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College steps up COVID Vigil to get over testing time

Colleges across the state have intensified testing and are on heightened vigil to check for coronavirus cases in the wake of IIT Madras campus turning out to be a hotspot. Though preventive measures are in place, colleges are sceptical over checking the spread especially in hostels in the coming days.

The higher education department has issued a fresh set of guidelines in addition to the SOPs given by the government to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks on the campus. “While the state has taken up the responsibility to do ‘saturation’ testing for all colleges, we will not hesitate to initiate action when we find protocol violations,” said health secretary J Radhakrishnan.

Health department staff in Coimbatore say they have asked colleges to ensure all students and staff wear masks throughout the day. “Wardens have also been asked to spread the beds out in hostel rooms and dormitories ensuring social distance and if necessary use more empty rooms because of colleges working at 50% capacity,” said a staff member. However, the principal of an autonomous arts and science college in Trichy said it may not be possible to restrict students in the hostel as they tend to move out increasing the chances of Covid-19 spread.

In various arts and science colleges, online semester exams are either under way or set to be held after practical classes were conducted at a stretch for final year students since reopening. Covid-19 positive cases have not emerged yet from BEd colleges or arts and science colleges as a majority of the students are appearing for their semester exams from home. “Though colleges reopened in the first and second week of December, a majority of the students remained at home as they were attending online classes,” said the regional joint director of collegiate education in Trichy, A Mekala.

While this has ruled out the possibility of Covid-19 to a large extent, she said most of the colleges are conducting online semester exam. “Since this will end in a week which will be followed by vacation till new year, we hope to keep the college premises safe for students,” she said.

V Sujatha, principal, Cauvery College for Women, said all the 350 students in the hostel have been screened for Covid-19. They have been isolated and not allowed to move out of the campus. Further, the mess was being sanitised and so were the buses, she said.

“We did not have any instance of any student showing symptoms of Covid-19. Temperature screening was done every day. For those staying in the hostel, most students had taken Covid-19 tests barring a few. But even they were monitored closely,” said Dr D Pandiaraja, principal, Thiagarajar College of Arts and Science, Madurai. Many of the colleges say they find online classes effective and instead of having the students on the campus they may continue virtual classes till the end of next semester.