COVID-19 Update: Cautious, controlled return to campus continues


As South Africa nears 100 days of Lockdown and COVID-19 case numbers rapidly rise, the University continues with its cautious but controlled approach towards completing the 2020 Academic Year.

This has entailed extensive preparatory efforts to assist staff and students in transitioning to new ways of working, studying and living without compromising safety.

It is in our hands
With Nelson Mandela Bay identified as a hot spot, it becomes even more critical for each student and staff member to:

  • Practice COVID-19 prevention measures
  • Use the University’s dedicated online self-screening tool and
  • Familiarise themselves with all the new work and study processes to prevent further spread of the virus.

To quote Nelson Mandela, “it is in our hands”.

The University’s overriding commitment to safety is also why staff and students are to continue to work or study remotely as far as possible.

As such, you may also only come onto campus if notified to do so. By keeping numbers and contact to a minimum, we are also better placed to manage and prevent transmission of the virus.

Health Status

As at 1 July, the University had recorded 36 COVID-19 staff-related cases, with three student cases, all of which were off-campus. While 22 colleagues have since recovered, sadly, one staff member, who had not been working on campus, passed away. One of the students has also since recovered. Similarly, the majority of contacts – those who were identified as being in contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and went into quarantine – have since been given the all-clear to return to work or study.

All told, the University has undertaken more than 9182 screenings to date.

The University provides a daily update for staff and students

Online Screening Tool

Apart from an initial screening by health professionals (see flow charts attached), all University staff and students are encouraged to use the COVID-19 online self-screening tool to monitor their own wellbeing. The Mandela University tool will also facilitate ease of movement if on campus, as you may not be granted access to various sites without sharing your screening status (read details).  

The use of the self-screening tool is to complement the work of the University’s health professionals who run five screening centres on its Port Elizabeth and George campuses and are also in daily contact with staff and students already impacted by the virus.

Returning Students

In line with the Level 3 Lockdown regulations, the University can have up to 33% of its staff and student complement on campus.

To date, in a process guided by faculty-wide team, 7250 students have been identified to return to the University. These are mainly final-year students who need to access lab or studio facilities.  Of these, 4824 have accepted the terms and conditions to return, which includes a 14-day quarantine period and a commitment to embrace prevention measures and follow the new standard operating procedures on campus and in residences.

A staggered return of these students, who, like returning staff, will each receive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), has enabled an easier orientation process which includes the changed behaviours and an introduction of many new automated systems.

Going forward, for example, staff and students will need to book venues, laundry times, order meals and pre-book transport as part of the University’s safety interventions. Details will be shared in a subsequent communication.

Learning and Teaching

While these staff and students adjust to new ways of functioning on campus, and in some instances to “new norms” at accredited off-campus accommodation, the majority of the University community is continuing to work and study online.

This too has meant a major adjustment, but with various ongoing interventions in place, up to 72% of the 28 000-plus student body have restarted their learning. In the next few weeks, those students (on Pathway 1 – remote learning) will be concluding assessments, while the remainder, who have had their study materials sent to them or who are learning partially online, are expected to follow the assessment route in the next two to three months after completing the learning linked to their modules.

The return of students to campus is not a return to normal lectures, but rather a new blended approach to enable all students to complete the 2020 Academic Year. This will mainly be by using Microsoft Teams and Zoom virtual lecture sessions, flipped-class discussions and tutorials, in addition to online theory learning, and special arrangements for labs and studios requirements.

Students will be notified by their lecturers when to come to campus for an academic activity. Without such notification, students will be not permitted to enter our LT venues. Learning and psychosocial support is available for all students using a variety of virtual, telephonic and online approaches. We will also start opening up our general computer labs. Students will need to book a session.

ICT Services

Among the many interventions to enable as many students as possible to embrace online learning, ICT Services have dispatched an additional 4 547 laptops to students throughout the country and is providing 30Gigs of data per month. The division is also responsible for all the automated interventions and enabling remote working for staff.

Infrastructures and Facilities 

The new ways of operating at Mandela University will be mirrored by new-look campuses with the introduction of signage, markings and remodeled venues to ensure that the University adheres to safety compliance measures. In addition, COVID-19 awareness posters are in place. To order yours, contact or go to to upload what is already available as part of the #MaskUpMandela campaign to change behaviours and save lives.

HR Protocols

To support the new normal, a number of new protocols pertaining to everything from leave to remote learning have been developed. These are available on the Returning to Campus webpage, the go-to site for all information relating to the new measures.


The University acknowledges the many anxieties being experienced by both staff and students in these unprecedented times.  Please talk to your lecturers, line managers and colleagues or contact Wellness@Work on about your concerns to enable support of your wellbeing.

We also appeal to each of you – every staff member and student – to model the all-important changes in behaviour by wearing a mask in public and practicing all prevention measures, thereby encouraging others to do likewise and save lives.

Coronavirus Task Team