At least 55 University of Pretoria (UP) students have tested positive for COVID-19 in what the Department of Higher Education and Innovation has described as a small cluster outbreak.
Higher Education and Innovation minister, Blade Nzimande, said more testing is underway for the university community and expectations are that the number of positive cases would increase.
“55 students from the University of Pretoria have tested positive up until Wednesday, 31st March 2021,” said Nzimande.
“We are aggressively working on contact tracing with the help of the Department of Health and have tested and screened a large number of students and staff over the last few days. Higher Health is still screening and testing this week, for which results are still awaited. There is a probability that the number of positive cases may rise,” said the minister.
Nzimande said he received a report from Higher Health - the agency mandated by his department to oversee students' safety, health and wellbeing.
The minister experessed concern that an outbreak like this could trigger a third wave of infections in the country.
“While COVID has largely been detrimental for the older population groups, the virus is mutating and new variants are showing a higher affinity towards young people who can serve as carriers and fasten the spread of infections. Unfortunately, that would fire up the third wave,” Nzimande warned.
He said Higher Health, working with institutions of higher learning, the local Health Department, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the National Health Laboratory Service, has formulated cluster outbreak investigation teams.
“Over 3000 students and staff are being screened and contact traced, with over 200 being tested thus far,” said Nzimande.
He added that the Department of Health and Higher Health have developed screening stations around the affected university residences, Higher Health mobile unit, the institution's campus clinic, occupational health and added that the employee wellness teams were offering psychosocial support.