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Wits' readiness for COVID-19

Wits University is monitoring the global 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in real time and is taking advice from our professors in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases to ensure that we are are prepared to manage any cases of an outbreak.

The combined proficiency and committed efforts of all members of the Wits community will be required to prevent, contain, prepare for, respond to, and, recover from the potential effects of this emerging infectious pandemic.

We have an emergency response plan

The Occupational Health and Safety Office has developed a comprehensive, phased, emergency response plan in place that includes the the prevention, detection, containment and mitigation of COVID-19, as well as protocols and processes that need to be in place should a COVID-19 case or outbreak develop.  It will be used as a basis from which to develop appropriate responses to COVID-19.

We have established a Wits COVID-19 management committee

A management committee has been established to consistently monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and to make recommendations to the SET around prevention, mitigation and the management of any COVID-19 incidents. This committee will also make recommendations on protocols that need to be implemented and academic continuity measures that need to be put in place, in conjunction with the Deans and other relevant constituencies. Led by the DVC: HR, Transformation and Advancement, the committee includes the Dean of Students, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Director: Occupational Health and Safety, the Director: Services, the Executive Director: Human Resources and the Head: Communications. Other members will be co-opted as required. You can reach them via vco.news@wits.ac.za

Take preventative measures
  1. Take care of your personal hygiene – wash your hands often (sing two happy birthdays whilst washing) and dry them thoroughly.
  2. Keep a safe social distance (about 1 metre) from a person who is coughing or sneezing.
  3. If you happen to have a cough, fever, splutter and have difficulty breathing visit your healthcare professional and follow their advice. Call ahead so that they are prepared to receive you.
  4. It goes without saying that you should not share your germs, so cover your mouth and nose if you are coughing or sneezing.
  5. If you feel that you are still at risk or if your healthcare professional believes that you may have COVID-19, contact the NICD directly on this number: 0800 029 999. There are no over the counter testing kits – the tests have to be analysed in a laboratory.

Practical preventative measures have been implemented, including the temporary deactivation of the biometrics system and the installation of hand sanitisers in key areas, for example at entry and exit points of buildings and pedestrian gates and in bathrooms and lifts. An education and communication campaign is also underway.

Reporting a suspected case of COVID-19

The University has developed a detailed protocol to manage any reported case of the virus on campus.

  • The Dean of Students, Mr Jerome September, is the first point of contact for students
  • The Head of School/Dean and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Advancement, Human Resources and Transformation, Professor Ruksana Osman, will manage staff members.
Travel protocols

South Africa has not imposed travel restrictions yet. However, the Senior Executive Team has advised that all non-essential travel should be reconsidered. And no, the University’s travel insurance does not cover the costs of a non-essential trip. We know that it may be a good time to take advantage of cheap airfares, but remember that there is a possibility that you could contract the virus or find yourself stuck in a country that could impose travel restrictions, thereby limiting your movement, and leaving you with unplanned accommodation, food and other costs.

Protocol for those returning to South Africa

All staff members are required to alert their respective manager and/or Head of School, at least 48 hours before arriving in the country and inform the relevant SET member. Students are required to report ahead of their arrival to the Dean of Students.

 The following steps should be followed (the NICD’s advice):

  1. Determine if the incoming traveller is from a country that has had a high transmission of COVID-19 as per the interactive map on the World Health Organization’s website. At the moment China, Italy, Iran and South Korea are no-go areas.
  2. If the traveller is from a country with low COVID-19 transmission and has no symptoms (fever, cough, spluttering, tight chest), the traveller may return to daily life activities, but must self-monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop, they must:
    1. self-isolate immediately,
    2. prevent transmission (wash hands, wear a mask),
    3. seek help from a healthcare professional and take their advice (remember to call ahead to inform the doctor of your symptoms), and
    4. inform their department or school.
  3. If the traveller is from a country with high transmission rates, it is recommended that the traveller self-isolate for at least 14 days, and if symptoms develop:
    1. seek help from a healthcare professional and take their advice (remember to call ahead to inform the doctor of your symptoms), and
    2. contact the NICD hotline on0800 029 999.

Useful Links

NICD travel advice: http://www.nicd.ac.za/advice-for-returning-travellers/

WHO travel advice: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/travel-advice

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