The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has issued a statement titled, “We would like to urge South Africans to support the Matric Class of 2020 ahead of final exams”, which contains information about how the 2020 Matric exam season will operate. One point in the release worth discussing is the reduction of social distancing to one metre.

“All Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) have completed the training of chief invigilators and invigilators. There was strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in Provinces where face-to-face modality was used for the training of invigilators is in cluster groupings. Social distancing has been decreased to 1m, and this has assisted with the space provision for the writing of the examination. Provinces have completed the audit of examination centres. Centres have been categorised according to risk profile,” the DBE writes.

Examination centre space is of particular importance for these exams as they will be historic in terms of the sheer number of students sitting down to participate. In early October the department announced that more than a million students would be writing, making the 2020 Matric exams the largest public examination the country has ever seen.

But how does this new one metre rule line up with regulations and scientific advice locally and abroad?

According to the South African government’s official COVID-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy social distancing should always be two metres. In this regard the DBE’s new outline will be half this distance.

While this may seem drastic this change is still in line with the information provided by the the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In its information page advice to the public, the WHO states the following:

“Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and others to reduce your risk of infection when they cough, sneeze or speak. Maintain an even greater distance between yourself and others when indoors. The further away, the better.”

So while the DBE may still be within this minimum distance anything extra on top of that is welcomed, which is why the two metre rule has been in effect in the country.

The South African 2020 Matric exams begin this week on 5th November. Exams will continue until the period ends on 15th December, with results planned to be released next year on 22nd January.