entering campus will need to sign into the UCT Daily Health Screening App, either on their own phones or at the access terminals at campus checkpoints. The app is also available on the UCT mobile app. Visitors, contractors and staff or students who do not have access to the mobile app will be assisted by Campus Protection Services checkpoint staff, who will complete the UCT app for them on handheld devices.
The UCT Daily Health Screening app meets the government’s requirements while incorporating customised features to meet the specific needs of UCT. The app has been designed to help keep students and staff safe by alerting users who may need medical attention or testing. It will also allow health practitioners in the Properties and Services Occupational Health Unit and the Student Wellness Service in the Department of Student Affairs to assist in managing the possible risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Updated 12 April 2021) Every UCT student or staff member is required to complete the UCT Daily Health Screening app each time they enter campus. They are required to present the outcome of their personal health risk assessments to the Campus Protection Services officers at checkpoints or faculty entrance points as required.
From 15 April all UCT staff and students entering campus will need to sign into the UCT Daily Health Screening app, either on their own phones or at the access terminals at campus checkpoints. Students without smartphones will be assisted by security at the checkpoints.
(Updated 12 April 2021) The user-friendly UCT Daily Health Screening app runs in a browser on any smartphone, laptop or desktop computer, and can be accessed online. The app can also be accessed via the UCT Mobile app.
From 15 April students without smartphones will be assisted with the UCT Daily Health Screening app by security at the checkpoints.
(Updated 18 March 2021) Symptom screening involves downloading the UCT Daily Health Screening app and following the easy steps. The screening only takes a few minutes to complete and delivers an immediate result.
You need to show your screening results to the Campus Protection Services (CPS) officers at the entrance to campus. Only those with results showing green will be allowed to enter.
For assistance, please contact the UCT COVID Hotline: 021 650 0999 or email email@example.com. Students who require support are encouraged to contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271.
(Updated 2 September 2021) The UCT Daily Health Screening app is designed to identify persons who may have symptoms of COVID-19 and prevent them from entering UCT.
However, it generally takes between two and five days from the time of contact with a COVID-19 positive person to develop symptoms. This means that a few cases may not be detected by the screening app. Some people might not recognise that they have symptoms, especially if these are very mild. Others may only begin to show symptoms while at work.
The aim of the screening is to reduce the likelihood of someone who is unknowingly infected with COVID-19 entering UCT.
(Updated 18 March 2021) Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms must contact their general medical practitioner and notify their line manager or their student administrator / course lecturers via the UCT COVID Hotline (021 650 0999).
Students who require support or advice can also contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271. Telephonic screenings are offered for any respiratory symptoms, eg cough, cold, fevers and/or shortness of breath.
(Updated 18 March 2021) If you identify someone who may be sick or has flu-like symptoms while on campus at UCT:
Heads of departments should notify Blanche Claasen-Hoskins at Organisational Health on 021 650 5685
(Updated 22 June 2021) Students can reach out to UCT’s Student Wellness Service (SWS), a comprehensive primary health care facility offering medical, counselling and social work services.
SWS also hosts webinars every Thursday from 12:30 to 13:30 via MS Teams to discuss topics including information on COVID-19 infections, UCT’s COVID-19 app, as well as campus and residence public health protocols. Check the website for confirmed dates and links to upcoming webinars.
Facilities and services provided by SWS include:
If you find yourself in distress at any time:
If an SWS clinician confirms you have COVID-19 symptoms, or have tested positive for COVID-19, students who live off-campus will receive support and treatment as necessary. Students in UCT residents will be transferred to the UCT isolation facility, All Africa House. Those who have yet to be tested will be assisted to test at a public or private testing facility. Students should inform their faculty if they test positive.
Students who have come in close contact (face-to-face contact within one metre, or in a closed space with them for more than 15 minutes) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, must self-quarantine in their UCT rooms or in their private accommodation for 10 days. SWS will contact close contacts of confirmed cases and provide them with the necessary advice and support during their 10-day self-quarantine period.
(Updated 18 March 2021) UCT Human Resources (HR) offers many forms of support, including the coordination of services provided by the Independent Counselling and Advisory Services (ICAS) and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). Read the full list of counselling services available on UCT HR’s Health and Wellness web page.
While ICAS on-site counselling is suspended for now, the same counsellors are available to conduct telephonic counselling. You can access these services by:
ICAS has also launched a new online app, ICAS On-the-Go, which allows you to chat live with an ICAS counsellor. The app gives you and your family access to a 24/7 Employee Wellness Programme that is available 365 days a year and information to address some of your health and wellness needs.
Connect to ICAS On-the-Go. The code for UCT staff is UNI003.
(Updated 18 March 2021)
Staff in pay classes 2 to 6 are covered by Kaelo, which is promoting health and wellness through the Kaelo Cares page. Although the on-site UCT clinic is closed during lockdown, Kaelo is providing services in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To access these services, Kaelo members can phone their Kaelo primary healthcare network doctors.
Staff in pay classes 7 and above, as well as academic staff who are Discovery Health members, can access the medical aid provider’s services.
Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) provides cover for COVID-19 from the World Health Organization Global Outbreak Benefit. This benefit complements existing DHMS benefits and is available on all DHMS health plans.
DHMS is also able to provide COVID-19 testing for symptomatic people who have a doctor’s referral to get tested.
Find out about Discovery’s Vitality at Home service to help you stay healthy and get rewarded at home.
Join the #JEFFtogether exercise community on Facebook, which is offering free morning workouts for adults and afternoon workouts for children online in partnership with Discovery Vitality. Maintaining physical wellness is essential to ensuring mental wellness.
