IIT Madras under COVID-19 attack: Total tally of positive cases in the institute nears 200!

The campus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has been under the grounds of a widespread COVID-19 pandemic after it has been declared as a cluster with hundreds of students and staff tested positive for the viral infection in two weeks, pushing the management to shut down the operations and academics. 

According to reports, IIT-M has been witnessing soaring cases of COVID-19 with 183 positive cases so far as of Tuesday. With the high alert of the emergence of the major hotspot, the state health department had initiated measures to curb the spread in the premises while the management of the institute had asked the students to stay in their hostel rooms. On Monday, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan IAS had visited the institute and took stock of the situation and arrangements in containing the spread.  

Radhakrishnan had revealed that the cases could increase as the restrictions were eased and students returned to the campus and the health department has been carrying out tests in the institute. The reports say that a total of 514 students have been tested so far as of Tuesday and while there were 104 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, IIT-M had witnessed 79 fresh cases on Tuesday, which had taken the total tally of 183 cases so far. The fresh cases include both the students and staff and the institute has said that the next round of tests will be conducted after ten days. 

On Monday, after spelled as a hotspot, IIT-M had released a statement in which it has said, "IIT Madras has been functioning on limited capacity with only 10% students in the hostels. All these students are research scholars who need to carry out experimental work in the labs. As soon as a spurt in symptomatic cases was reported by some students residing in the hostels, the Institute has consulted the civic authorities and has arranged for all students residing in hostels to be tested for COVID". 

"To be cautious, all students have been asked to remain in their rooms and packed food is being supplied to the students in the hostels", the institute added. After the institute had turned into a cluster, it has been brought under the scrutiny of the state health department and the department has continued to keep the public updated and has said that there is no reason to panic. The health department had initiated several measures such as shutting down the common areas to curb the further spread of the virus. 

The institute has temporarily shut down its academic zone, labs, departments, and library and it has quarantined students who are staying at the hostel and the staff. The officials in the IIT-M had divulged that majority of those infected were residents of two hostels  - Krishna and Jamuna. While two people had tested positive for the pandemic on December 1, 14 more confirmed to have contracted the virus on December 10 and the campus had recorded 55 more cases since Friday. Till Monday, IIT-M had 71 cases of which 66 were students, four mess workers, and one faculty. 

On Monday, IIT-M had reported 33 fresh COVID-19 cases which took the tally beyond 100 by reporting 104 cases, and on Tuesday, the institute further reported 79 fresh cases taking the tally close to 200 by reporting 183 cases. As IIT-M is under complete lockdown, it has been reported that the overcrowding of students in a common mess is the epicenter and reason behind the widespread viral infection. Students say that there was just one mess on the campus due to the fewer strengths of students and when more of them had returned after the resumption, the mess has got overcrowded as the institute has got only one mess in operations. As they won't wear masks in the mess, they all become susceptible. 

As the institute has been declared as the hotspot, the academic zones were temporarily closed and the premises had gone through the disinfection drive to curb the spread. Speaking to the reporters after visiting the institute, Radhakrishnan had on Monday said that the state must stay vigil as IIT-M is a lesson for everyone and appealed to the people to adhere to the guidelines. He said that the institute has been instructed to close the common mess and deliver foods to the students and added that all the district authorities have been directed to review whether this kind of spread is possible in other colleges and hostels.