Testing to be expanded to other institutions, working women’s hostels, mansions
With another 79 persons testing positive for COVID-19 on the campus of IIT-Madras, the Health Department has decided to test students residing in hostels of educational institutions, working women’s hostels and mansions in a phased manner. Institutions with a single mess were advised to arrange for takeaways for students, according to Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said.
The Health Secretary warned educational institutions that do not adhere to the standard operating procedures — issued for higher educational institutions through two Government Orders — of action.
Following a cluster of COVID-19 cases at IIT-Madras, he said the Chief Minister, while reviewing the situation, had ordered that saturation tests be carried out. “There are a total of 770 students. There were a few cases from December 1 to 6 but the numbers started to increase from December 11. So, the Health Department and the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) were instructed to test all,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event at the Communicable Diseases Hospital (CDH) on Tuesday.
Till Monday, 104 persons, a majority of them students, tested positive for COVID-19. “On Monday alone, we lifted 539 samples, covering all hostels and workers. Of this, 79 persons have tested positive for the infection. Till Monday, the positivity rate was 25%. This has reduced to 15% now,” he said.
A total of 978 samples were lifted, of which results are awaited for 25. Of the results of 953 tests, 183 persons tested positive from December 1, he said, adding that the overall positivity rate was 19%. “This is a localised cluster,” he pointed out.
As a continuation, tests would be conducted in other educational institutions, such as Anna University, Madras University and Bharathidasan University, which have messes, in a phased manner. “Apart from contacts of positives, we will test students staying in hostels of institutions, working women’s hostels and mansions,” he said.
Students, he said, should avoid group discussions, and meeting in laboratories and dining halls. “Through Higher Education Secretary Apoorva, we have advised Vice-Chancellors to arrange for takeaways if there is a single mess, that is to arrange for distribution of food in hostels,” he said.
Apart from this, mass testing would also be taken up in places such as the Koyambedu market. Already, the GCC has tested 4 lakh vendors, he pointed out.
The Chief Minister instructed the Health Secretary, the GCC Commissioner and all District Collectors to make wearing of masks mandatory. “We should ensure effective implementation of mandatory use of masks, and take action if required. Till now, we have collected ₹9.83 crore as fine for violations,” he said.
Lesson for public
The official pointed out that COVID-19 cases were on the decline in the State, with the positivity rate being less than 2%.
“This is a lesson for the public. Many think that the disease is on the decline and there is no need to wear masks when in groups or during family programmes or during marriages. We are closely monitoring other hostels, and aggressive testing will continue,” he said.
Cautioning educational institutions, he said the guidelines issued for functioning of higher educational institutions were clear.
“If the standard operating procedures are not followed, if students sit together in classes with no gaps in between or are being casual in dining halls, we will take action against the college administration,” he said.
On the occasion, Rotary Club Chennai Coastal and Meenambakkam, under the global grant, provided a RT PCR testing kit for the CDH, he said.