COVID-19 Level 1 message from the VC (1)


The past few weeks have presented some rather rapid developments in the country with regards to the easing of lockdown restrictions.

It was only recently that I wrote to you about us easing into Alert Level 2, and now, with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement over a week, ago the conversation is now around Alert Level 1.

The move to Level 1 is largely informed by the considerable decrease in the rate of national infections since the peak – from an average of 12 000 recorded new cases per day to just under 2 000. The national recovery rate also sits at 89%.

This bears testimony to the collective efforts of the health fraternity, government and civil society, as well as ordinary South Africans who have embraced the notion that indeed the fight against COVID-19 is in their hands.

These efforts, which were also recognised by the Word Health Organisation (WHO), have contributed towards ensuring that the period in

which the country was at the peak of infections was not prolonged. As South Africans, we should acknowledge this, and be proud of our

collective agency in mitigating the impact of the pandemic.

While the decline in the infection rate is remarkable, we cannot stress enough that the virus is still among us. The easing of lockdown

restrictions to the far less restrictive Level 1 should not, and cannot, be mistaken for the end of COVID-19.

At Nelson Mandela University, we have worked hard to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on our staff and students on campus remains low.

We are fortunate not to have any active COVID-19 cases among both staff and students at present, and our ongoing efforts are aimed at maintaining this. We have also not recorded any new cases on campus in the past few weeks.

Our efforts towards preventing the rapid spread of the virus must remain, with ongoing  vigilance needed to ensure that we do not reverse the gains of this hard work. Through institutional collaborations, such as the inclusive Coronavirus Task Team (CTT), which has diligently coordinated the University’s response to the virus since March, we have managed to avert a potentially devastating situation. It is incumbent upon us not to become complacent.

In preparation for Level 1, which could see a further increase in on-campus activity, we remain guided by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation’s regulations.

In the meantime, we will maintain the same institutional approach to that of Level 2, where staff and students are notified of their return to campus on a needs-basis. Those who are still able to fully work and study remotely will, as far as possible, be encouraged to continue to do so.

For students, the DVC: Learning and Teaching, Professor Cheryl Foxcroft, will advise in more detail the approach to be taken since Level 1 allows for a wider cohort of students to return. This will be in line with ongoing efforts to complete the academic year in a safe and secure environment.

Similarly, for staff, who are critical in their support for the academic project, line managers will guide the identification process for staff to return by assessing operational requirements and deploying teams accordingly. Applicable arrangements will be made for staff with known comorbidities, as they remain vulnerable.

As we firm up our preparations for Level 1, may we not grow weary of pursuing the ongoing work to keep Mandela University staff and students safe, as this remains our top priority.

We are encouraged by and extremely grateful for your ongoing commitment towards preventing, to the best of our ability, a second wave of the pandemic and potential outbreak at our campuses.

It is these efforts that have seen us deemed as one of the most COVID-19 compliant institutions and at less risk of experiencing a campus outbreak going forward.

For this, I wish to sincerely thank you – our staff, students and the entire University community – for steadfastly working not only to put systems in place, but also adhering to these in your respective areas of work and engagement.

Thank you for your resilience and agility in navigating this unprecedented period.

Thank you for showing care not only for your individual safety, but also of those around you – be it colleagues, family or friends.

May we continue playing our part in this gallant fight against this pandemic, which remains among us in the absence of a vaccine.

It is in your hands.

Thank you.

Prof Sibongile Muthwa


Nelson Mandela University