Coronavirus | Pandemic classes from IIT-Madras

The IIT-Madras cluster of COVID-19 infections that was detected in early December created a flutter in Tamil Nadu, which is in any other case seeing a drop within the variety of instances. A blitzkrieg operation by the Chennai Company, the State Well being Division and IIT officers appears to have stemmed the transmission. As different institutes begin reopening progressively, the tough classes learnt from this expertise should not be neglected.

On December 9, officers of the Better Chennai Company and the Well being Division realised {that a} cluster of COVID-19 instances was rising at one of many premier educational establishments within the metropolis — the Indian Institute of Expertise (IIT)-Madras. Plenty of components have been at play, however on the prime of the checklist of doable sources of an infection was a eating corridor the place 700-odd college students residing in hostels dined, and customary bogs.

The ‘IIT cluster’ will not be as massive in dimension because the earlier clusters reported within the State, however it sounded an alarm for officers. With greater instructional establishments reopening early this month, the outbreak of infections at IIT raised considerations about comparable clusters in schools and universities, prompting the State authorities to take up screening and testing of hostellers throughout the State.

At a time when contemporary COVID-19 infections within the State are falling and the take a look at positivity charge is beneath 2%, the IIT cluster confirmed that locations of eating might flip into problematic areas and result in a pointy spike in instances. Well being officers noticed this as a lesson for the general public.

“We’re not seeing any spurt in instances besides from locations the place folks converge, notably eating locations. There was no spurt in instances even after the competition season. So, we’re giving particular consideration to closed areas and crowded locations, and contacts of optimistic individuals,” Well being Secretary J. Radhakrishnan advised reporters on Friday.

Beginning with sporadic instances from December 1, the IIT-Madras cluster, as of Friday, accounted for a complete of 199 instances — 179 college students, three individuals within the quarters, 16 mess employees, and a carpenter. As many as 1,293 samples have been examined from December 1 to 17, with 514, the very best, on December 14 alone.

High risk: As many as 199 cases of COVID-19 were reported at IIT-Madras till Friday, sparking concerns about similar clusters emerging at other institutes as they gradually open.

Excessive threat: As many as 199 instances of COVID-19 have been reported at IIT-Madras until Friday, sparking considerations about comparable clusters rising at different institutes as they progressively open.  
| Photograph Credit score:
Particular Association


Following a surge within the variety of instances, the institute issued a round on December 13 asserting that it’s going to shut down all departments, centres and the library instantly till additional discover.

Rise in positivity charge

“We knew that there was a cluster of instances on the campus on December 9. That was once we had a lot of instances and the positivity charge elevated. So, we began testing aggressively via saturation testing, that’s, testing every individual. Some individuals have been examined greater than as soon as as a consequence of historical past of contact with optimistic sufferers,” mentioned Alby John Varghese, Better Chennai Company’s (GCC) Regional Deputy Commissioner (South).

Those that examined optimistic have been admitted to the government-run COVID-19 hospital in Guindy. “Subsequent, we centered on quarantining all hostellers of their respective hostel rooms. With the assistance of the IIT administration, we have been in a position to make sure that all the scholars have been quarantined in their very own rooms instantly,” he mentioned.

A majority of them have been analysis and postdoctoral students. “So, contact amongst them was restricted. We regarded on the doable causes for the unfold of the an infection, and two to a few potential causes emerged. We requested the IIT administration to shut down the mess the place college students had dined over staggered timings. One of many main interventions was supply of meals to hostel rooms,” he mentioned.

Officers identified that although there have been plenty of bogs, college students typically used the identical services as a result of they weren’t situated on the identical flooring. The Company then deputed its workers to disinfect bogs and customary areas as soon as each two hours.

Whereas officers are investigating the reason for the unfold, reducing of guard with respect to COVID-19 security measures could also be a key purpose. A number of college students mentioned that whereas the institute was very stringent throughout the preliminary phases of the pandemic, enforcement of security measures had weakened by November.

Particularly, students pointed to frequent crowding on the Himalaya Mess — the one mess that was being operated till just lately. Shared bogs, difficulties in monitoring workers and students coming from exterior, and doable delay in testing contacts of affected individuals are different causes that will have exacerbated the scenario.

An contaminated scholar present process remedy, who had remained on the campus via probably the most a part of the pandemic, remembers that when college students and students started returning to the campus in batches, they have been required to remain on the visitor home for 14 days earlier than being allowed into the hostels.

“The institute had an utility and choice course of for these eager to return to the campus. Day students weren’t allowed to come back at the moment,” the scholar mentioned.

One other scholar, who has additionally examined optimistic, mentioned that because the numbers have been small, college students have been allotted rooms with connected bogs. In June, after a single case was detected in one of many hostels, the whole hostel was sanitised and everybody staying there was quarantined within the constructing for 2 weeks, he mentioned.

Nevertheless, after the federal government relaxed norms, extra college students began reporting again to the campus, and the cautious method taken till then was placed on the again burner, the scholars mentioned.

Official sources mentioned within the first two weeks of December, when the outbreak began, near 800 college students — largely analysis students and some undergraduate and postgraduate college students — have been staying within the hostels. Although the administration maintained that private distancing was ensured within the 400-seater eating corridor of the Himalaya mess and that college students have been allowed in batches of 100 for less than 30 minutes, the foundations weren’t successfully carried out.

“I personally have seen and waited in lengthy queues for meals with greater than 150 college students current at a time contained in the eating corridor. A piece of these working within the mess, and a few college students as nicely, appeared to be careless about carrying masks and protecting distance from others on the service counters,” the scholar mentioned. He added that although a lot of them raised considerations and referred to as for extra eating areas to be opened, it was carried out solely in December, and after the scenario escalated, the meals was now being despatched to hostel rooms.

