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IIT-M becomes a hot spot as 104 test Covid-positive

IT-M becomes a hot spot as 104 test Covid-positive
88 university students among those infected, academic departments and labs shut down, and students quarantined in hostel rooms

The Tamil Nadu health department said it has disinfected the campus and all residents of the institute are being tested. PTI

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Divya Chandrababu


Chennai : A coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cluster has emerged at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras, where 104 people have tested positive for the virus since early December when the campus reopened for final year students, forcing the institution to shut down academic departments and labs and quarantine students in hostel rooms.

Eighty-seven of the patients were students, and 66 of them are being treated at Chennai’s King Institute of Preventive Medicine & Research. “The students are all stable and the situation is under control,” said Tamil Nadu health secretary J Radhakrishnan, allaying fears of a further spread.

Radhakrishnan said that although the results of Covid-19 tests showed a 20% positivity rate in the cluster, there was no need for concern as measures, including aggressive contact tracing, are in place.

On December 2, two cases were reported from the campus and on December 8, the number increased to four; soon after, the health department intervened and began contact tracing, which led to a spike in the number.

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

Until Sunday, 71 people on campus had tested positive out of which 66 were students. On Monday, 33 more tested positive. So far, 444 samples have been collected, including swabs from 398 students. Out of this 104 have tested positive,16 are staff from the mess and one resident, the health secretary said.

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.

“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- Madras 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% of 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,” the 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.”

A spokesperson for the institute said all departments and labs have been shut and as of now only about 700 students, mostly research scholars, are accommodated in nine hostels. “Classes are being held online,” she said.

As of Monday, a total of 800,029 people had been infected by Covid-19 in Tamil Nadu, where 11,909 people have