Is Delhi's St Stephen's College handling the COVID outbreak on campus properly?

Student volunteers have also said that they are satisfied with the institution's response to the COVID outbreak while others were concerned about the reliability of the reports
St Stephen's College (Pic: PTI)
St Stephen's College (Pic: PTI)

The St Stephen's College in Delhi conducted its third COVID-19 test drive with the help of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s (SDMs) office on April 7. No other student or staff have tested positive since 13 students and two members of the staff had tested positive a week ago. But a section of the students and staff have questioned the reliability of the report after a student who tested negative in the college's test allegedly tested positive.

Open up the campus

Principal John Varghese, in a notice, said that those who wanted to get tested can do so inside the campus at the testing camp on Wednesday. “The college with the help of the SDM’s office will be conducting a COVID testing camp tomorrow at 11 am. All members of the college community who are interested in testing themselves are welcome to get themselves tested. The camp will be open till 1:30 pm,” he said.

The college has been opened for the staff to resume regular work after the SDM Civil Lines cordoned off a few buildings with “strict perimeter control” – Mukherjee East, Extension Block, and the Sports Complex – where the infected students are staying. This step was taken after a test drive on April 3 found no more positive cases.

Student volunteers who have been helping the college during these times of need have also said that they are satisfied with the institution's response to the COVID outbreak. "We did not want the elderly non-teaching staff members to be exposed to the virus so we volunteered to help with setting up the camps, helping with the food parcels being delivered to the quarantined students and anything that we can help with around the campus," said a student volunteer who is also a third-year student. "The college has promptly reacted to the issue and even though most of the times the students are not happy with their response, it has been spontaneous this time," added the student.

Lack of transparency?

While a section of the students are happy with the way the college dealt with the crisis, some of them have also expressed concerns about the reliability of the reports. "One of the students in the hostel had symptoms but was not allowed to go to a government facility to test himself. The college had used a private lab to test 225 people on April 3 and declared that all were negative, without providing individual results," said a source. They also added that the college hadn't initially taken any measure to quarantine those who came back from the chapel trip to Dehradun. "The protocol is to not allow anyone, unless they have a negative test report, into the hostels. But for these students, it was not followed and they mingled with the rest of the residents before the first test was done," they said and added that the first notice announcing that students and staff have tested positive came after Dr Nandita Narain, a faculty wrote to the Principal enquiring about the issue.

Narain, who is also a member of the governing body has written another letter, "Is it a fact that a student who had tested negative in the College test, tested positive in a test conducted in a Government facility, and was subsequently moved into a quarantined block?" she asked in her letter. She also enquired about the college's plan of shifting some students with symptoms to the hospital for better treatment.

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