Steady COVID-19 caseload in Hyderabad hinders Fulbright exchange programme

The Fulbright programme is all set to resume in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other parts of the country but Hyderabad loses out as the caseload does not see a decline over a two-week period.
A man being tested for Coronavirus
A man being tested for Coronavirus
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A US professor chosen as a Fulbright scholar to teach at the University of Hyderabad is unable to travel to India to be a part of the programme as Hyderabad has not shown any decline in the number of Covid cases over a 14-day period. On January 30, Professor Sanjay Asthana from Middle Tennessee State University received an email from USIEF informing him that the Fulbright programme would be resuming in Universities in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities after it had been rescheduled due to the rising COVID-19 cases.  However, the professor was disappointed to see that the programme would not be resuming in Hyderabad since it has bucked the general trend and not shown a decline in Covid cases. The professor is presently taking online classes for students of the University as he was unable to travel to Hyderabad.     

The Fulbright programme is a cultural exchange programme as part of which scholars from Indian Universities teach at institutes in the US and vice versa. TNM reached out to the United States- India Educational Foundation (USIEF) to inquire why the programme was not resuming in Hyderabad while it was all set to resume in other cities. USIEF responded stating that they had certain conditions to resume the programme. "USIEF will begin inviting U.S. Fulbrighters back to areas/cities which have seen a 14-day Covid caseload decline but will hold off on welcoming Fulbrighters back to areas yet where the data does not show 14-days of improved trendlines, or where data is not available," said Adam J Grotsky, Executive Director, USIEF.

This issue came to light when a professor from the University of Hyderabad tweeted tagging Minister KT Rama Rao in his tweet. In his tweet, the professor claims that a lack of Hyderabad’s COVID-19 data was the reason for the programme not resuming in the city. "The Fulbright prog to India stalled coz of Omicron is resuming in cities showing 14-day decline, except in Hyderabad. We have a visiting US Prof waiting to arrive to teach at @HydUniv @KTRTRS garu, can't believe we are lagging behind for lack of data. Thought we were doing fine," (sic) read a tweet by Vinod Pavarala, senior professor in the Department of Communication. Speaking to TNM later, the Professor said that the reason behind the programme not resuming in Hyderabad could either be because of no decline in the caseload in the city or because of the lack of data.

When TNM collected the COVID-19 data for two weeks prior to the date the mail was sent to the scholar, we found that GHMC areas had not exhibited a two-week decline in the COVID-19 numbers. It is only over the last few days that the caseload in GHMC limits is beginning to see a decline. When asked when the USIEF plans to resume the programme in Hyderabad, they did not respond to the query. On February 1, educational institutions in Telangana resumed in-class teaching for students. The University of Hyderabad has announced that in-person classes for the final semester students would begin from February 15.  

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