COVID19: In the world, India and what to expect in Insti

This article has been put together with reporting from credible sources such as the World Health Organization and associated UN organizations, as well as reputable media organizations. Parts of this article are quoted as received, and have appropriately been credited/indicated. Since the situation is very fluid, we will update this article from time to time, and numbers and information quoted herein are as of 10:05 PM, 15th March 2020. In case of any discrepancies, please send us an email at [email protected] 

Kindly refrain from spreading rumors and unverified information of any sort. 


Update as of 3:41 PM, 17th March 2020:

IMPORTANT and URGENT: Vacating the hostel as per Covid-19 GoI advisory

Dean Students

*** PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL ***

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In view of the Advisory given by the GoI dtd. 16.03.2020 on Social Distancing Measures to prevent the spread of COVID–19 pandemic and the instructions issued by GoTN on 16.03.2020, the following control measures applicable for the students/scholars will come into effect immediately.

 

  1. All students/scholars/postdocs, including project staff, interns and others staying in the hostels on campus, will have to vacate their rooms and follow the handover procedures followed by the hostel offices as early as possible.  This instruction will not apply to international students.  Please note that the hostel authority has the right to access the room in case the above procedures are not followed.

 

  1. As per the earlier advisories issued by the Dean (AC)/Dean (AR)/Registrar, all classes are cancelled till 31.03.2020, and quizzes/exams stand postponed until further orders.

 

  1. Students coming from abroad after attending conferences/seminars are advised to go to their homes directly and remain there till 31.03.2020 or until further orders.

 

  1. International students who have arrived at IITM after March 13, 2020, 17.30 IST are advised to be under quarantine and may seek assistance from their advisors/mentors/wardens in this regard.

 

  1. Students/scholars using the messes till their departure will maintain a distance of at least one meter from the nearest person seated at their table. To avoid peak hours crowding in messes, the mess timings will be staggered for groups of students, and the schedule for Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner will be announced by CCW shortly.

 

  1. Till they vacate the rooms, students/scholars have to remain within the campus. Security officers are under strict orders to stop students/scholars from returning after they leave the campus. In case there is a valid reason, please take prior written permission to visit the city and return by writing to the e-mail address below.

 

  1. Students are advised to ensure hand washing and social distancing protocol as conveyed by CMO and maintain proper hygiene. Please avoid gatherings on campus.

 

  1. In case of any query, please send an e-mail to [email protected]  Make sure it contains your name, roll number and hostel name.  You can also fill up this form.

 

These instructions will be in force until further notice.

Dean Students


Update as of 7:53 PM, 16th March 2020:

IMPORTANT CIRCULAR

Pursuant to the instructions issued by the Tamil Nadu Government this
evening, we are announcing the immediate suspension of classes from
17.03.2020 till 31.03.2020.

Further detailed instructions will follow tomorrow.

Registrar


A Timeline

For a longer and more detailed timeline, you can refer to the following link.

Background

Bats are speculated to be the natural reservoirs of coronaviruses including the virus that was responsible for SARS in 2002, MERS in 2012 and possibly even 2019-nCOV or (2019 novel Coronavirus) that originated from Wuhan, China.

Does this remind you of the Nipah virus outbreak, a similar outbreak that happened two years back?

The Nipah virus originated from fruit bats in Kerala. Such epidemics are bound to happen when we encroach upon the forest and melt glaciers. Our immune system or modern medicine has never seen these microorganisms and hence, we do not possess the immunity or the medicine required to treat some of these diseases.

 

Situation across the globe

The 2019 novel Coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China as being responsible for unexplained clusters of pneumonia patients. It was soon discovered that the 2019 nCov is much more contagious than the average seasonal flu. China reported its first death due to the Coronavirus on 11th January, 2020. This disease quickly spread to South Korea, Japan, Iran, Southeast Asian nations, Latin America and parts of Europe by the last week of February.

 

Italy saw one of the worst impacts of the Coronavirus outside of China. The situation is being compared to a ‘war-like situation’ where hospitals are severely short of beds and the doctors have to decide whom to treat and who not to treat. On the other hand, there are also claims that the numbers reported in Italy are high mainly because they are aggressively testing their population, and that the fatalities are high because a significant part of their population falls under the high risk age bracket.

 

Meanwhile, Singapore pushed to defer all non-essential travels, cancelling all sorts of public gatherings of any form, and implemented strict quarantine regardless of the mandatory swab-test results for all travellers. Singapore also encouraged its people with any symptoms to rest at home and even push entire offices to work from home. WHO has praised these extremely effective efforts taken by Singapore which has kept the COVID-19 situation strongly under control.

 

COVID – 19 is usually not lethal to young individuals with strong immunity. However, they can be active carriers of the virus. The disease is quite lethal to the elderly and immuno-compromised patients. As of March 13th, more than 128,000 people have been infected in over 80 countries according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

For a comprehensive, credible report on all statistics related to the 2019 Coronavirus, you can refer to this report.

