Wits has been taking precautionary measures regarding Covid-19 since the start of the academic year.

Wits University has been placing students returning from China in quarantine since January, in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus, but won’t say how many students have been involved.

Sister Maggie Moloi, head of the Campus Health and Wellness Centre said, “For now, I am unable to comment of the number of students that have been quarantined.”

She said students returning for the 2020 academic year from China, where the virus originated, had been quarantined by the institution for a period of 14 days. Students were isolated in their residence rooms and private accommodation in line with Department of Health protocols in dealing with Covid-19, Moloi said.

During the quarantine period, Moloi said she routinely checked on the students by checking their temperatures.

“If we identify someone after the 14 days with the symptoms, they are reported to the nearest equipped hospital, which is Charlotte Maxeke. The hospital is ready to accept cases, but so far no referrals have been made,” she said.

Xiaolong Gong, a PhD student studying clinical microbiology and infectious diseases returned to Johannesburg from his home town, Qingdao, in northern China on the January 30.

Gong said that he had to tell the university that he was returning and based on that, Sister Moloi communicated with him regarding his quarantine protocol. He was isolated in his room at Wits Junction.

“The quarantine is a little boring but indeed, I think it is necessary, as you can see the spreading momentum globally,” Gong said.

Lishi Huang, chair of the Wits Chinese Students and Scholars Society, told Wits Vuvuzela that since the start of the academic year, Wits was aware of students who had been to China or in close contact with someone who had.

“The university has taken very good precautions to make sure everyone is safe. It was very comprehensive,” she said.

Dikgang Azania Morele, a Wits student currently studying towards a master’s degree in demography and population studies at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, through an exchange programme, is experiencing life under the complete lockdown in Italy due to the rapid spread of the virus.

Morele has not tested positive for Corona but is unable to move around because of the restrictions in the region she lives in. She said she had left her laptop in South Africa, intending to use the research facilities on campus, but now, because of the lockdown, she has been reading her literature off her phone.

She told Wits Vuvuzela that a staff member in the International Strategic Partnership Office has been helping her through this trying time. “She (the Wits staff member) has been my go-to person, ensuring I am safe, not just physically from the disease, but mentally as well. You need that when you are isolated in a foreign country,” Morele said.

GRAPHIC: Emma O’Connor.

She said she had stocked up on food before the country’s shutdown.

Wits management has released several statements on what the university is doing to curb the spread of the virus on its campuses.

These include the deactivation of the university’s biometrics system and allowing access onto campuses through card swipes only.

There are no plans to interrupt the academic programme as yet.

In case of an emergency related to the coronavirus, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases hotline number is 0800 029 999.



FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits University Great Hall. PHOTO: File

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