Published: 14th December 2020
Single mess to serve over 700 triggered largescale COVID-19 spread, allege students as IITM shuts down campus
An email was sent to the students residing on campus on Sunday stating that the number of cases reached a record high and thus they are advised to stay inside their hostel rooms
In view of a major outbreak of COVID-19 cases inside IIT Madras, the campus was placed under temporary lockdown starting on Saturday. Students said that the institute's decision to run one mess is the reason for the sudden spread. Those staying on campus have also alleged that they were not informed on time about quarantine so they could be prepared. According to health authorities, at least 71 Coronavirus cases were reported in the last two weeks, out of which 66 are students, four mess staff and one from resident quarters. The single-day highest spike was on Sunday, December 13 with 32 fresh cases and the number is likely to go up in the next couple of days with the Tamil Nadu government instructing the institute to test all the students on the campus.
The students allege the IIT-M's decision to run only one mess is the reason for the large scale spread of the Coronavirus inside the campus. In the mess, one cannot be wearing a mask while eating and a congregation of a good number of persons in the mess proved to be the cause for the spread. Currently, the administration has made arrangments to deliver food to their hostel rooms. "They aren't allowing outside food at all. As four mess staff tested positive and it was a common mess for over 700 students, they shut it down. Now, a new caterer is serving us now, they are packing and delivering to us at the hostels. The administration hasn't mentioned any particular time period and said we have to be in quarantine until further notice," a PhD scholar, who wanted to remain anonymous told us.
"All of this happened suddenly. Around Friday afternoon the administration put up a notice saying that all students on campus who were staying in the hostels were to be put under quarantine and the institute is under temporary lockdown. My hostel was also put under quarantine starting Saturday morning and we were asked to stay inside. We were informed on our college WhatsApp group. They also told us that RT-PCR tests will be conducted on Saturday for all students inside the campus. The management closed everything including laboratories, canteens, classrooms and said it will all be sanitised. All of it was so sudden that we couldn't get any backup such as for our study materials, lab practicals and more. I have to access everything remotely now. But there are students who can't, they need to work at the labs," he added.
An email was sent to the students residing on campus on Sunday stating that the number of cases reached a record high and thus they are advised to stay inside their hostel rooms. "We have decided to shut all departments, centres, and the library until further notice. The number of cases has increased alarmingly in many hostels. hence strict precautions to be followed by all residents is very critical. You are advised strictly to confine yourselves to your rooms," the email said.
Alankrita Sen, who is a predoctoral fellow at IIT Madras, who had an interview on Monday said she wasn't being granted permission to go to the lab to collect some of her materials. "We got an email from the administration that some people can also take special permission and go for lab work but we still haven't been allowed to do that. None of us were informed about the quarantine, suddenly on Sunday, we got to know after returning to our hostel that everything is shut. We were not prepared at all. They are providing us ready-to-eat thalis, it is being delivered to our hostels. I was supposed to leave on January 4 but in the given situation I don't know if I will be allowed or not. I have my pre-doctoral interview today, which is online but all my laptop and materials are stuck in the lab. We were not informed earlier then I could have gotten them back to my room. I haven't got permission to got there so I will have to manage from my hostel room," she said.
When contacted by the New Indian Express, TN Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said that health authorities are working closely with IIT Madras to contain the spread.