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Covid cluster at IIT Madras: 104 people test positive this month

The institution has temporarily shut its academic departments and research labs and students on campus have been asked to quarantine inside their rooms.

A coronavirus cluster has emerged at IIT-Madras, where 104 people have turned positive — 87 of them students — from December 1 till Monday after campuses reopened to final-year students. Sixty-six students are being treated at Chennai’s King Institute of Preventive Medicine & Research. “The students are all stable and the situation is under control,” said health secretary J Radhakrishnan.

On December 2, two cases were reported from campus. On December 8, the cases increased to 4, prompting the health department to intervene and begin contact testing.

The health department has disinfected the campus and the all residents are being tested. Sample collectors from the Greater Chennai Corporation are testing as many as 700 students and staff on campus. They have been quarantined inside hostel rooms.

Until Sunday, 71 people on campus were positive, out of which 66 were students and the remaining were staff. On Monday 33 more turned positive. So far, 444 samples have been collected, including swabs from 398 students. Out of this, 104 have come back positive, including that of 87 students, 16 staff from the mess and one resident.

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

“We instructed only one person to sit per table, but though we put standard operating procedures in place, everyone gathers together to eat,” said IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi. “If students follow all protocols and precautions strictly, colleges can continue to function.”

The institute, in a statement, said that it has been functioning on limited capacity with only 10% students in the hostels. “IIT Madras has been permitting research scholars who need to do experimental work to return to campus in a cautious manner — with a 14-day quarantine and testing of each returnee,” their statement read. “Our capacity to quarantine (with room service) is limited, and this limits the rate at which we can bring back scholars to the hostels.”

As of Sunday evening, a total of 798,888 people have been infected with Covid-19 in Tamil Nadu which has killed 11,895 people and 7,76,878 people have been discharged.