Future uncertain: Students raise concerns about COVID-19 risks involved while taking medical, dental exams

The Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), Nashik, on Thursday declared the time-table for theory and practical exams for all undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical and dental programmes, prompting students to raise concerns about the risks involved in conducting exams during the COVID-19 crisis.

Medical students had earlier said they should not be forced to appear for exams, citing apprehensions about their safety. On Thursday, students said that though the exam dates had been announced, they had not received any guidelines on safety protocol or distancing measures.

According to the circular issued on Thursday by MUHS, which governs all medical colleges in the state, exams that were earlier supposed to be conducted from July 16 will now begin from August 3, 2020.

The circular stated, "The exams have been rescheduled and will begin from August 3, 2020. The time-table has been formulated awarding a one day holiday gap between two exam papers. All medical colleges and universities of Maharashtra should inform students regarding this time-table."

A student on request of anonymity said, "I was shocked to receive the time-table because there is no mention of safety measures, seating arrangement or precautionary instructions on how exams will be conducted. I do not know if we have to carry hand sanitisers or wear masks. Moreover, how will the university conduct practical exams?"

In addition, some students have travelled to their native villages and might have to return to red zone areas to appear for exams. A parent of an MBBS student on request of anonymity said, "My daughter returned to our native place in the outskirts of Maharashtra after completing her three-month long frontline duty in Mumbai. I cannot risk her life again by sending her to the city because she has witnessed severe risks of the coronavirus infection. Till now, students were fighting for exams to be cancelled, and now suddenly they have their time-table."

Authorities of the state Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) said they would conduct exams by following safety and physical distancing measures directed by the Medical Council of India (MCI).

A senior official of DMER, said, "We will follow the guidelines of the MCI to conduct exams, such as calling students in batches while maintaining physical distance in seating arrangement. Also, we will use dummy plastic models and lesser patients for practicals. For lab experiments, students will be seated at a distance of six to ten feet from each other."

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