/ 21 October 2020

Eastern Cape universities concerned by rising Covid cases

The University of Fort Hare's Alice campus
The University of Fort Hare's Alice campus.

More students at the University of Fort Hare have tested positive for Covid-19. 

On Monday, the Eastern Cape department of health said 30 students at the East London campus had contracted the virus after visiting a tavern and attending a party. 

Now 26 more students have Covid-19, according to a joint statement from the University of Fort Hare (UFH) and Walter Sisulu University (WSU). 

The two vice-chancellors said they were worried about the rising numbers of cases among students at their East London campuses over the past two weeks. 

Walter Sisulu University said it did not have the final number of infected students but it was aware that students have been admitted to hospital. 

“UFH and WSU students stay in residences in and around Quigney in East London and tend to socialise together. There are confirmed reports that on the 3rd, 10th and 17th [of October], there were parties hosted in clubs and taverns in that neighbourhood and the student attended some or all of them. Some students have confirmed that there was noncompliance with Covid-19 health and safety protocols during the events, which were attended by as many as 300 patrons. There is a strong likelihood that such superspreader events may be the source of further cluster outbreaks,” reads the statement. 

The provincial government has made 40 beds available at Bhisho hospital for Fort Hare to use as an isolation site. The university has a quarantine site at its Alice campus and is considering another one in East London. 

In a statement today, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who is in quarantine at home, said he was concerned about the rising number of cases in the country and warned of the “small flames” that are occurring. 

He said there were “concerning increases in some provinces”, including the Western Cape, which had seen the number of cases increase by 42% over the past week. Last week, 89 people, among them 37 matric learners, who went to the Tin Roof bar in Cape Town’s southern suburbs had tested positive for the virus. 

“As we continue to monitor the development of a vaccine, the only weapon we possess as a country is our social behaviour and constant adherence to health protocols. All of us must take this responsibility and always encourage those around us,” said Mkhize. 

He added that the new infections and deaths would inform his department’s recommendations to the national coronavirus council.

As of Tuesday night  there were 706 308 positive cases and 18 656 deaths in South Africa.