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79 more IIT-M students test Covid +ve

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras on Tuesday reported 79 new cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), taking the total number of infections of the viral disease in the institute to 183 since December 1, officials said.

All 79 new cases are that of students.

Health secretary J Radhakrishnan said 978 reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests have been conducted in the institute to detect Sars-CoV-2, the contagion that causes Covid-19, including 770 students. “The positivity rate is 19%,” he said.

“With this, testing has been completed,” IIT-Madras said in a statement, adding that the next round of testing will be conducted after 10 days.

Until Sunday, 71 people on campus had tested positive out of which 66 were students. On Monday, 33 more tested positive.

It is suspected that the virus spread rapidly at the hostel mess where students gathered and couldn’t wear masks while eating. The mess has been shut and food is being sent to the students’ rooms. The institution has temporarily shut down its academic departments and research labs.

A postdoctoral student, who has been in the campus hostel since March, was one of the hundreds of students who was tested for Covid-19 on Monday. She is awaiting her results. “Only one mess was open and it was overcrowded, so I’ve been ordering food from outside,” the student, who did not want to be named, said.

Patients from IIT-Madras are being treated at the government-run King Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research. “We have taken X-ray and CT-scan of the positive patients and they are stable as of now with mild symtoms,” said Radhakrishnan.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government has directed state-wide testing across educational institutions and hostels since it has allowed the reopening of final year classes for undergraduate students from December 7. “We have sent an instruction to all colleges and vice chancellors of state universities to follow Covid-19 standard operating procedures and conduct testing,” said minister for higher education KP Anbzhagan.

After two students reported fever at Anna University, the Greater Chennai Corporation began mass testing on campus on Tuesday similar to the exercise at IIT-Madras. “Close to 500 students were tested,” said vice-chancellor MK Surappa. “The two students have tested negative and we will receive the remaining results on Wednesday.”

Radhakrishnan said chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has instructed the health department and all collectors to monitor testing at educational institutions, working women’s hostels and mansions. “We have instructed campuses to send food to students if there is only one eating area on campus,” he said.

Radhakrishnan warned of action under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, against the management of educational institutions if they failed to restrict students from sitting together in classes or in eating areas without social distancing.