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Preliminary work on coronavirus vaccine underway in SA

The University of Cape Town together with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as well as the Biological and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa started work on the development of a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus

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With the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus which has had a global impact, disrupting not only economies but proving to be one of the grave challenges the health sector has been faced with.

Taking that there is still no cure or vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, scientists as well as researchers from various parts of the world have started preliminary work on a coronavirus vaccine.

South Africa has started work on the development of a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has said.

This project is being taken on by the University of Cape Town together with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as well as the Biological and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa.

In a response following President Cyril Ramaphosa‘s announcement of a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, Nzimande said a number of existing drugs was currently being re-purposed and tested for efficacy, adding current international trials under the co-ordination of the World Health Organisation were being monitored.

Nzimande further added that “Progress is expected in about 18 months” 

“The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis has been engaging with other data and modelling groups to refine its assumptions to produce an updated model of the spread of the virus.

This is expected to be completed by friday, Nzimande said.

In terms of diagnostic tools, he added it had become urgent to locally manufacture reagents for testing kits.

“These are currently being imported and the lockdown may threaten access to supplies.”

“The Department of Science and Innovation has negotiated the re-purposing of various facilities and labs to respond to the outbreak. The entities in line to assist include Biovac, Centres of Excellence in TB Research, Centre of Proteomic and Genomic Research and Afrigen Bio.”

“Discussions are underway to facilitate accreditation for some of the facilities to produce reagents. The team will be discussing budget requirements this afternoon.”

“For the above projects, the Department of Science and Innovation has already availed R12-million and will redirect an additional R30-million.”

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Universities

Universities with rising Covid-19 cases will be shut down

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IMAGE: @GovernmentZA (Twitter)

Higher Education Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande revealed that the rising Covid-19 cases within universities are a cause for concern as this will lead the department to shut down these universities.

During a briefing on the reopening of universities, the Minister mentioned that there were 3888 confirmed positive cases. The department’s duty will be to closely monitor universities to ensure that both students and staff are safe.

Minister Nzimande also mentioned that the department is expecting to receive statics this week which will determine the action the department should take in terms of allowing students and staff access to universities.

“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. ”

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Universities

The ups and downs of the 2021 academic year

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Universities are preparing to begin the 2021 academic year. This has however been met with challenges as some universities had to lower their first-year intake.

The University of South Africa (UNISA) lowered its first-year intake by 20 000 to ensure sustainability. Another reason was due to the inability of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme ( NSFAS) to meet the high demands.

This decision has received backlash as a lot of student hopefuls won’t be receiving access to study.

The University has said that this move was necessary and it also follows an order from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, which serves to prevent the university from experiencing a backlog when the academic year starts in March.

“From what I can gather, the minister’s question to limit Unisa’s intake is really to bring it back into its enrollment planning. What that means is that Unisa will be in a position where it is admitting 20,000 fewer students this year and that, of course, has consequences in terms of access.”, said Universities South Africa CEO Ahmed Bawa.

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UKZN halts re-opening for the year 2021

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As Institutions of Higher learning are preparing to re-open for the 2021 academic year, they are also looking into unpacking the implications of new COVID-19 regulations.

The University of Kwazulu-Natal postponed its re-opening on January 4 until January 18. According to the university’s spokesperson Normah Zondo, the university decided to suspend its reopening due to that, “both the district municipalities within which UKZN campuses are located have been declared Covid-19 hotspots.”

The university will revisit this decision once further directives are given by the President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande.

It was further stated that the University will continue with its academic activities online and that registration processes will take place online, commencing on the 18th of January.

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