Medical students demand postponement of NEET-PG 2021 amid COVID-19 surge

NEET-PG aspirants have said that with junior doctors appearing for the exam, there is a higher risk of COVID-19 spread.
Students taking a computer based test
Students taking a computer based test
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Several junior doctors aspiring to attempt the NEET-PG (National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test - Post Graduate) exam this year, are urging authorities to postpone the exam, which is scheduled to be held on April 18. Several medical students are using #postponeneetpg and other similar hashtags on Twitter to urge the National Board of Examinations (NBE) to postpone the exam amid rising COVID-19 cases.  The aspirants are demanding that the exam be held after a few weeks, until the peak of COVID-19 infections is crossed. Meanwhile, a group of students have also moved a petition in the Supreme Court asking that the exams be postponed. Livelaw reported that a petition has been filed by Farsulla Shafi and others through their lawyer Pallavi Pratap and it cites the cancellation of CBSE board exams.

Speaking to TNM, Ayesha*, a NEET-PG aspirant noted that the gatherings at exam centres are more likely to result in spread of COVID-19, as many of the aspirants themselves have been working in hospitals. “The risk of getting the disease is way higher than a normal gathering because half these people giving the exam are coming back from duties in hospitals and will go back to hospitals. They are junior doctors who will be in a closed room for five hours” she said, adding that safety precautions alone may not be enough. “Candidates are thoroughly checked and are likely to be asked to remove face masks for identity verification etc. There's no way something like sanitising can save us from the virus when even full PPE (personal protection equipment) doesn't guarantee it,” she said.

Harika, another NEET-PG aspirant based in Hyderabad, noted that with around 1.75 lakh candidates registered to appear for the exam, the risk of exposure is high. “The exam is not just a risk to the students, but also to their parents, the invigilators and other staff at the exam centre etc, she pointed out, adding that when other exams are being postponed, authorities must also consider postponing the NEET-PG. 

On Wednesday, the Union government announced that the CBSE board exams are cancelled for Class 10 and postponed for Class 12 due to rising COVID-19 cases. The Class 10 exams were scheduled to be held from May 4 to June 7, 2021, and Class 12 exams were scheduled to be conducted from May 4 to June 15, 2021. The decision was announced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and other top officials on Wednesday afternoon. Several politicians had called for cancellation of the exams prior to the meeting, amid a massive surge of COVID-19 cases across India. 

The NEET-PG exam is held for admission to MD, MS and PG Diploma courses, as well as admission to post MBBS DNB (Diplomate of National Board), a medical qualification awarded by the NBE. Last year, NEET-PG 2020 was held in January, before the onset of the pandemic. 

NEET (UG) 2020 was held in September by the NTA (National Testing Agency) after being postponed twice due to the pandemic. The exam was first scheduled for May 3, and postponed to July 26 and then finally conducted on September 13, 2020. Ahead of the exam, the Supreme Court rejected multiple petitions by JEE and NEET aspirants seeking postponement of the exams.  The petitioners had cited multiple reasons, including rising COVID-19 cases at the time, the serious flood situation in a few states, and absence of public transport facilities for candidates whose exam centres were far from their hometowns.

*Name changed upon request

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