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COVID-19: SU institutes important precautionary measures
Author: Prof Wim de Villiers: Rector and Vice-Chancellor / Prof Wim de Villiers​: Rektor en Visekanselier
Published: 13/03/2020

​15 March 2020

COVID-19: Update on Lectures​

Lectures will continue at Stellenbosch University during the period of discussions between the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Vice-Chancellors of universities and Universities South Africa (USAf). The Stellenbosch University management will meet tomorrow morning to discuss next steps. Alternative lecture options are being considered to facilitate the least possible disruption of academic activities. Information updates will be uploaded to the COVID-19 webpage on the SU website. 

​13 March 2020

COVID-19: SU institutes important precautionary measures

Dear Staff and Students

Amidst growing concerns about the national and global spread of COVID-19 I have taken a number of important decisions to mitigate the possible local impact of the current pandemic (as it was declared by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020).

We are acutely aware of the significant impact that these decisions may have on us as a university community, but I want to assure you that these were not taken lightly. Please take note that where specific periods or dates are indicated below, these are relevant for the current situation. As we have seen, circumstances could change rapidly, which will necessitate agility. Stellenbosch University's Contingency Committee for dealing with the COVID-19 response was constituted a month ago, and will be meeting weekly to reassess the situation and related decisions.

March/April Graduation and installation of Chancellor

The March/April 2020 graduation ceremonies have been cancelled while the formal installation ceremony of our new Chancellor, Justice Edwin Cameron – who has been in office since January 2020 - has been postponed. All graduands will receive a communiqué from the Registrar's office. Guests who have been invited to the installation will be informed about the postponement.

All conferences scheduled to be held on SU campuses in the period up to 30 June 2020 have to be cancelled until further notice.

Academic programme contingency
The Faculty Deans and Faculty Managers have indicated that they will be able to implement measures for the academic programme to continue via the SU online platform should higher education institutions in South Africa be mandated to close. More information on the academic programme contingency plan will be made available as the situation develops. For now, the academic programme is continuing.

The University has imposed a temporary ban on all international travel for staff and students. This ban also extends to international guests visiting the University. The travel embargo will be in place until 30 June 2020. Staff and students who are abroad at the moment will have to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days when they return.

While the University cannot prohibit staff and students from traveling in their private capacity, we urge individuals to please act responsibly in making plans that involve international travel. On your return you will also be expected to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. To limit the risk of the spread of COVID-19, staff and students who do 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.

Dedicated webpage on the corona virus
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.

Contingency Committee

The SU Contingency Committee is chaired by Prof Eugene Cloete, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, and includes Dr Viljoen van der Walt, Director for Risk Management and Campus Security and various subject experts from the Centre for Infectious Diseases (CID) and the Division of Medical Virology at the SU Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) and the SU Campus Health Service. The Committee will continue to monitor the situation very closely, and share information as it becomes necessary.

We appeal to the University community to act in a socially responsible manner during this period. To help prevent the spread of the disease, we encourage staff and students to follow the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation. These include:

  • Washing your hands on a regular basis thoroughly with water and soap. If concerned, consider getting a hand sanitiser for when you are out and about (minimum alcohol content 70%).
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue, cloth or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Try not to contaminate surfaces with your excretions.
  • It is also strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against influenza (the 2020 vaccine will be available soon) and against pneumococcal disease (if indicated for you). This will reduce the burden on the healthcare system, preserve your ability to work, and might prevent you from being flagged as a potential COVID-19 case. Most importantly, it will help prevent illnesses, regardless of COVID-19.

Please note the following important telephone numbers:

  • The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) hotline: 0800 029 999. The number is operational Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 16:00.
  • Campus Health Services: Stellenbosch Campus 021 808 3496/3494; Tygerberg Campus 021 938 9590
  • Campus Health Services after hours emergency number: 076 431 0305

It is critically important that we as the University community do everything possible to avoid the spread of COVID-19. We sincerely appreciate your cooperation during a very difficult time for all of us.

Kind regards
Prof Wim de Villiers

Rector and Vice-Chancellor