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IIT-Madras VIRUS SCARE: Govt seeks health experts: opinion on continuation of final year classes

With another 79 fresh coronavirus cases reported from the IIT-M campus on Tuesday taking the toll to more than 180 so far, the State government is holding discussions with health experts on whether to continue on-going classes in universities and colleges after conducting COVID-19 test for all the students.

Health checks being conducted on Anna University campus

Amid stiff opposition from educationists, universities and colleges were reopened and classes started for the final year UG and PG students from December 2. However, the sudden spike in cases from IIT-M has created fear among the authorities and academicians. A senior official from the Higher Education Department told DT Next that though precautionary measures were taken by the institutions there are chances of a COVID spread among the students after the IIT-M incident came to the fore, despite it being one of best maintained campuses.

Stating that it will also be difficult for the government authorities to physically monitor the safety measures taken by the colleges, he said, “Authorities were keen that not even a single student should be affected by the virus.” The official said after conducting a series of discussions with the health department officials, the government would take a decision soon on whether to continue classes for the students or close down the institutions till normalcy was restored.

“The first priority is that civic officials will set up health camps to test students in all the colleges and universities that were reopened this month,” he said, adding, “if the cases are high at the institutions, all academic activities would likely be suspended till further orders”.

Stating that all the institutions will have to strictly follow Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the camps, Health secretary J Radhakrishnan said, “If any institution was found lacking in implementing SOPs, action would be taken against the management.” He added that test results of 25 IIT students were still awaited.

Opposing the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to reopen colleges for UG and PG final year students, higher education institution faculties said it would be a risk to conduct classes as normalcy was yet to return. “Though faculties were readily available at all the colleges, at present, taking classes at this point for the students would be a danger since the number of coronavirus cases has only reduced and not fully abated,” N Pasupathy, Association of University Teachers (AUT) said.

Health camp in Anna Univ
The sample of a hostel student who had mild fever at Anna University was sent to the lab and his results were yet to be out. Tightening health measures in light of the IIT shocker, Corporation authorities also set up a health camp inside the university campus on Tuesday to test all students, including those who were in the hostels.