 

Symptoms and Precautions

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath and symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer cough, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is a viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work for the COVID-19. Recovery depends on the strength of the individual’s immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health or suffering from pre-existing conditions.

What are some precautions we can take?

  • Frequent, through cleaning of hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers kills viruses. In times of sanitizer scarcity, avoid touching your face – especially the eyes, nose and mouth – till you have access to an appropriate handwash or soap and are able to thoroughly wash your hands (for 20 seconds or longer).
  • Maintain a social distance of at least 1 metre. This will minimize the chance of infection through droplet spread.
  • As a general practice, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and or any other surfaces in public – such as handrails – unless absolutely necessary. In such cases, use your clothes or a tissue to avoid direct contact.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene: Always sneeze into a tissue or your bent elbow, NOT your palms. Dispose the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  • Stay at home or indoors as much as possible and avoid all public gatherings or travel to crowded areas such as malls and theatres.

If you have fever, cough or difficulty in breathing, seek medical care early. The government has set up a round-the-clock COVID-19 helpline number 104 or +91-11-23978046. The control room will make arrangements to pick up the patient for hospital isolation and testing for COVID-19 in severe cases.

 

Situation in India

https://www.hindustantimes.com/static/ht2020/3/Corona-infected-count.png

Maharashtra is the worst hit state by COVID-19 so far. There are 32 positive cases at the time of publishing. In order to prevent the spread of the disease, IIT Bombay has suspended all its classes till March 29. IIT Kanpur has cancelled their techfest, Techkriti and classes are suspended till 29th March. Similar actions have been taken by IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi, IIT Bhilai, IIT BHU, IIT Dhanbad and IISc Bangalore. 

It must be noted that several of these IITs are in states where the reported cases are among the highest numbers in India. Moreover, many of these institutions had a mid-semester break, wherein significant parts of their student population had travelled back home to all parts of India. For this reason, their return to their respective campuses was deemed risky. The situation in IIT Madras at present is not exactly equivalent.

The health ministry has set up 52 testing centres for COVID-19 spread across the nation and many sample collection labs. Madras Medical College, Chennai is designated as a Sample Collection Lab and King’s Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research, Chennai is a testing center. Tamil Nadu has seen one case of COVID-19 a week back and has not seen any more cases since then. The State Health Department has been actively screening passengers of all international flights and people with history of recent International Travels. Here is a comprehensive list of testing centers in India.

 

In Insti

After a flurry of smail regarding the cancellation of several events – from EMLs to a ban on audience for LitSoc Choreo Night, in addition to the closure of facilities such as the Gym and the Swimming Pool, and several emails from the admin and the CMO with health advisory emails, here is some context. As of the time of publishing the article, we have received a mail from the Dean (Acads) stating the following:

  • Quiz 2 and Midsemester exams now stand postponed. The revised dates for these will be communicated at least 7 days in advance.
  • Attendance will not be taken in class till further notice.
  • Attendance for laboratory classes are also relaxed.

A message from the Director:

(This section has been reproduced as received from The Director, IIT Madras in response to an email from The Fifth Estate).
From what we know, the virus infects only through the respiratory route (nose, mouth, eyes) through droplets sprayed by a sneezing or coughing infected person. These droplets can infect someone directly by being in proximity, or by the person touching contaminated surfaces (tables, door knobs, taps, shared documents, etc.) prior to touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes. It is not known to infect through ingestion of food or water or through the skin.
This means uninfected/less infected communities should try to minimise exposure to those from elsewhere, and at the individual level, infected or suspected patients should be quarantined.
High fever with dry cough are the key symptoms for suspecting infection, particularly if there has been exposure to someone from infected countries/regions. Mere cough or cold or sore throat are not sufficient symptoms to suspect Covid-19 infection.
In India, about 13 states have reported confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which Kerala, Maharashtra, Delhi, UP and Karnataka have most of the cases. Tamil Nadu reported one case a week ago, a person who had travelled abroad. As on date there is no reported case of local infection in TN. As per reports, India has not yet reached the stage of community transmission in any part of the country.
Given the current situation, it would appear that the risk of staying on campus is less than travelling outside the state.
  • We are minimising visits of outsiders to our campus by cancelling all public programmes, and as a measure of abundant caution also cancelling all large gatherings in general.
  • All foreign travel has been postponed/cancelled and anyone who is returning from abroad is being home-quarantined for two weeks.
  • While there is no restriction imposed by government on travel within the country, we have issued guidelines asking students and staff to avoid travel as far as possible.
  • The situation is fluid, and as and when the health authorities issue new guidance, we will implement it.
If students go home, particularly to states that are currently reporting higher levels of infection, it is not clear when they can return and what quarantine conditions may be imposed by the health authorities at that time. We do not know how the situation will evolve across the nation in the next few weeks. Several students who went home last week are yet to return.
Heeding their queries, we are postponing Quiz II and also suspending attendance-taking for the present. 
The general advice from PM downwards is to be cautious and careful, but not to panic.
I would urge our students to follow this advice, and reach out to the administration if there are any concerns.
Now to answer the specific queries:
T5E: At this point, is the administration considering suspending classes or exams? Will the scheduled quizzes and midsems (this week, next week as per the calendar) take place as scheduled?

