Keeping us safe during the pandemic



eish! spoke to Protection Services director Des Ayob to understand how his department is keeping us safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. He also tells us more about their plans to start using thermal cameras at all access points to monitor the temperature of everyone entering the university.


Q: How have the responsibilities of Protection Services staff changed as a result of the pandemic?

A: Covid-19 has significantly increased our mandate. We have adopted Occupational Health and Safety compliance in terms of temperature screening at our campus access gates and also have to ensure that students, staff and visitors adhere to social distancing on our campuses.


Q: Has it been necessary to provide additional training for Protection Services members?

A: Yes, the campus health clinics have provided additional training. We have adopted the train-the-trainer concept, meaning that representatives who receive training cascade this to their colleagues on the respective campuses. Members have received training in personal protective equipment (PPE), including the use of the hand-held thermometers. In addition, all officers have completed the mandatory Covid-19 training on eFundi.


Q: What challenges have Protection Services staff experienced during this difficult time?

A: Protection officers have indicated that some staff members are rude to them, especially when requested to provide proof that they have completed the daily pre-screening app.


They also experience problems with the hand-held thermometers they use to take the temperature of persons entering our gates.


These devices have been designed to work indoors. Due to the fact that it is still winter, the devices malfunction. We have improvised by keeping them warm using blankets and hot water bottles.


Fortunately, this problem will be solved early in August 2020 when we will start using thermal cameras at all access points to monitor the temperatures of everyone entering the university.


Q: If an employee or visitor registers a higher-than-normal temperature, what is expected of the Protection Services officer on duty?

A: If a person has an elevated temperature reading (38 degrees and above) the protection officer will escort them to the campus health clinic for further assessment. If the person prefers to consult with their own healthcare professional, they will be permitted to do so. In this case, the person will be denied access and escorted off campus.


Q: What is your plea to the larger NWU community as far as Protection Services’ mandate is concerned, especially as we anticipate a peak in Covid-19 cases in this country?

A: Our campus communities must please complete the daily pre-screening app on the DIY portal PRIOR to coming to campus. This will alleviate congestion at our access gates.


Those who can’t complete the app due to poor data connectivity or lack of devices, will however still be assisted by a protection officer who is equipped with a tablet to complete the process “on behalf of” that individual.


In conclusion, remember that the same universal guidelines as always apply: Wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands regularly.

South Africa, like many other countries, is preparing for an onslaught of COVID-19 cases as the coronavirus pandemic nears its peak. For its part, the NWU’s Protection Services has been at the forefront of the fight against the virus.

Des Ayob is the director of Protection Services.