(Updated 18 March 2021) All COVID-19 related queries can be directed to the UCT COVID Hotline: 021 650 0999 or to the Triage line: 021 650 6520 (office hours) or 021 650 1271 (after hours).
You can also contact your personal healthcare provider, who will refer you for testing.
(Updated 27 May 2021) It generally takes two to five days from the time of contact with a COVID-19-positive person to develop symptoms. The best day to test after an unprotected exposure to COVID-19 is day eight if asymptomatic, or day three of symptoms if they do develop. The current false positive rate is extremely low at 1%.
(Updated 27 May 2021) There are two main diagnostic tests currently on offer: the COVID-19 antigen test (given with a nasal swab) and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test (given with a throat or nasal swab). In a patient with recently resolved COVID-19, the PCR test can be positive for up to three months, as it picks up dead or inert viral debris. So a positive PCR test in an asymptomatic patient needs to be interpreted in context, whereas a positive antigen test always signifies a new infection.
A COVID-19 antigen test can detect active viral proteins within 15 minutes and performs well in the first week of symptoms. It works like a pregnancy test, with fluid from your nasal cavity. If this is positive, then it always signifies a new infection and therefore it is a great screening test for those with symptoms. The World Health Organization says these tests “offer the possibility of rapid, inexpensive and early detection of the most infectious COVID-19 cases”. However, in someone with severe symptoms beyond the first week of illness, it may give false negative results. The COVID-19 antigen test is a good screening test for someone who is unwell, has symptoms and has not had a known COVID-19-positive exposure. If negative, you do not have to follow up a with a PCR test.
The PCR test takes about 24 hours to show results and is more sensitive. If someone has had a known positive COVID-19 exposure then the current recommendation is a PCR test – whether they have symptoms or are asymptomatic.
(Updated 27 May 2021) A COVID-19 antibody test is generally not used during the acute/early phase to diagnose the infection, because not everyone who is infected will make enough COVID-19 antibodies to be detected in a blood test. The level of the antibody also changes, depending on the timing and type of antibody tests. IgM (an antibody that is the first response to rises early and wanes) and IgG (an antibody that is the long-lasting memory antibody and lasts longer) start rising at about the same time from day 10 of infection. There are many subsets of antibodies in the IgM and IgG categories and the lab tests are much more sensitive than the finger-prick cartridge tests. The IgG antibodies will stay positive for about three months after a COVID-19 infection and then start to wane. For diagnosing prior COVID-19 infection, the best time to test antibodies is one month after the start of symptoms.
(Updated 27 May 2021) If you test positive, you will need to inform close contacts. This is why we need to keep any unprotected interactions outside of our household to a minimum and avoid crowds, confined spaces and close-contact settings.
Contact tracing and contact exposure risk should be based on the period of infectiousness, which is calculated as follows: an infected person is considered most infectious between 48 hours before they develop symptoms and six days after the development of symptoms. If no symptoms are reported, then consider the period to be 48 hours before testing positive for COVID-19 until six days after the positive test.
(Updated 27 May 2021) Close contacts will need to quarantine for a full 10 days, even if they test negative, because false negative tests are possible. Symptoms can develop up to 10 days after exposure in some patients. A close contact is someone who has been near a positive COVID-19 patient within a space of less than 1.5 m for an accumulated time of 15 minutes, with less than perfect mask wearing; or who has been with a positive COVID-19 patient for more than two hours in the same room, especially if it is a poorly ventilated space.
Quarantine is not necessary for casual contacts, but they should be encouraged to take care and watch for symptoms. The Department of Health guideline currently does not specify mask use in this definition.
(Updated 27 May 2021) Those who have had contact with a COVID-19-positive patient need to quarantine for 10 days from the time of the last contact. If no symptoms arise, they can return to normal activity on day 11.
Those who show symptoms of COVID-19 need to isolate for 10 days from the first day of symptoms. They are also advised to contact their medical practitioner about the possibility of getting a COVID-19 test. Those who do not show symptoms but receive a positive COVID-19 test result need to isolate for 10 days from the date of the test. Return to work or campus can only happen on day 11.
There are exceptions to these guidelines. For instance, if a person has ongoing fever, then isolation is extended beyond 10 days, to 48 hours after the fever reduces to normal. Patients with severe COVID-19 need to isolate for 10 days after oxygen is no longer required and clinical stability has been achieved.
(Updated 26 August) UCT is participating in three international trials in South Africa in search for a COVID-19 vaccine.
(Updated 16 October) UCT set up the COVID-19 Emergency Fund in April 2020 to assist in the fight against the virus and its impact on the university community. The goal is to raise R20 million towards addressing urgent priorities related to staff and students during and after the lockdown. The university is extremely grateful to donors, who have so far contributed more than R8.6 million towards the fund. These donations came from corporates, foundations, alumni and staff, among others.
A donation of any amount, no matter how small, will go a long way towards helping our students complete their academic studies so that the UCT community can contribute to the restoration of our country. Donations towards the COVID-19 Emergency Fund can be made online or deposited directly into the following account:
Bank: Standard Bank | Account name: UCT Donations | Account number: 071 522 387 | Branch code: 025009 | Account type: Business Current Account | Swift address: SBZAZAJJ
Please use COVID-19 and the full name of the donor as the reference.
Proof of payment should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org so that an S18A tax certificate can be issued for the donation.
(Updated 15 July 2021) As at 7 July 2021, UCT had 399 reported COVID-19 cases among non-Health Sciences staff members, with 351 recoveries. The number of students who had tested positive for the virus stands at 167, with 161 recoveries. The university has lost 19 staff members and three students to the virus.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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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.
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. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.
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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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.