18 March 2020 Photo Sonia Small


In light of the current global COVID-19 outbreak and the spread of the disease, the recent address by State President Cyril Ramaphosa, recommendations by the UFS Coronavirus (COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2) Task Team, as well as consultation with the Senior Leadership Group and other members of management, the executive management of the University of the Free State (UFS) has decided on the following immediate steps to mitigate the possible local impact of the pandemic:  

The UFS will go into early recess and classes are suspended from 17 March 2020. Instead of returning on 30 March 2020 for the second term, the academic programme is suspended until 13 April 2020 and students must return on 14 April 2020. 

Alternative methods of teaching and learning are being assessed. Students will be informed regarding these methods as soon as possible. 

Information on the May/June 2020 examinations will be communicated as soon as possible. 

The above arrangements are for contact students and does not apply to distance-learning students. The South Campus will communicate directly with these students. 

Postgraduate students should engage with their supervisors for appropriate guidance. 

It is recognised that the programmes in the Faculty of Health Sciences have requirements as part of registration with professional boards. These requirements will be finalised per school management in the faculty and will soon be communicated to the relevant students.

Containing the disease as far as possible is the most important public health principle – including avoiding mass gatherings and minimising the gathering of people in one space. 

The graduation ceremonies and related prize-giving ceremonies scheduled to take place on the Bloemfontein Campus from 20 to 24 April 2020 and on the Qwaqwa Campus from 8 to 9 May 2020, as well as the graduation ceremony from 10 to 12 June 2020 are postponed until further notice. 

The Open Days scheduled to take place on the Qwaqwa Campus on 18 April 2020 and on the Bloemfontein Campus on 9 May 2020, are cancelled.  

All graduands and schools will receive a communication from the university in this regard.

All official events (i.e. conferences, seminars, colloquia, etc.) scheduled to take place on the UFS campuses are cancelled with immediate effect. This includes the use of university venues by external conference and/or event organisers. The decision will be reviewed if necessary. 

All official sporting events have been cancelled until further notice. KovsieFit will also be closed as from 17 March 2020 until further notice. 

Students in residences must vacate their respective residences by 20 March 2020. All residences on the campuses will be closed until 13 April 2020. 

International students should contact the Office for International Affairs for arrangements. 

As from 16 March 2020, a moratorium is placed on all international travel for staff and students until 30 June 2020. This moratorium also extends to international guests visiting the UFS. 

Local travel for official purposes is discouraged and may only take place for essential travel. Instead, staff are encouraged to use the necessary technology at their disposal. 

Staff and students who have travelled abroad for official purposes over the past three weeks must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their return. 

While the UFS cannot prohibit staff and students from travelling internationally in their private capacity, individuals are urged to please act responsibly in making plans involving international travel. On their return, they will be expected to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. 

To limit the risk of spreading COVID-19, staff and students who contract the virus due to private travel will not be allowed to return to work, class, or a residence until they are medically fit to do so; they will also be required to submit a medical certificate. 

Staff and students are similarly cautioned against travelling in their private capacity to local areas where infections have been reported.

UFS staff are expected to come to work to ensure that operations and essential services continue. 

Staff are requested to maintain social distance and to meet, if possible, only when essential. Alternative meeting methods such as MS teams, Skype for Business, and email should be considered. 

Enquiries regarding leave must be directed to the HR Business Partner.  

A dedicated webpage on the virus has been created. Please visit the webpage regularly, as the latest information and operational matters will be uploaded there. Other communication platforms include social media, SMS, the KovsieApp, Blackboard, and the staff Intranet. 

Posters with a QR code leading to the dedicated website will be distributed on the three campuses by 18 March 2020. 

It is important for staff and students to ensure that their cellphone numbers are updated in order to receive communication via the KovsieApp and SMS:

KovsieApp: www.ufs.ac.za/kovsieapp
SMS: www.ufs.ac.za/sms

The websites of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) are primary sources of reliable general information. 

Fake news is everywhere; please verify information and consult these primary sources of information. 

The UFS Coronavirus (COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2) Task Team comprising representatives from various key functional areas on the campuses was formed at the beginning of March 2020 to monitor the situation very closely, to advise the university’s executive management, and to share information as it becomes necessary. 

The team meets daily to discuss the contingency and preparedness plans for the university’s three campuses and is liaising with the provincial Department of Health and the NICD in Johannesburg to provide up-to-date information to staff and students. 

The Task Team comprises the following staff members:

Prof Felicity Burt (Task Team Convenor from the Division of Virology, Faculty of Health Sciences and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS))
Prof Dominique Goedhals (Head of the Division of Virology, Faculty of Health Sciences and the NHLS)
Dr Sabeehah Vawda (Division of Virology, Faculty of Health Sciences and the NHLS)
Dr Dewald Steyn (Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences) 
Prof Corli Witthuhn (Vice-Rector: Research and Internationalisation)
Mr Pura Mgolombane (Dean: Student Affairs)
Dr WP Wahl (Director: Student Life)
Mrs Susan van Jaarsveld (Senior Director: Human Resources)
Mrs Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Marketing)
Mr Cornelius Hagenmeier (Director: International Affairs)

Representatives from the Qwaqwa and South Campuses, the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the UFS Health and Wellness Centre, Finance, ICT Services, University Estates, Housing and Residence Affairs, and Protection Services have also been co-opted to the Task Team. 

Special Executive Group, chaired by the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, will meet twice a week to assess the overall impact of COVID-19 on the university, and to decide on changes to decisions taken earlier.


We are aware of the concerns of many of you about the possibility of infection through contact with other people in residences, libraries, lecture halls, and other places on campus.  

Students and staff are reminded of previous communication about preventative steps that can be taken to avoid contracting the virus:

•    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
•    Regularly use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
•    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
•    Avoid close contact with people who are sick
•    Stay at home when you are sick and immediately call a medical professional
•    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash
•    Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Please note the following important related contact information:

•    NICD hotline: 0800 029 999
•    UFS Health and Wellness Centre: Dr Elna Kleyn at kleinea.ufs.ac.za | +27 51 401 2603 (office hours) 
•    NICD website: www.nicd.ac.za 
•    WHO website: www.who.int 

The well-being and safety of our staff and students remain paramount and therefore we believe that the above are responsible decisions to protect the UFS community and to limit the possibility of spreading the virus to the general population. 

As we realise that circumstances could change rapidly, the UFS Coronavirus (COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2) Task Team, as well as the Special Executive Group, will continue meeting frequently to assess the situation and the above decisions.

Prof F W Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor
University of the Free State 


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