IIT Madras under major shock: How the prestigious campus turned into a COVID-19 cluster?

In a shocking development of showcasing what would become the adverse effect of resumption of the educational institutions without adequate preparedness, the Indian Institute of Technology -Madras has now been spelled as the COVID-19 cluster after dozens of students had tested positive for the pandemic, pushing the pupils to get quarantined and the management to shut down the institute. 

According to reports, 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 after nearly 71 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 viral infection since December 1. Of these 71 people, 66 were students and the shocking development had pushed IIT-M to get declared as a COVID-19 hotspot and it has become the first big cluster in the city after the institutions were resumed its operations for the final year students. 

The officials in the IIT-M had divulged that there are 774 students on campus and the 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 as it has got the grounds of widespread, the institute has been declared as a COVID-19 hotspot and it has become a major hotspot in the city amid falling cases and IIT-M is the first institute in its club to report COVID-19 cases after the resumption. 

On Saturday, the management has instructed the students who are staying in the hostel not to step out of their rooms as the institute has been taking measures to curb the spread. Along with 66 students, one faculty staying at the guest house inside the premises and four mess workers had also tested positive and the reports say that the state health department officials had camped in the institute on Monday and they have been collecting and testing the samples from all the students to contain the further spread, which had become a fresh challenge for the state government. 

The public health department had noticed the cluster when ten students were admitted to the King Institute of Preventive Measure in Guindy with severe to moderate symptoms of COVID-19. The government hospital registers had shown 25 admissions from the IIT-M since December 1. According to a news agency, a senior doctor said that they had alerted the health officials after incessant admissions of students from the institute and most of them are getting recovered. 

Following the development, IIT-M had issued a circular in which it had directed faculty members, staff, research scholars, and project staff to work from home while the students and staff who are already on the campus were advised to stay under quarantine. It also has asked the students and staff to visit the hospital on the campus if they develop positive symptoms for COVID-19. IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said that the management had approached civic authorities after the cases were reported and the management had also arranged tests for all students residing in hostels. 

The director said that all the students have been asked to remain in their rooms and packed food is being supplied to them in the hostels and added that the students who have returned to hostels were quarantined for two weeks. However, while the IIT-M management and the health department are perplexed on the formation of the cluster and yet to identify the cause of the infection, students revealed that overcrowding at the mess had led to the spread of the infection. 

Speaking to a news agency, students said that there was just one mess on the campus due to the fewer strengths of students and when the students returned after the resumption, the mess has got overcrowded as the institute has got only one mess in operations. As students won't wear masks in the mess, they all become susceptible and four mess workers had also tested positive. Recently, the management had called for a fresh bunch of cooks and staff for the mess and all the new staff was let into the premises after they tested negative. The management has closed the dining hall and started distributing foods directly to the students' rooms. 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.