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Recorded on 20 March 2020



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The safety, health, and well-being of staff and students at the University of the Free State (UFS) is extremely important. To this end, the Academic Programme was suspended on 17 March 2020.

On 23 May 2020, Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, announced specific measures for the post-school education sector in response to the COVID-19 epidemic under Level 3 of the national lockdown, in order to re-integrate staff and students on campus.  Subsequently, the university announced measures to re-integrate staff and students on the three campuses as from 1 June 2020.

The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly and the UFS is monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

Information on this page will be uploaded regularly.



RETURN OF STAFF AND STUDENTS TO ALL CAMPUSES AS FROM 1 JUNE 2020

Message by Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that you are well, healthy, and safe. Since my last message to you, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that our country will move to Level 3 of the national lockdown on 1 June 2020. Subsequently, Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, announced specific measures for the post-school education sector in response to the COVID-19 epidemic under Level 3, in order to re-integrate staff and students on campus.  

Over the past few weeks, a tremendous amount of work has been done to ensure the continuation of the Academic Project, and to prepare our campuses for the return of staff and students, ensuring that it is aligned with national directives and protocols. This was no small task. In a crisis, we have to do more than expected, and we have to go beyond the call of duty. During the past two months, I have seen and experienced many instances where multi-functional teams effectively engaged to ensure the continuity of the Academic Project, and the ongoing functioning of the university’s operations. I am immensely proud of what has been achieved so far.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to explore and implement many innovative ways to ensure sustainability and survival. The university management followed a risk-based approach in devising a plan to continue providing tuition and academic activities to students during this time, and to complete the 2020 academic year. Over and above this, we have ensured that our campuses are ready for the return of staff and students from 1 June 2020. In our planning, a phased-in approach is followed to limit the number of staff and students present at a single location at any given time. This is in line with the national directive that a maximum of 33% of the university’s staff and student population may be allowed on campus during Level 3 of the national lockdown.

The Special Executive Group (SEG), which I chair, and which was established at the beginning of March 2020, continues to meet weekly to discuss and decide on the university’s response to COVID-19 as this pandemic develops over time. Consisting of a number of task teams, the SEG is the decision-making entity that responds rapidly, and in a coordinated manner to combat the threats to business continuity. It also identifies opportunities where the intellectual knowledge base of the university could be utilised to impact society positively.

As from 1 June 2020, all staff members – except those categories of staff specifically mentioned in the re-integration plan – will continue working from home during Level 3, until such time as they are officially informed by their line managers to return to work. However, staff members may be expected to return to work during this period if the situation so requires. Staff members must therefore be available and contactable by their line managers at all times during normal UFS working hours.

Staff members returning to campus as from 1 June 2020 will include academic staff who support and lecture our returning students, as well as support staff in specifically identified business areas. I want to assure you that your safety, health, and well-being remain our first priority when you return to campus. Teams from University Estates and other business areas have worked tirelessly over the past weeks to prepare the campuses. This includes the disinfection and deep cleaning (where necessary) of open areas and the hygienic preparation of the campuses (e.g. hand sanitisers, hand-washing stations at, for instance, entrance gates and areas with high pedestrian traffic, Perspex screens installed in high-traffic reception areas where face-to-face engagement is needed, and social distancing markers in high-traffic buildings). Similarly, lecture halls are also being prepared to ensure social/physical distancing.  

Strict access protocols will be maintained at the campus entrances during Level 3 of the national lockdown. Only staff and students authorised to return to the campuses and issued with authorisation letters will be granted access to the campuses. The wearing of masks is compulsory when entering the campuses and proof of screening must be provided. An online screening questionnaire has been designed for this purpose. These measures will help ensure that it is safe for staff and students to return to our campuses. 

Residences on the three campuses are currently being prepared to receive students. This includes the installation of hand-sanitiser stations at the entrances of buildings and maintaining social/physical distancing in the general areas. Daily screening of students in residences will be compulsory.

I am attaching a document that explains the re-integration plan for Level 3 in detail, including the arrangements for the return of staff and students to our campuses: the categories of staff and students, entry to the campus, wearing of cloth masks, social distancing, environmental hygiene, protocol for on-campus meetings, vulnerable members of staff, staff with minor children, public transport, and the management of visitors during this period. The plan will be amended as and when needed. 

It is important that you maintain regular contact with your team and fellow colleagues. Most of our staff has been working from home for more than two months, and I know you might be missing the collegiality and campus environment. I want to encourage you to be patient, to look after your physical and mental health, and to make use of the resources available from the Department of Human Resources.

COVID-19 has provided us with opportunities to rethink the world of higher education afresh, and its impact has been transformative and forced us to think beyond the pandemic.

