Thirty-one students from Fort Hare University’s East London campus have tested positive for COVID-19, following a night out partying.

According to a joint statement by the university and the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDoH), the students did not adhere to alert level 1 regulations at a tavern in Quigney, East London on 3 October 2020.

“This non-compliance was also evident on the 10th of October 2020 where the ‘10-10-2020 Bash’ was held in Quigney.”

It is alleged that no masks were worn and washing and sanitising of hands protocols were not observed. There were reportedly more than 300 patrons at the tavern, some drinking from the same bottle and dancing close to each other.

According to the university’s latest statement, several steps have been taken by Fort Hare and the provincial health department to curb the further spread of the virus.

“To date, the university has recorded 33 active cases in a space of a week. This number includes two staff members,” said the university’s spokesperson, Tandi Mapukata.

By Friday, Mapukata said, the COVID-19 Investigation Team had been established with the help from the ECDoH.

On Saturday, 422 students were tested, while 503 more were expected to be performed by the National Health Laboratory Service, which provided a mobile testing facility.

Also, the process of testing and contact tracing is underway, while the East London campus is under surveillance.

“Lockdown conditions in residences where some students have already tested positive have been instituted until all students have tested and received their results.”

The spokesperson said the ECDoH has also commenced a risk assessment of university residences in East London, where the students have contracted the virus.

An Environmental Officer visited the Alice campus isolation facility from Buffalo City Municipality as well as the COVID-19 Manager from Raymond Mhlaba sub-district.

“We are still awaiting a report on the outcome of the visit.”

The university is said to be in the process of securing a quarantine site for the East London campus, in addition to the 134-bed quarantine and isolation facility in Alice.

The Eastern Cape province is also assisting with additional isolation and quarantine facilities in King William’s Town.

“Staff and students are encouraged to observe national COVID-19 health and safety regulations to limit transmissions,” she added.

She urged people to wear masks when in public and within university premises and for the staff and students to refrain from participating in social gatherings.

“University venue-based gatherings are not allowed and all meetings will continue to be held virtually, teaching and learning continue remotely,” said Mapukata.

According to the spokesperson, staff and students with comorbidities will continue to work remotely or stay in their residences.

“We will continue to be vigilant and encourage students to avoid putting themselves and others at risk.”

The university said the security personnel will ensure compliance with regulations and those who do not comply will face disciplinary action.

“Management has expressed sincere gratitude to the ECDoH for the prompt response and ongoing professional guidance as we join hands to manage the outbreak.

“We are equally grateful to our internal COVID-19 Task Team and Management Response Committee for working around the clock to ensure the safety of staff and students on campus.”

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