AS the new Covid-19 variant has health departments cautious, local universities said they no longer required students to be vaccinated against the virus as they got ready to welcome students back on to campus.
CPUT, UWC and UCT all said they were ready to accommodate the new cohort of 2023 first-year students as well as returning students in the coming weeks.
CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley said unvaccinated students would be accommodated in the university’s multi-modal learning plan.
“Online learning is still implemented in what we call multi-modal learning. Most faculties have variations of it in place,” she said.
UWC’s media, marketing and communications manager Gasant Abarder said mandatory vaccination was no longer a requirement to enter the campus.
“Vaccination is no longer a requirement to access campus. There will be a return to contact teaching. However, a hybrid/blended approach will be followed to supplement live teaching.
“UWC has a well-established institutional learning management system, and the university has been following a blended-learning approach for many years now,” he said.
UCT said it had adjusted many of its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to accommodate its students, and no mandatory vaccination policy had been adopted.
“Since the Covid-19 regulations were repealed by the minister of health in June 2022, we have resumed working from campus and resumed public gatherings which are so vital to UCT’s campus life.
“As a contact university, we have readjusted our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as we are no longer restricted by regulations about people in indoor public spaces, including public transport, such as the UCT Shuttle.
“We continue to encourage the UCT community, including visitors to our campuses, to keep in mind their health and well-being (and) practise hygiene protocols.
“UCT has not adopted a mandatory vaccination policy. Every staff member and student is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, including all booster shots,” UCT said.
Recently the discovery of the XBB.1.5 variant has concerned many South Africans. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has warned the national health department about this variant's danger.
“The National Department of Health has been alerted about this highly transmissible XBB.1.5 variant and is currently in discussions with scientists to gather more information (about) its transmissibility and severity,” the institute said.
The MEC for health in the Western Cape, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, urged Western Cape locals to remain calm but careful in light of the XBB.1.5 variant.
“Our department continues to monitor the Covid-19 situation in our province, and we will alert the public if we see a rise in hospitalisations or deaths. Our systems are still in place to monitor the situation. Right now, there is no cause for alarm,” she said.
The MEC continues to urge citizens to have themselves vaccinated and to take booster shots.
Speaking on behalf of the National Department of Health, Foster Mohale said the variant was an Omicron subvariant. It was not severe, but was transmissible.
“It doesn’t increase the present risk, but people should not relax. There has only been one case detected through random sampling. There is no need for the public to panic, but they should remain vigilant and calm and just vaccinate.
“Those who feel vulnerable should voluntarily wear face masks and avoid crowded spaces,” he said.