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Covid-19: Blade Nzimande concerned as infections on the rise at tertiary institutions

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande. Photo: GCIS

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande. Photo: GCIS

  • Blade Nzimande notes with concern reports of Covid-19 infections at tertiary institutions.
  • At the University of Pretoria, 115 students have tested positive since 18 March.
  • The minister says other universities and TVET colleges have also reported infections. 

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande appealed to students and staff at tertiary institutions to remain vigilant after pockets of Covid-19 infections were reported within the sector.

According to a statement by the Department of Higher Education on Saturday, Nzimande attended a briefing with regard to the current outbreaks at various universities and TVET colleges.

Nzimande said the reports of new cases at tertiary institutions was extremely worrying.

“While Covid-19 has largely been detrimental for the older population groups, the virus is mutating and new variants are showing a higher affinity towards young people, who can serve as carriers and fasten the spread of infection. Unfortunately, that would fire up the third wave,” Nzimande said.

When Nzimande received the report, the worst-affected institution was the University of Pretoria, where 55 students had tested positive as of 31 March.

On Saturday, the university confirmed the number has increased to 115 students to have tested positive since 18 March.

“We are aggressively working on contact tracing with the help of the Department of Health and have tested and screened a large number of students and staff over the last few days. Higher Health is still screening and testing this week, for which results are still awaited. There is a probability that the number of positive cases may rise,” Nzimande added.

In a statement, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) also voiced its concern about the “growing number of Covid-19 cases in institutions of higher learning across the country”.

Nehawu appeared to blame the department and said it had pleaded with the sector to ensure that all institutions were ready to welcome workers and students back, including putting all necessary measures in place to avert infections.

“This was after the department failed to consult labour as an important stakeholder in the sector. It seems our calls fell on deaf ears as we are now faced with a growing number of Covid-19 cases,” Nehawu said.

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