In a bid to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect its staff and students, UKZN commenced an early mid-term break, effective Tuesday 17 March 2020.
This comes in the wake of the University suspending its academic programme, including tests, and cancelling its April Graduation Ceremonies in line with the President’s declaration of a national state of disaster.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, noted that UKZN had already begun implementing measures to ensure that the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is in line with the President’s declaration. ‘The situation continues to change rapidly, and in this regard, the health and safety as well as well-being of the UKZN community – on and off campus – remain a top priority. At this point, UKZN is not aware of any COVID-19 incidents that would require any staff or students to be concerned about exposure on campus or student residence spaces,’ he said.
After consulting with key stakeholders, including the Department of Health; National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD); World Health Organization Africa Region Office (WHO AFRO); as well as the University’s in-house COVID-19 experts, UKZN moved to immediately implement the following measures to protect its community from possible COVID-19 exposure:
• The University’s mid-term break commenced on 17 March 2020 and the second term will commence on Tuesday 14 April 2020 as per the sessional dates. Online teaching and learning platforms are in the process of being implemented to ensure that all teaching and learning content is available online before the commencement of the second term.
• Staff will work remotely. Executives and senior managers will consult with their staff to adopt measures to ensure business continuity and for critical and essential staff to be on duty.
• Because student residences are large communal living spaces which poses a significant risk of large scale exposure and the spread of viruses in general, all leased and University-owned residences have been vacated, with students given no later than Friday 20 March 2020 to vacate. The UKZN International Office is in contact with various embassies to assist in repatriating international students living in residences.
• The University will employ various security restrictions to ensure that campuses remain safe, secure and healthy. The main goal is to lower the number of physical interactions on campus, thus slowing the rate of transmission.
UKZN previously announced the following contingency measures and restrictions:
• Prohibition of all University-related international travel;
• Prohibition of all University-related non-essential domestic air travel;
• Personal international travel is strongly discouraged;
• Extreme caution and judgment should be applied with regard to personal domestic air travel;
• Anyone returning or arriving from an international destination should advise their line manager at least 72 hours prior to arrival. The line manager will consult the COVID-19 team who will advise on the necessary protection measures; and
• The University strongly encourages the use of technology for non-essential meetings and events.
Said Poku: ‘Together, we can overcome this pandemic. We appeal to all staff and students to take extreme care during this time and to adhere to the various safety and other measures that have been instituted by our President and his cabinet. We will continue to update the UKZN website as additional information becomes available.’