Fort Hare SRC slams health dept for claiming cause of Covid-19 outbreak was linked to bash

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Fort Hare University.
Fort Hare University.
Chris Gilili, GroundUp
  • Fort Hare Student Representative Council condemned the health department claiming that the recent bash was the cause for the recent Covid-19 outbreak
  • The nursing students are blamed for the outbreak because they were expected to do their practical work at public hospitals.
  • Taverns, pubs and even churches can be regarded as super-spreader events.

The University of Fort Hare Student Representative Council has criticised the Eastern Cape health department's reason for a recent Covid-19 outbreak among students, accusing it and the university of trying to deflect responsibility for the infections.

Media reports this week said that 30 students at the university tested positive for Covid-19. The university said this was after groups visited a tavern on 3 October, and a week later, big groups of students attended an organised bash.

The SRC accused the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDOH) and the university of being misleading about the cause of the outbreak.

"Indeed, there are cases currently active in the university and, as stated by the ECDOH, more than 80% of these are nursing science students, who are required by the [Department of Health] and sanctioned by the university to attend practical work at public hospitals," SRC president Siphiwo Ngcenge said.

"Therefore, they cannot conclusively say that the cause of the spread was due to some bash that students attended," Ngcenge added.

On Saturday, the university said students tested positive after alleged non-compliance to alert Level 1 lockdown regulations, claiming masks were not worn, social distancing not observed and no washing and sanitising of hands at a tavern in Quigney.

READ | Covid-19: 30 Fort Hare students test positive after nights out at tavern and bash

Director of Research and Development at the University of the Western Cape, Professor Burtram Fielding, told News24 that taverns, pubs and even churches could be regarded as venues for super-spreader events.

"However, social responsibility is just as important," said Fielding.

"Most of the students that have contracted the coronavirus will get away with minor flu symptoms due to their age and health; the wearing of masks should be emphasised," he added.

The university said two students who tested positive went home.

Fielding stressed that if a person suspected they might be infected, or might have been in contact with an infected person, they had the responsibility to self isolate for at least eight to 10 days.

"While they might be healthy, they are more likely to pose a risk to those at home with medical conditions or who are elderly."

"Although social distancing cannot be achieved at 100%, people should always wear masks when in public spaces, to minimise the risk of infecting others, or getting infected," added Fielding.

Meanwhile, Ngcenge also rejected claims that one of the students was only tested on Saturday and still awaiting her results, while the other one tested negative.

"We condemn the blame shifting that ECDOH and the university are currently doing, as they seem to not want to take responsibility for the outbreak," said Ngcenge.

Despite numerous attempts by News24, the ECDOH was not available for comment.

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