One other scholar, who can also be present process remedy, alleged that even when a number of college students started testing optimistic earlier this month, their main contacts weren’t traced and quarantined instantly. “These contacts have been nonetheless going to the hostel mess to have meals,” he mentioned.

All guidelines adopted: IIT-Madras

When contacted, the IIT administration, nonetheless, denied any negligence and mentioned that each security norm in accordance with authorities laws was being adopted.

“The Institute introduced again analysis students who wanted to do experiment work after the State Authorities permitted it. The Normal Working Process (SOP) for his or her return, together with their 14-day quarantine and RT-PCR testing, was labored out and carried out in session with the well being authorities,” mentioned an IIT-Madras spokesperson.

“As soon as allowed into the hostels, the scholars have undertaken to not depart the campus and go solely to their labs and hostel rooms. The hostels are sparsely populated, with 750 college students unfold throughout 9 hostels having a capability of almost 4,000. There are SOPs for the labs, too, to make sure bodily distancing, which decide what number of college students can work in a lab at a given time,” he added.

The institute mentioned it was fast to reply after the instances have been first detected in early December, and that testing was ramped as much as 75 per day quickly after three instances have been reported from one hostel on December 9.

Dr. Varghese mentioned, “We contained the cluster with out additional transmission. Our first intention was to determine doable sufferers, deal with them nicely, take a look at the contacts, minimise mobility and be sure that the transmission is nipped within the bud.” Primarily based on this expertise from IIT, the GCC is now proactively doing routine assessments in all instructional establishments which have partially reopened, he famous.

Dr. Radhakrishnan mentioned 161 hostels in 97 schools have been lined to date in Chennai. “Our intention is to check as soon as in 15 days. We’ll do saturation testing wherever a cluster has surfaced. Within the remaining locations, we are going to do intensive screening, and testing based mostly on signs,” he added. Greater than 6,000 samples have been lifted to date.

Different institutes

Exams have been carried out for almost all the scholars staying in hostels on the Anna College campus. S. Iniyan, Dean, School of Engineering, Guindy, Anna College, mentioned over 800 individuals, together with college students and workers, have been examined to date, and solely seven have examined optimistic. “All of them are asymptomatic,” he mentioned.

He added that analysis students and ultimate yr college students of undergraduate and postgraduate programs have been staying in hostels and preparations had been made to supply separate rooms to every scholar and ship meals to their rooms.

What did authorities medical schools do otherwise? R. Jayanthi, Dean of Authorities Omandurar Medical School, mentioned that from the start, they prohibited group eating, closed the eating corridor, and enforced distribution of takeaways to the respective hostel rooms for almost 380 college students.

E. Theranirajan, dean of Madras Medical School, the place 777 college students have returned to the campus after the institute reopened, mentioned they made RT-PCR testing obligatory for college kids previous to their arrival. “Incoming college students have been advised to quarantine themselves for 14 days of their hostel rooms,” he mentioned.

Strict enforcement

With contemporary COVID-19 instances on the decline in Tamil Nadu, the IIT-Madras cluster is a lesson for all. “To begin with, it is a well-known phenomenon, to have outbreaks at educational establishments. The power to transmit an infection may be very low in babies — these aged beneath 10 years. However college college students are like another grownup and are extremely prone to an infection and extremely liable to transmit [infections],” says T. Jacob John, retired professor of virology, Christian Medical School, Vellore. Strict precautions have to be in place — carrying masks always, sustaining bodily distance, and stringent monitoring of consuming areas. “We have to preserve a substantial distance of a minimal of two metres between individuals whereas not carrying masks. When everybody wears a masks, secure bodily distance will be simply two ft between them. These norms ought to apply for these serving meals too. With these guidelines in place, campuses will be infection-free. In any other case, they might flip infamous for giant outbreaks. What occurred at IIT-Madras might occur with any educational establishment so long as the pandemic continues and if self-discipline in following precautions is just not strictly maintained,” he says.

(With inputs from Pon Vasanth B.A.)

A brand new cluster

Variety of samples taken from the IIT-Madras campus from December 1 to 17 and the outcomes

Class Samples taken Whole positives

  • College students 1,166 179
  • Quarters 12 3
  • Mess employees 44 16
  • Carpenters 71 1
  • Whole 1,293 199

Locations that reported excessive variety of instances on the IIT-Madras campus

  • Krishna Hostel 31
  • Jamuna Hostel 22
  • Narmada Hostel 22
  • Brahmaputra Hostel 19
  • Tunga Hostel 19
  • Himalaya Mess 16
  • No. of sufferers from IIT-Madras in hospital isolation: 157
  • No. of individuals discharged on December 18: 28

General testing in schools/hostels in Chennai

  • Variety of samples taken in schools and hostels in Chennai until December 16: 6,344
  • Whole positives: 210
  • No. of negatives: 3,773
  • Outcomes awaited: 2,361

What actions have been taken?

  • Himalaya Mess closed, packed meals delivered to hostel rooms
  • Saturation assessments launched, i.e.,
  • testing every individual
  • Contaminated individuals despatched for hospital isolation
  • Disinfection of bogs and customary areas
  • On-campus facility for lifting samples
  • Two fever camps to display individuals with signs
  • Strict deal with carrying masks and bodily distancing

Classes learnt

  • Monitor widespread eating services and assembly locations in schools and  universities
  • Instructional establishments with single mess/eating facility instructed to rearrange for takeaway meals
  • Testing of hostellers in instructional establishments
  • Plans to conduct testing as soon as in 15 days
  • Establishments warned of motion below Epidemic Illnesses Act and Tamil Nadu Public Well being Act if COVID-19 norms are usually not adopted

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *