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UKZN responds to COVID-19 - suspends academic programme, postpones graduation 2020

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) recognises the concerns regarding the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and continues to closely monitor the ongoing national and international cases. The situation is changing rapidly, and our top priority remains the health, safety and well-being of our community, on and off campus.

We are planning for several contingency scenarios and taking decisive, informed action to limit possible risks while ensuring continuity of our teaching, learning and research mission. We are also scaling up appropriate measures to protect the health of the UKZN community.

Suspension of academic programme, including tests

At this point, UKZN has not experienced any COVID-19 incidents that would be a cause for a change in normal operating procedures and the university remains open and operational. However, management is cognisant of the President's statement, which has banned gatherings of more than 100 people and are seeking further guidance from the relevant ministries, through Universities South Africa (USAf). To this end, the academic programme is suspended (including tests) with immediate effect until further notice pending further engagements on a sector-wide approach regarding contact classes.

Given the uncertainties surrounding timelines for normalisation of our academic programme, management has resolved to work with Senate to ensure all lectures are recorded and loaded onto virtual platforms as a matter of urgency.

April 2020 graduation ceremonies

In April every year, the university traditionally hosts in excess of 20 graduation ceremonies and, during this time, approximately 30 000 graduands and their families from all over South Africa and beyond our borders descend on the university.

After due consideration of inputs from the university's COVID-19 team of experts and other key stakeholders, a decision has been taken to cancel the 2020 April graduation ceremonies. The university regrets the inconvenience caused, but felt it important to minimise the risks associated with such a large gathering and exposure to individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

We are exploring options to ensure that graduands receive their qualifications and other related documents by the end of April 2020. Further information will be published on the UKZN Web site and via e-mail.

Travel and other restrictions

With regard to travel, it has become necessary to implement the following contingency measures and restrictions until further notice:

* All university-related international travel is prohibited.* All university-related non-essential domestic air travel is prohibited.* Personal international travel is strongly discouraged.* Extreme caution and judgment should be applied for personal domestic air travel.* Anyone returning or arriving from an international destination should advise their line manager at least 72 hours prior to arrival. The line manager will consult the COVID-19 team, who will advise accordingly on the necessary protection measures.* We strongly encourage the use of technology for non-essential meetings and events.

Staff in our College of Health Sciences are working diligently to ensure we are prepared if someone presents with symptoms and a clinical history that may indicate the novel coronavirus. We will continue to update the UKZN COVID-19 War Room as additional information becomes available through World Health Organization and United Nations. Please visit the UKZN Web site for updates, information and precautions.