The University of South Africa (Unisa) has officially revealed that a member of its staff, a professor in one of its departments, has tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

While Unisa is a distance learning institution, it maintains many campuses and regional centres where staff work and students can travel to to make use of facilities such as libraries and computer labs, before the lockdown was instituted.

The professor had returned from George, Western Cape to Unisa’s Muckleneuk Campus in Pretoria. On 18th March he was booked off for not feeling well, and was then tested positive for COVID-19 at a later stage. Since then the unnamed professor has been at home recovering.

Following this news Unisa has taken the following steps:

  • “The ‘affected’ colleagues were sent home for self-isolation.
  • The Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (WMM) Building on the Muckleneuk Campus has been closed and disinfection of the building is being planned.
  • The affected colleagues have been advised to go for testing.
  • Follow-up will be conducted to establish their status.”

On top of this the university has planned other measures such as disinfecting the campuses and making gloves and masks available.

“An interesting development is that, in the interim, and in response to the National call, staff members at Unisa‚Äôs Science Campus are now producing sanitisers to support essential services staff such as the security officers,” Writes professor Mandla Makhanya, principal and vice-chancellor at Unisa.

At this point it’s worth noting that Unisa is still running mostly as usual despite the spread of the pandemic and the current South African lockdown put in place to contain it. While students can no longer visit the campuses, they have been instructed to keep studying at home with assignments and projects still needing to be completed.

Right now the institution has not stated how it plans to conduct the May / June examinations. Usually, Unisa students would gather in large halls to physically complete their exams under the watchful eye of invigilators. This cannot happen at the moment due to the immense risk this would place on all those involved, on top of restrictions on large gatherings currently in place in the country.