Coronavirus in Chennai: IIT Madras shut down as over 100 test COVID-19 positive

With over 100 persons, including 87 students, testing positive for COVID-19 since December 1, the IIT Madras authorities have shut down all departments, research labs and libraries. There are 774 students on the campus.

With the IIT emerging as a new cluster, the Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan has pressed the warning bell and asked all District Collectors to keep a tab on all educational institutions.

The State recently allowed partial reopening of colleges and universities with a direction that they must comply with a set of Standard Operating Procedure.

IT Madras had been permitting research scholars who need to do experimental work to return to campus -- with a 14-day quarantine and testing of each returnee. A protocol was put in place to determine how many scholars and project staff could work safely in each lab based on its size, ventilation etc.

Health authorities said that in all 104 persons on the sprawling IIT Madras campus have tested positive for the virus. The source of infection is suspected to be the hostel mess. Those infected included 87 students, 16 mess employees and a resident. “We are in the process of lifting 300 more samples,” an official of the Greater Chennai Corporation said,

On Monday, the Health Secretary inspected the campus and the Government Corona Hospital near IIT Madras where the students and other patients are undergoing treatment.

“Till now out of the 449 persons tested, 104 have reported positive for COVID-19. All of them have mild infections. The number of cases are high in two of the nine hostel blocks,” he said.

The Health Department is now focussing on closed spaces, crowded localities and contact tracing. “The Directorate of Public Health and City Health authority are investigating why the IIT turned into a contagious hub,” Radhakrishnan added.

The students allege that the IIT-M's decision to run only one mess could be the most probable reason for the large scale spread of coronavirus. One cannot ensure mask or social distancing as students mostly eat together and are in congregation -- that too in large numbers.

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