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IIT-Madras campus under temporary lockdown after over 100 students, staff test Covid-19 positive

IIT-Madras campus has been placed under temporary lockdown after 104 students and staff members of the institution tested positive for coronavirus. The state health department and the IIT management are yet to identify the source of the outbreak.

As per local reports, the students had claimed there had been overcrowding in the hostel mess and that could have led the infection to spread. This is one of the biggest clusters that has emerged in Chennai after the state government permitted educational institutions to function from December 7.

In the last 10 days, 71 residents of IIT-Madras tested positive for Covid-19 and on Monday, 33 more were found to be infected.

Addressing reporters in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said, “We have taken 447 samples till now. The positivity rate is around 20 per cent now. People need not panic, we are doing aggressive testing and trying to curb the spread”.

“People who are admitted to King’s Institute in Guindy are stable now. We have ordered to close the mess, the students have been instructed not to leave their rooms. The management will provide them food and any necessary items at their doorstep. All the district collectors have been instructed to monitor rest of the educational institutions across the state. The spread of the infection is higher at the eating place, so I request people to maintain distance while eating. We are constantly monitoring the situation, the IIT management is also co-operating well with us,” he further said.

Following the outbreak, the institution has decided to close all the departments temporarily including all the centres, labs, and library. In a press release, the IIT management said, “The Institute has been functioning on limited capacity with only 10% students in the hostels. As soon as a spurt in symptomatic cases was reported by some students residing in the hostels, the Institute has consulted the civic authorities and has arranged for all students residing in hostels to be tested for COVID. To be cautious, all students have been asked to remain in their rooms and packed food is being supplied to the students in the hostels.”

“Some Project Staff working on research projects and staying in the city have been coming to work in the labs, once this was permitted by the government. An SoP is in place to determine how many scholars and project staff can work safely in each lab based on its size, ventilation etc. Research scholars who wished to return earlier (out of turn with respect to the SoP involving quarantine before release into the hostels) were permitted to do so if they were willing to stay off campus similar to project staff, till their turn came to be accepted in the hostels, and provided their lab could accommodate them,” the release read.

According to the officials, a total of 700 students are currently staying on the campus and they are accommodated across nine hostels with less than 20 per cent capacity occupied in each.

The management said they would attempt to increase their capacity to quarantine returning students since the government is releasing the hostels they took custody of to quarantine Covid-19 patients during the last seven months.