Director: At this point, we are postponing Quiz II and stopping taking of attendance. This is in response to the queries of students who had gone home and are yet to return.

 

T5E: Are we tracking those members of our community who have recently travelled to high risk areas?

Director: Yes, we are tracking every one who has travelled abroad. As of now, no part of the country has been declared a high-risk area, so we are not tracking anyone who has travelled within the country. However, as a prudent measure, we are requesting campus residents to avoid travel as far as possible.

 

T5E: Given that we are not yet sure about the scale of the pandemic in India, and several students have travelled home during the long Holi weekend and returned to the institute – would they also be recommended to self isolate?
In addition to this, several foreign students tend to travel across India – are we classifying their travel as high-risk and recommending them to self isolate as well?
Director:
No part of India has been declared high-risk, but we have advised everyone on campus to avoid travel to the extent possible. Indeed it is a good idea to remain on campus and avoid travel even to the city, to malls or theatres.
T5E: Should the classes or exams be cancelled, will the graduating class be expected to graduate a few months later than scheduled?

 

Director: It is not possible to predict what will happen in the country, or indeed globally, over the next few months. The hope is that the disruption will not last long.

 

T5E: Are we taking any measures to monitor the individuals involved in food preparation/distribution in the messes and the institute eateries?

Director: We are told that this virus does not spread through food or water. Our messes are not enclosed spaces and are well ventilated. Mess staff use gloves, cap and mask, and are taking precautions with regard to handling of food. To avoid students handling the food, we have switched to 100% serving and stopped self-service.

 

T5E: Can we expect some revised institute level guidelines? An earlier mail from the CMO stated that the virus couldn’t survive in the city’s hot/humid climate but recent reports from the WHO/BBC Fact-check have debunked that claim. There are also some one-off concerns over the health risks that, say, passing around an attendance sheet in a class of 50+ poses.

Director: CMO has been issuing guidelines periodically based on guidance received by us. Two such emails went out on Friday, for example. We are also disseminating other information provided by the government.

 

T5E: We do realize that the situation in Kanpur and other IITs does not necessarily translate to IIT Madras for several reasons. But should we take the risk of waiting – particularly given that community spread via hostels is plausible?

Director: As explained above, one has to compare the risk of infection from each other within the campus with that from others outside. Currently, many parts of India are assessed to be in Stage II wherein local infection is only from contact with those who have travelled abroad.
Stage III is community spread which is reportedly 4 weeks away and the effort in the country is to avoid this stage if possible. We are in constant touch with the state health authorities, as are the other IITs.
T5E: Or, are we panicking over a situation that is not as bad as we believe it to be?
Director: There is need for caution and care, but panic does not help. Let us move forward with prudence and if there are any concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask. If anyone notices any slippage in implementation of precautionary steps, please flag them. It is best to avoid unnecessary travel or visits to malls, theatres, etc. And please, no pranks or foolish actions.

A message from the Students’ General Secretary and Hostel Affairs Secretary

(reproduced as received)

[IMP] To students reg COVID-19 measures

Dear All,

As you know, we have cancelled attendance for labs/classes and postponed quizzes/exams until further order.

You might be having plans to go back to your homes, we request you to consider the risk of travelling across states which have COVID-19 cases already.

If you choose to go home today(15th Mar, Sunday), please do the following without fail by taking help of your Hostel Gen Sec
1. Take all your valuable belongings
2. Hand over the key of the room to Gen Sec/Asst Warden without fail

Please take all necessary precautions prescribed, which includes washing your hands with soap frequently.

Please take care of yourselves and others and do not panic but be cautious.

For any clarifications or queries, please ask us (Hostel Affairs Secretary and Students’ General Secretary) and don’t believe any rumours.

Warm regards
Hostel Affairs Secretary & Students General Secretary, IIT Madras


  1. Pranita Kumari Swain

    Not taking attendance with taking classes is no where the solution.
    If corona will b positive for at least student and then institute heads will declare a class cancellation, then by that time it will b more 3-4 days.
    At that time.. staying inside n going to home by any mean will be dangerous for us.
    Instead of waiting for suffering at least one person through COVID-19,
    the institute head should take strict action for the well being of everyone.

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