I would like to take this opportunity to provide some feedback from the final
meeting of our Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) that
took place on 12 April 2022. The State of Disaster related to the Covid-19
pandemic has been lifted and at the moment the pandemic is at a low level
of infection. Since the necessary line management and collaboration systems are
in place to manage the situation, we have decided to conclude the activities of
this committee at this time. The committee and its structures can be reinstated
in future should the need arise.
The committee deliberated on the appropriate way forward with a potential
institutional vaccination rule.
Following last year’s risk assessment and during the subsequent public
consultation process, the pandemic evolved further with the emergence of the
Omicron variant. In light of these developments, we sought additional input
from our Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) and the ICBC has now decided to put
the development of the vaccination rule on hold. This decision is largely based
on the prevailing circumstances of the pandemic coupled with the MAC’s input.
The University continues to endorse vaccination unequivocally as a proven means
to protect against severe illness and hospitalisation. As the World Health
Organisation (WHO) advises, we should all get the jab so as to protect
ourselves, protect others, prevent new variants, break the chain of
transmission, and free up hospital beds and keep health workers safe.
While there is currently no significant alarm regarding new variants, it is
important to note that our virologists and experts are monitoring the situation
closely. Should circumstances require a change in our approach, we can rapidly
restart the process of developing a vaccination rule, revise the risk
assessment and collate the latest medical data and recommendations.
I remind you that our university’s own vaccination
at the Lentelus sports ground in Hammanshand Road,
Stellenbosch, remains open to staff, students and members of the public until
the end of April. Please visit Lentelus for your free vaccinations (including
State of disaster
d on 4 April 2022 that the national state of disaster, which has lasted
for more than two years, has been lifted due to the significant decline in
hospitalisations and deaths. We await the imminent introduction of new
regulations under the National Health Act which will follow the 30 day transitionary period
during which certain restrictions, notably regarding gatherings, still
apply. For SU it means that restrictions remain in place on the number of
people allowed in lecture halls and other venues. It is still mandatory to wear
a mask indoors and while wearing a mask outside is no longer a requirement,
please continue to adhere to social distancing.
Based on these lighter restrictions and our substantial existing community
resistance, the committee recommended that faculties increase their use of
venue capacity to 50% with a one metre distancing requirement where possible.
Please continue to use the Higher Health screening tool daily before coming to
campus or leaving your accommodation. The app has been updated to reflect the
reduced risk associated with the current state of the pandemic.
To plan the mode of learning and teaching for the second semester we await the
regulations expected in early May. SU is a residential university and our
preference is to return to the full use of our academic facilities in a
face-to-face mode with the necessary safety protocols in place. Communication
in this regard will follow from the office of the DVC: Learning and Teaching
once we have considered the relevant regulations.
The committee received feedback from its various workstreams in brief, notably
pertaining to staffing matters and the Code of Practice on Managing Exposure to
SARS-CoV-2 in the Workplace – effective from 5 April 2022.
Our priority remains the optimal return of all staff to the campus within the
framework of monitoring safety and allowing for flexibility, based on the
lessons that we are learning during the pandemic. Our HR team will provide
guidance to staff in this regard. The Institutional Committee for Staff Health
and Wellbeing will also assist with optimising this process, taking into
cognisance any challenges and sensitivities.
In addition, and in accordance with the stipulations of newly promulgated
labour legislation, SU’s new app will be ready at the end of April to record
the vaccination status of staff.
As we close the ICBC’s work, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the members
of the ICBC, to the Chairs of the ICBC’s workstreams and the colleagues and
students who worked in those workstreams these last two years. I also extend
my gratitude to all our staff and students for your constructive
collaboration with the ICBC’s work, despite the many disruptions that the
management of this pandemic has (thus far) caused in your work and study lives.
Thank you for your flexibility and resilience. Together we look forward to a
more optimal use of our campuses, while maintaining safe and healthy conduct.
Keep safe and take care of yourself and others.
Prof Stan du Plessis
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