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Vaccination of university staff to start ‘soon’ in South Africa

Image: GovernmentZA [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Health body at work on Covid-19 vaccination strategy aligned with national rollout

Vaccination of university staff is set to begin “soon”, South Africa’s higher education minister has said, suggesting that it might start in the “coming few weeks”.

Blade Nzimande was talking to journalists on 30 June about the response of the higher education sector to the increased restrictions to combat Covid-19 announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa on 27 June.

Nzimande said Higher Health, the national university health body, will work on a post-school vaccination strategy aligned with the national rollout. Academic and support staff will be included but not students, he said.

“This matter has been tabled at the ministerial meeting on vaccines and I am confident that very soon we will start the rollout of vaccination to all our staff in the post-school system,” he said.

Nzimande said he will make an official announcement as soon as the Department of Health is able to provide the doses needed for the sector. Several universities have already set up vaccination centres and work is underway to set up others.

Universities ‘not officially closed’

Nzimande said that research work will continue and that universities are not officially closed. “Our main concern remains safety, wellness and protection of staff and students,” he said.

Nzimande said all universities will manage their own academic activities in line with national directives on gatherings and Covid-19 prevention.

“Universities do not officially close,” said Nzimande. All face to face teaching and examinations will end for the duration of the regulations, which is two weeks. Nzimande said universities have agreed that international and provincial travel will be discouraged. Access to campuses will be controlled and limited to essential services. Staff are encouraged to work from home if they can.

Residences remain open as it is not safe for students to travel at this stage and to ensure that students have access to teaching material, Nzimadne said. All teaching will move online during the level four lockdown.

Nzimande said that the sector has experienced several cluster outbreaks at residences. He warned that the delta variant is more prominent among young people than previous variants, and urged students to take extra precautions.

Both the universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand have confirmed that research, including at postgraduate level, will continue.