By Seth Meyer
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 1 of VARSITY News.
On the 5th of March, Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed the first case of Covid-19 on our shore. Patient ‘X’ is a 38-year old-man from Kwa-Zulu Natal, who had recently returned from a trip abroad to Italy– a country that is currently experiencing a complete lockdown due to the rampant outbreak of the virus.
On the 11th of March, the World Health Organisation declared the global outbreak of coronavirus as a pandemic. On the 18th of March the confirmed number of cases in South Africa stood at 116– less than two weeks after the first confirmed case. The figures are in their thousands in other countries, in both cases of infections and deaths. Schools, places of worship and businesses have closed their doors indefinitely, sporting and music events have been cancelled en masse and governments are urging citizens to stay at home and avoid public gatherings. Now, UCT students and the rest of South Africa are beginning to see a similar approach from our own national government.
From the 5th of March, The Vice-Chancellor had already begun issuing several advisory circulars regarding the outbreak and detailing management’s approach to ensuring the safety of students. March graduation ceremonies were postponed as well as any “UCT-related conferences and events”. This included all university-sanctioned international travel which was suspended until June 2020. Finally, on the 15th of March, following a press briefing in which President Ramaphosa declared the Covid-19 pandemic a “national disaster” and announced stringent measures, such as a travel ban and the closure of schools, UCT management subsequently resolved to close campus for the 1st quarter. This declared the immediate beginning of vacation and that all UCT student residences are to be vacated within 72 hours. The UCT SRC has taken issue with the 72-hour mandate on behalf of students in residence who are unable to vacate within the allotted time, or have no alternative places for accommodation.