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IIT Madras under temporary lockdown following major coronavirus outbreak

66 students and 5 staff members of the IIT Madras have tested positive for coronavirus. Overcrowding at the common mess is being suspected to be the cause of the spike in Covid cases.

India’s premier educational institution – IIT Madras has been placed under temporary lockdown following a major outbreak of coronavirus. According to health authorities, 71 Covid cases were reported in the last two weeks, with the single-day highest spike recorded on Sunday with 32 fresh cases. Of these 66 are students, four mess staff and one from resident quarters, as reported by a leading newspaper.

To curb the further spread of the disease, the IIT Madras on Sunday announced the shut down of all departments and facilities with immediate effect and until further notice.

All faculty, staff, project staff and research scholars will work from home until such time, an official circular issued by the institute on Sunday said. All students, scholars and project staff staying on campus are also strictly advised to confine themselves to their hostel rooms and maintain at all times for their own safety.

In case of any coronavirus(fever, dry cough, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of taste/smell, or any other symptoms), the residents of the Institute are advised to contact the IIT Madras hospital authorities immediately.

The Tamil Nadu government has also instructed the institute to test all the students on the campus.

Common mess suspected to be the source of the spike

According to media reports, the first two cases were reported on December 1 and 14 more persons tested positive for the virus by December 10. In the last three days, the institute saw 55 more cases. Following which, the institute has been declared a COVID hotspot.

As per the official data, were reported from nine student hostels and one guest house. Majority of the infected persons were residents of two hostels Krishna (22) and Jamuna (20). One faculty residing at a guest house and four mess workers have also tested positive for the virus.

Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan told Express that they suspect common mess, where students get together, to be the cause of the outbreak. Therefore, health authorities have advised the IIT Madras administration to close the mess and deliver the food directly to the residents.

Students also suspect that overcrowding at the only operational mess may have led to the spread of the infection. A research scholar told a leading newspaper that the mess was crowded after more students returned to the campus. The institute was reopened for the final-year students on December 7 as per an order from the government of Tamil Nadu.

As people don’t wear masks in the mess, they became more vulnerable, the student stated.

However, IIT director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said, in a statement to the media, the institute has been functioning on limited capacity with 10% students in the hostels.

Meanwhile, the institute has been instructed by the government to conduct tests on everyone and Chennai Corporation will be assisting them in disinfecting the hotspots.

According to officials at the IIT Madras, out of the total 774 students who are currently residing on the campus, samples were collected from 408 students as on date.