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UCT plans to bring back final-year med students in a 'controlled return'

UCT is making plans to invite its final-year medical students to participate in a controlled return to campus. File Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

UCT is making plans to invite its final-year medical students to participate in a controlled return to campus. File Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 18, 2020

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Cape Town - UCT is making plans to invite its final-year medical students to participate in a controlled return to campus.

Vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the return would be voluntary and would need to take place before May 31 - the deadline set by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande for final-year clinical training students to go back to their university programmes.

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Phakeng said details of the controlled return of these students were being finalised and would be communicated to them in due course by the Health Sciences Faculty and the Student Affairs department.

She said students who accepted the offer to return to their clinical training would be required to comply with a number of safety conditions as required by the government and UCT.

“One of these is that all returning students must enter a 14-day self-quarantine period on arrival to their rooms in residence, or their private accommodation. They will also need to follow protocols for good public health practice,” Phakeng said.

She said the return of those students to their programme of study would involve careful planning and consultation to ensure the safety of all involved. “We are mindful of the government restrictions under level four lockdown and we do not take the risk of exposure to Covid-19 lightly,” Phakeng said.

She said appropriate personal protective equipment would be issued to students as well as to staff members in residences and in the Health Sciences Faculty.

“We are working in consultation with labour unions and taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who will be involved. We want to stress that students may choose not to return at this time,” Phakeng said. For instance, some students may be immuno-suppressed and so are at high risk of infection.

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She said arrangements would be made for those students to complete their degree at a later date.

UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) chairperson Akha Tutu welcomed the plan, and said they were glad that the institution arranged safe, voluntary and controlled return and accommodation for the students.

UCT’s DA Students Organisation (Daso) chairperson Luke Albert said considering the very practical nature of medicine, it was important that the university weighed up maintaining a safe working environment and ensuring that the academic programme was not severely affected.

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“As long as the plan is voluntary and is applicable to final-year medicine students I do think it is the right step to achieving some degree of normality again,” Albert said.

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