May you have a good and restful weekend – remember to #StayAtHome.

Regards,
Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor




Question and Answers on the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19/SARS-CoV-2)

 

     
The Coronavirus (COVID-19/SARS-COV-2) and the spreading thereof is of great concern to the executive management of the University of the Free State (UFS) – specifically now that a number of cases in South Africa have been identified. 

Due to the seriousness of this global pandemic, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, has established a Coronavirus Task Team consisting of representatives from various key function areas on the campuses. This includes members of the executive management, virologists, infectious disease experts and representatives of the academic and support service functions. The team meets frequently to discuss the contingency and preparedness plans for the university’s three campuses.  

The Task Team is also liaising with the provincial Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg to provide up-to-date information to staff and students. 

A communication plan is in place and regular communication is distributed to staff and students – including a set of questions and answers, video clips, as well as guidelines on what to do, etc.

 


The virus that is causing the current outbreak is called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease is referred to as coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

Human coronaviruses are common worldwide. Some coronaviruses are common causes of illness, including respiratory illness, in humans throughout the world.

Sometimes coronaviruses infecting animals can evolve to cause disease in humans (in other words they have crossed the species barrier) and become a new (novel) coronavirus for humans, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (or SARS) first recognised in China in 2002, as well as the current outbreak.

 
The virus was only discovered at the beginning of this year, so obviously the situation is evolving and there is still a lot that is not known.

The virus is spread by respiratory droplets and has travelled from China to multiple countries around the world.


Fever screening is conducted at international airports. If there is a suspected case, procedures are in place for case isolation and testing so that the diagnosis can be made quickly.

Suspected cases will be managed at designated hospitals with isolation facilities.


People who develop symptoms of respiratory illness, including cough, fever, and shortness of breath within 14 days of travelling to countries where coronavirus is known to be circulating, should seek medical care early and share information about their travel history with their doctors. For further information, consult the document I think I may have COVID-19 ... what now?


Current symptoms include mild to severe respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
Reported illnesses have ranged from infected people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.
Patients with underlying illness and the elderly (older than 60 years) appear to be at increased risk of severe illness.

Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein has been identified for isolation of persons with confirmed infections.

The hospital has an isolation ward where they have previously handled cases of Congo fever (a viral haemorrhagic fever with a 25% fatality rate) and has the required expertise for managing cases of COVID-19.

Patients will be treated in a specific isolation ward by suitably trained and experienced healthcare workers, and hence other patients and staff are not at risk of exposure.

 

Except for the UFS website, regular communication regarding the virus is also being distributed on the university’s platforms, such as the social media, Intranet and Blackboard. The websites of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) are primary sources of reliable information. Fake news is everywhere; please consult these primary sources of information.

Corona virus poster

Contact Information

 Coronavirus Contact Information

Livestream

Videos


“Thank you and be safe” – Message to the UFS community from Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor. (Recorded on 20 March 2020)



Coronavirus: Public Safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Published on 2 April 2020)

Coronavirus: Prof Francis Petersen Briefs Media (Recorded on 18 March 2020)

Coronavirus: Protect Yourself and Others (Recorded on 16 March 2020)

Coronavirus: Q&A with Prof Felicity Burt (Recorded on 12 March 2020)

Coronavirus: Message from Prof Francis Petersen (Recorded on 4 March 2020)


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  • Lockdown update: places of worship and other public places
  • Lockdown update
  • Lockdown updated: businesses and other entities
  • Lockdown update: individuals
  • SA lockdown regulations: Essential goods and services during lockdown
  • SA Lockdown regulations: Essential goods and services
  • What will I be able to do under lockdown?
  • Who will remain at work? Essential services.
  • What is a lockdown? All non-essential activities are suspended.
  • What is the purpose of a lockdown? The nation-wide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission
  • Myth: There are medicines to prevent or treat COVID-19
  • Myth: Antibiotics are effective in preventing and treating COVID-19
  • Myth: Only the elderly can contract COVID-19
  • Myth: Eating garlic can help prevent COVID-19 infection
  • Myth: Regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help prevent COVID-19 infection
  • Myth: Pets can spread COVID-19
  • Myth: Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body can kill COVID-19
  • Myth: An ultraviolet lamp can kill COVID-19
  • Myth: Coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites
  • Myth: Hand dryers effective in killing COVID-19
  • Myth: Taking a hot bath prevents COVID-19
  • Myth: Vaccines for pneumonia protect you against Coronavirus?
  • Myth: Cold weather and snow can kill COVID-19
  • Myth: COVID-19 cannot be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates


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