A deserted UCT campus yesterday. Picture: Facebook / SABC
A deserted UCT campus yesterday. Picture: Facebook / SABC

Universities take unprecedented action to halt spread of coronavirus

By Lisa Isaacs Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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Cape Town – Universities in the province have taken unprecedented action in efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, with most suspending classes and postponing or cancelling graduation ceremonies and campus events.

This as UCT confirmed a staff member had tested positive for the virus and classes were suspended with immediate effect.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the staff member was in isolation at home.

“Members of the university community who are well and have been in close contact with the staff member have been instructed to remain in quarantine for 14 days while being monitored,” he said.

The university also notified students to vacate residences within 72 hours, and was helping them with payment of allowances; working with external travel agencies on possible travel plans for students; working with the Department of Home Affairs in cases involving international students; and making provision for the safe storage of students’ personal belongings.

The institution’s Student Representative Council (SRC) yesterday called for students to stay, saying the move could have severe financial implications, and that international students were left stranded.

UWC Acting Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Vivienne Lawack said their academic programme would continue.

“Where possible, lectures can go online and deans will co-ordinate. Deans will indicate if there will be suspension of tests or if alternative measures will be put in place for assessments. 

"Recess will still start on Thursday and continue until after Easter. Classes will resume on April 14,” Lawack said.

All community-based research, outreach and field trips have been suspended, and access to communal areas has been limited.

“The traditional ceremony will be changed to a virtual ceremony which will allow graduands to graduate.

"Once this crisis has abated, a physical ceremony will be held,” Lawack said.

Preparations will be put in place to ensure that students can leave residences at the end of the term, she added.

Stellenbosch University rector and vice-chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers announced the suspension of lectures from today, with learning to continue via online tuition from March 30.

“All students in university accommodation are requested to vacate their residences and return home for the recess period.

"As we are aware that there may be students who are unable to do so, some students will be accommodated in university residences.

"Measures will be taken to reduce the risk of contamination and provision will be made for isolation,” De Villiers said.

Graduands over March/April will receive their qualifications in absentia and have the opportunity to attend ceremonies in December.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) executive management, which last week made the decision to end the term as a result of ongoing student protest action, urged students to vacate all premises within 72 hours.

“These measures will enable us to sanitise and deep-clean all CPUT residences and campus facilities.”

Cape Times

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