Message from the VC: Coronavirus update

Posted on March 13, 2020

Dear members of the UP community

The University of Pretoria is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We are working closely with health experts and the relevant authorities, including the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), to prepare for any possible outbreaks. We also have nursing staff and experts on standby via our Student Health Services to assist with initial diagnoses.

In recent days and weeks, the impact of the coronavirus has widened, and it is now clear that we are dealing with a global pandemic that affects us all. The safety and well-being of our students and staff are paramount, and I want you to know that we are taking proactive steps to help ensure that we have a plan of action in place to address a possible outbreak on campus. We have established a task team to assist with the implementation of our plan of action.

Whilst we are busy finalising our preparation to take learning online should this be required, as things stand as of 13 March 2020, all our programmes and events are continuing as scheduled.

Last week, we took the decision to disable the biometric system on our campuses. Please note that staff and students are still required to use their valid access cards to scan in and out at all entrance gates. All visitors will have to produce positive proof of identity (ID book, driver’s licence, or passport) at the Roper Street Visitor’s Centre.

To further minimise the spread of the virus, the University is taking proactive steps to provide protection and assistance. We have drawn up a plan and have put the necessary preventative measures in place:

  • Experts have been put on alert, and dedicated staff will take responsibility for the initial diagnosis of possible infections.
  • We will strictly follow the evolving case definition as supplied by the NICD and the WHO, whereafter an interview with the student or staff member who presents with the symptoms must be conducted.
  • Specific guidelines have been developed for the procedures to be followed within UP residences and will be managed by the Director for Residences.

Students and staff are reminded that there are preventative steps that can be taken to avoid contracting the virus:

•            Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.

•            Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

•            Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

•            Stay at home when you are sick and immediately call a medical professional.

•            Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.

•           Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

A reminder of the symptoms of COVID-19: 

You will experience a sudden onset of fever (38 degrees and above), in addition to coughing or

difficulty breathing.

Additional precautionary measures for our staff and students include:

  • Ongoing awareness messages and updates from the University, along with the symptoms, preventative measures, and details of who to contact on campus, can be found here:
  • All staff and students of the University who intend travelling abroad have been requested to cancel upcoming trips to countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • No new non-essential UP-sponsored international travel should be planned to any country, with exceptions which can be approved by Deans.
  • Members of the UP community are advised to reduce local travel as much as possible and to use technology as a first alternative.
  • We will be placing hygiene information, as well as antibacterial hand sanitisers, on all our campus premises.
  • Providing our students with health and psychological support through our counselling services.
  • Providing periodic updates to our community through online communications and face-to-face sessions with staff and class representatives.
  • Preparing and finalising a learning continuity plan through online channels.
  • Reducing trips to affected areas and working closely with our community to discourage personal trips to those areas.

We also urge all staff and students to read more about COVID-19 and stay informed on regular status updates via trusted sources, primarily:

If at any stage any member of the University suspects that they may have been exposed and feels ill, they are advised to isolate themselves and to contact a medical doctor or the 24-hour UP Operational Management and Crisis Centre on 0800-0064-28 or 012-420-2310, or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on 0800-029-999 before going to medical centres.  


Kind regards


Prof Tawana Kupe

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Pretoria


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