At least three institutions of higher learning are on high alert in the Eastern Cape after 75 students tested positive for Covid-19 coronavirus.
This has prompted the institutions - Buffalo City TVET College (BCC), University of Fort Hare (UFH) and Walter Sisulu University (WSU) - to be on the lookout for a potential outbreak within its campuses.
Most of the students tested positive last week.
The UFH campus in East London was the most severely hit, with students believed to have attended a party where Covid-19 regulations - like the wearing of masks, sanitising and observing social distancing protocols - were not observed.
In a space of a week, at least 33 students at UFH had contracted the virus, mostly among the nursing students. By Friday, the total number of active cases had increased to 60 students and now include the law and commerce faculties.
UFH spokesperson Tandi Mapukata said they have had four fatalities and 61 recoveries at the institution since Covid-19 broke out.
“Our positive cases are in isolation sites at our Alice campus and at Bhisho Hospital where the government has allowed us the use of a 40-bed facility for this purpose. We are strengthening our campaign to raise consciousness among students that the coronavirus is still a threat and that compliance with health and safety protocols is non-negotiable. The provincial government continues to work closely with us,” she said
On Friday, WSU spoksperson Yonela Tukwayo told City Press that three students from their East London campus, who had been at the same party as the UFH students, were also infected.
She said all the students who stay in the same residences as the one who tested positive had been quarantined in order to prevent the virus from spreading. She said a total of three residences in their East London campus, with at least 300 students, have been exposed.
“Initially, tests were done on 26 students and out of those three came back positive. The department of health and the National Laboratory Services are conducting more tests and are hoping to receive more results on Sunday,” said Tukwayo.
In a joint statement the vice-chancellors and principals of the two instructions, Professor Rob Midgely for WSU and UFH’s Professor Sakhele Buhlungu, expressed concern over the rising numbers of infected students in their East London campuses over the past 10–14 days.
Mapukata said they encouraged students to refrain from participating in social gatherings. She said university venue-based gatherings were not allowed and all meetings will continue to be held virtually.
“Teaching and learning continues remotely. Staff and students with co-morbidities will continue to work remotely or stay in their residences. We will continue to be vigilant and encourage students to avoid putting themselves and others at risk,” she said.
City Press learnt that at least 11 students from the BCC in East London had also tested positive at the John Knox Bokwe Campus in Mdantsane.
Dharachand Singh, principal at BCC, confirmed the cases.
“They are suspected to have been with a person that had the virus. Apparently, they were having some get-together somewhere along the beach [in East London]. But I cannot confirm if it is the same venue or at the same spot where the university students were.
“We have closed the campus for the day and asked those learners to isolate, and if they have symptoms to go to the clinic. We have fumigated the campus and conducted deep cleaning, and hope to be back in business as from Friday,” said Singh.