14-day quarantine period for South Africans repatriated from Wuhan ends

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The 14-day quarantine period for the 114 South Africans repatriated from Wuhan, China, came to an end on Friday. The Department of Health says that it is working on the process to release them.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande says his department will be responsible for transporting students from the group to their respective homes. He says transport has been secured to transport the students home from Monday.

Dr. Ahmed Bham was part of the repatriation team to China and has been under quarantine with the rest of that group at the Ranch Resort in Limpopo.

Work Placement Students from China

76 TVET college students returned from China after being on work placements in different Chinese companies. The placements were a result of arrangements made by different Sector Education and Training Authorities. Upon arrival, the students were placed under quarantine at the Birchwood Hotel in Kempton Park for 14 days.

Nzimande says, on Monday, a further four students returned from China and were also placed under quarantine at the Birchwood Hotel.

The department has also sent a circular to all colleges requesting that all students returning from abroad be placed under quarantine. Two of the students tested positive for Tuberculosis.

“Two of these students tested positive for Tuberculosis before landing in South Africa and were discharged from observation back into the quarantine facility at Birchwood on 26 March 2020. Both tested negative for COVID-19,” the minister said in a statement.

All students will be transported to their homes once their quarantine period comes to an end.

In the video below, SA citizens repatriated in Wuhan are quarantined in Polokwane. 

Online Learning

The department is engaging with colleges to pursue online learning process while also looking at the possibility of using available study guides for the semester and trimester programmes.

“I am in discussions with Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni Abrahams, on how to deal with access to data for expansion of online learning,” the minister further said in the statement.

The department has also availed e-Learning Guides for all TVET colleges in the country. The guides can be downloaded.

“We will further develop a structured catch-up programme for the annual National Curriculum (Vocational) programmes will be developed once colleges reopen. A process is underway to upload previous examination papers for students to work through in preparation for examinations. Colleges will be informed in the coming week on how students can access these examination question papers.”

The department has also requested all universities to complete an updated survey on their IT capabilities to offer online learning. The department has started to analyse the survey to identify institutions that require assistance.

The Department says that it has put regulations in place to ensure that students that remain on campus amid the COVID-19 outbreak. It says it has put measures in place to ensure that the students comply with those regulations.

NSFAS COVID-19 contingency plan and disbursements 

Nzimande says NSFAS funded and registered students will receive their allowances during the recess.

“NSFAS made provisional funding available to 448 038 university students for the 2020 academic year, of which 350 289 registration records from institutions have been received.”

Science and Innovation

Through the Department of Science and Innovation through the CSIR, the Higher Education department has successfully commissioned and finalised the physical set-up of a core situational awareness platform.

A joint CSIR and Department of Health team is working on creating a range of data warehouses including the current geographic spread of the disease, current cases, health vulnerabilities, and location of health and other facilities, amongst others.

The minister says protocols and arrangements are also being facilitated by the DSI to enable the awareness platform to draw in information from other sources. This includes the results of the modelling efforts of various modelling teams on a regular basis.

Nzimande says team has also identified opportunities for accessing key data sets held by the private sector to strengthen the department’s situational capacity capabilities.

The minister says the awareness platform is flexible and dynamic and will be improved and customized based on the prevailing decision.

In the video below, Ministers brief the media on the status update of the nationwide lockdown.