Published: 04th June 2022
How COVID clusters in educational institutions are contributing to Tamil Nadu’s caseload
Expressing helplessness, colleges said it is practically impossible to monitor and ensure that students are following social distancing and wearing masks on campus
The number of COVID cases in Tamil Nadu is on the rise and colleges are contributing to this with new clusters.
In the last few weeks, colleges in and around Chennai have worried health officials. It all started with IIT Madras, and then Anna University, Vellore Institute of Technology, Kelambakkam, and Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research emerged as COVID clusters.
While VIT, Kelambakkam, has started online classes for all first-year students, Anna University is providing online classes for isolated students only. Anna University has also decided to not conduct any cultural events on campus. "We have started online classes for both first-year hostelers and day scholars. It is a holiday for the rest of the students," said a VIT official.
Though institutions are taking measures like online classes and isolating positive students, there are no other strategies in place to contain the spread of COVID on campuses. According to health officials, non-adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour and organising events with large gatherings are the main reasons for the outbreak of COVID on college campuses.
"Majority of the institutions are not enforcing Covid-appropriate behaviour. Forget social distancing, students are not even wearing masks, which is a matter of concern," said a senior health official.
Though the health department has instructed collectors and health officials to keep track of students with travel history, especially those who have either come from other states or participated in any cultural or sports/academic inter-state meets, they have not taken them seriously, an official said.
Expressing helplessness, colleges said it is practically impossible to monitor and ensure that students are following social distancing and wearing masks on campus. "We cannot do 24/7 surveillance," said a senior administrative staff of a private university.
"A few annual events were organised on campus recently, after two years of the pandemic. There was a congregation of students in the events, which might be the reason for the rising number of COVID cases. We have decided to not organise any events anymore," said Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, R Velraj.
Health Minister Ma Subramanian, on Friday, June 3, gave an update on the COVID situation in colleges and said it is under control. IIT and Shri Sathya Sai Medical College clusters are now free of cases, while cases at Anna University and VIT are also under control.
At IIT, 90,000 people were tested, of which 237 tested positive. At Sathya Sai, more than 1,400 were tested, of which 74 were positive. Both the colleges are now free of COVID, said the minister.
He further added that Anna University has 23 active cases and 196 in VIT.