Over 100 COVID-19 cases in IIT-Madras as 33 more test positive for coronavirus

The IIT-Madras cluster is ‘a lesson for all of us’, said Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan.
Over 100 COVID-19 cases in IIT-Madras as 33 more test positive for coronavirus
Over 100 COVID-19 cases in IIT-Madras as 33 more test positive for coronavirus

The Tamil Nadu Health Department has begun aggressive COVID-19 testing within the IIT-Madras campus, after over 100 persons tested positive for the coronavirus. On Sunday, 71 people including 66 students and 5 staff members tested positive while 33 more were found to have been infected on Monday. So far 444 people have been tested out of the 700 present on the campus. Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan further told the media that the IIT-Madras cluster is “'a lesson for all of us”.

Speaking to reporters, the IAS officer pointed out that cases were bound to rise as restrictions were eased and students returned to campus. He pointed out that this was nothing to be afraid of and that continuous testing and contact tracing will help control the spread. The spread of the coronavirus in IIT, has been attributed to the shared dining area on the campus where residents were in close contact. Furthermore, many were not wearing their masks. 

"District authorities have been emphasising that this kind of spread is possible in other colleges, especially in hostels. Even here, there was a common mess. We have asked for this mess to be closed and prepared as a take-away option.  When it comes to closed spaces, crowded spaces and close contact we have to remain very careful," said Radhakrishnan.

Sources in the institute tell TNM that the first case was discovered after a set of students began to show symptoms of the virus. Reports attribute the infection to mess workers testing positive on December 9. A day later the mess was closed and food was sent to the rooms of the residents.

In a statement issued on December 13, IIT-Madras said, "The Institute has been functioning on limited capacity with only 10% students in the hostels. 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."

IIT Madras has been permitting research scholars who need to do experimental work to return to campus after a 14-day quarantine and COVID-19 tests. Our capacity to quarantine (with room service) is limited, and this limits the rate at which we can bring back scholars to the hostels, the institute said.

"Some Project Staff working on research projects and staying in the city have been coming to work in the labs, once this was permitted by the government. A SoP (Standard operating procedure) is in place to determine how many scholars and project staff can work safely in each lab based on its size, ventilation etc," said the statement. "Research scholars who wished to return earlier (out of turn with respect to the SoP involving quarantine before release into the hostels) were permitted to do so if they were willing to stay off campus similar to project staff, till their turn came to be accepted in the hostels, and provided their lab could accommodate them," it stated.

They maintained that IIT Madras was constantly in touch with the civic authorities and that they have been following all protocols and safety measures. 

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