Higher Education Science and Innovation Minister Dr. Blade Nzimande says the ministry is expected to this week receive the statistics on how many university students and staff either tested positive for the coronavirus or succumbed to COVID19-related complications over the festive period.

As of November last year, 58 staff and students at universities had succumbed to COVID-19. 3 888 staff and students have tested positive.

Nzimande was briefing the media earlier on his department’s plans for the reopening of tertiary institutions. He added that if clusters of infections are found at any institution, the department will not hesitate to close it.

“In universities, there were positive cases that were reported of about 3 888 with 1 499 staff and 1 588 students. The total number of deaths by 13 November was 58 – 48 staff, 10 students. As I’m saying, we will be receiving updated reports on infections and fatalities on the 20th of this month and we want to make it clear that if we identify that there is a rapid increase in particular institutions or campuses of infections, we will close those institutions, no doubt about that. ”

Minister Blade Nzimande addresses the media on reopening of universities: 

Enrolment of first years 

Nzimande has urged parents and last year’s matric learners not to panic over their tertiary education and enrolment in the 2021 academic year. He says institutions of higher learning will be open between March and April for first-years to enrol.

The results of the senior certificate examinations will be released on 22 February.

Nzimande added that the 2020 academic year should be completed between February and March this year for most universities.

“Don’t panic! Our universities have planned in such a way that they will open way after the matric results have been announced so that those who have been writing matric will have an opportunity to be admitted, those who will be admitted. The department is working with institutions in preparing the system for the opening of the 2021 academic year, which as I have said will take place between early March and mid-April this year. ”

According to Ndzimande, the department has invested about R68 million in research aimed at combatting the virus. He says they are working with global science experts in finding vaccine and other solutions to minimise infections.

“We have, to date, invested just over R60 million, reprioritized from the 2019/2020 and 2021 budget allocation towards COVID-19 research and development activities. These funds were approved to support COVID-19 research and development in the areas of diagnostic, vaccines, and so on.”

Ndzimande says they will mobilize a variety of stakeholders to seek a common approach in combating the virus and its spread.