Blade Nzimande warns Covid-19 outbreaks among students could 'fire up' third wave
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande said on Friday he was concerned about pockets of Covid-19 outbreaks at some universities and TVET colleges which had the potential to trigger a third wave of infections.
Earlier this week 55 students tested positive at the University of Pretoria (UP).
Apart from the outbreak at UP, the department had received other reports of Covid-19 infections within the post school education and training sector.
Nzimande appealed to students and staff to adhere to Covid-19 regulations as the academic year got under way.
“While Covid 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 hasten the spread of infection.
“Unfortunately, that would fire up the third wave,” said Nzimande.
He said 55 UP students had tested positive up until Wednesday.
“We are aggressively working on contact tracing with the help of the health department and have tested and screened a large number of students and staff over the last few days.
“Higher Health — the agency mandated to safeguard student health and wellbeing — 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 said in a statement.
He said only UP had experienced “a small cluster outbreak”.
“However, there are pockets of positive cases in other universities and TVET colleges. These cases are not yet classified as cluster outbreaks.”
Nzimande said Higher Health, the heath department, National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the National Health Laboratory Services had formed investigation teams where pockets of infection had emerged at some institutions.
More than 3,000 students and staff are being screened and contact traced, with over 200 being tested so far.
“Fast-testing results, early isolations and moving to quarantine facilities have helped us so far to contain current and previous outbreaks.
“Further, the health department and higher health have developed screening stations around the affected residences, Higher health mobile unit, institutional campus clinic, occupational health and employee wellness teams are also stationed, offering psychosocial and other health and wellness assistance to the affected residents,” said Nzimande.