Plan of Action for COVID-19

Getting Nelson Mandela University ready for COVID-19

In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated there is a high risk of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world.

WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, long term success cannot be taken for granted. All sections of our society – including businesses and employers – must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease.

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables or telephones.

People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them.

In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover.

However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care.

Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40.

People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.

Making sure our workplaces and study areas are clean and hygienic

  • Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) will be wiped with disinfectant regularly
  • Why? Because contamination on surfaces touched by employees, students and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads

Promoting regular and thorough hand-washing by staff, students and visitors

  • Putting sanitising hand rub dispensers at strategic places and making sure these dispensers are regularly refilled
  • Displaying posters promoting hand-washing and combining this with other communication measures
  • Making sure that staff, students and visitors have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water
  • Why? Because washing kills the virus on your hands and prevents the spread of COVID19

Promoting good respiratory hygiene in the workplace

  • Displaying posters promoting respiratory hygiene and combining with other communications
  • Ensuring that face masks and / or paper tissues are available on campus for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them
  • Why? Because good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread of COVID-19

Briefing our staff, students and visitors that if COVID-19 starts spreading

  • Anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3C or more) needs to stay at home. They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to take simple medications, such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection.
  • Keep communicating and promoting the message that people need to stay at home even if they have just mild symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Displaying posters with this message in our work and study places, combining this with other communication channels commonly used at our University.
  • Continually developing campaign material by health stakeholders to promote this message.
  • NOTE: time off from work or studies, will count as sick leave.

Where possible, travelling for business or private should be postponed for now. If it is necessary to travel, precautions should be taken. Conferences outside and inside the University should be postponed.

Before travelling:

  • Follow the University’s Travel Protocol
  • Please make sure you complete the University's travel register:
    STUDENTS 
    http://webapps.nmmu.ac.za/travelregister/
    STAFF
    https://hrapps.mandela.ac.za/EmployeeTravelRegister/

  • Ensure staff and students have the latest information on areas where COVID-19 is spreading. You can find this at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/
  • Based on the latest information, the University will assess the benefits and risks related to upcoming travel plans.
  • The University will avoid sending staff who may be at higher risk of serious illness (e.g. older staff and those with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease) to areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
  • The University will make sure all persons travelling to locations reporting COVID-19 are briefed by a qualified professional.
  • The University will consider issuing staff who are about to travel with small bottles of alcohol-based hand rub.

While travelling:

  • Staff and students are encouraged to wash their hands regularly and stay at least one metre away from people who are coughing or sneezing.
  • The University will provide staff and students with information on what to do and who to contact if they feel ill while travelling.
  • The University will request all staff and students comply with instructions from the University and local authorities where they are travelling. If, for example, they are told by local authorities not to go somewhere they should comply with this. All staff and students should comply with any restrictions on travel, movement or large gatherings.

When our staff and students return from travelling:

  • Staff and students who have returned from an area where COVID-19 is spreading should self-quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day.
  • If they develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (i.e. a temperature of 37.3C or more) they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (one metre or nearer) with other people, including family members. In the event of developing symptoms, staff and students should contact the University’s Hotline on 0800 504 911 OR the National Toll Free Hotline on 0800 029 999 and provide them details of their recent travel and symptoms.

Rationale for surveillance for 2019-nCoV

Surveillance for 2019-nCoV is essential to permit early recognition of suspected cases, early diagnosis, containment and prevention of further cases.

Who should be tested for 2019-nCoV?

Presently, persons who should undergo testing for 2019-nCoV have identifiable factors as described below:

Surveillance case definitions for persons under investigation (PUI) who should be tested for 2019-nCoV

Employees and students with acute respiratory infection (sudden onset of at least one of the following: fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) requiring hospitalisation or not

AND

In the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, met at least one of the following epidemiological criteria:

  • Were in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of 2019-nCoV infection;

OR

  • Had a history of travel to areas with presumed ongoing community transmission of 2019-nCoV; i.e. China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Iran, Hong Kong, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan, New York, etc.

OR

  • Worked in or attended a healthcare facility where patients with 2019-nCoV infections were being treated.

A confirmed case: is a person with a laboratory-confirmation of infection with the 2019-nCoV.

Current plan if someone becomes ill with suspected COVID-19 at the University

  • Employees and students with signs and symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection will contact the University’s Hotline on 0800 505 911 or on the national hotlines: 0800 111 132 and 0800 029 999. 
  • The possible COVID-19 infected person will be isolated in a room / separate area, away from others in the University, limiting contact with others.
  • The identified possible infected persons will be supported, without inviting stigma and discrimination. This could include persons who have recently travelled to an area reporting cases, or other persons who have chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart and lung disease, old age, HIV, etc.) that put them at higher risk of infection.
  • The University’s healthcare providers will liaise with the local healthcare authorities for referral according to the South African Department of Health’s National Guidelines.
  • The contacts of the identified possible infected person will be managed according to the South African Department of Health’s National Guidelines
  • The University’s Case Management for COVID-19 and Constancy Plan may include Standard Operating Procedures in the following areas: Health Services, Students, Academics, Professional & Support Staff