As you may have heard by now, three M.Sc. students in the School of Life Sciences have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days. They are among the post-graduate students in their final semester that the Task Force had permitted to return to the campus in phases so that they complete the laboratory/practical work before they graduate in June.  The heads of department and the Dean of the School concerned have responded quickly to work with University authorities to have the affected students shifted to either quarantine on campus or to a hospital, sanitised the work spaces, and have advised other students who came into contact with them to follow safety measures and get tested if they are symptomatic or if they choose to rule out infection.

We have so far permitted over 700 research scholars and Master’s students to return to the campus to resume essential academic work and are currently preparing a road map for further normalisation over the next couple of months. While the Task Force has insisted on returning students presenting a COVID negative report and staying in isolation at the designated facility on campus for 7 days before they commence their academic work, this return will work to everyone’s benefit only if all of you strictly abide by Covid appropriate behaviour. This includes: maintaining physical distancing in laboratories and practice spaces, wearing of facial masks, and frequent handwashing. You have promised your parents and the University that you will take proper care so as to not get infected or become a risk to others.

Several instances of violations of Covid appropriate behaviour by the students have come to the attention of the Task Force — for example, mixing in close proximity with other students without facial masks and leaving the isolation facility for departments before the mandatory 7-day period ends. This is not acceptable. The threat of the virus and its variants still hangs over us and it will be a while before vaccination reaches younger people. In the meantime, it is only the social vaccine, as represented by the safety precautions mentioned above, that each of you must take while you are on the campus that will be effective prevention. If there is any escalation in cases on our campus, the University would be compelled to return to a more strict policy regarding in-person classes. Needless to say, this will also slow down the approach of the Task Force in recommending a gradual, staggered return to the campus by all students.

On behalf of the full Task Force, it is our sincere appeal to all of you to be alert and fully conscious of your responsibility to follow all Covid related norms while you are on the campus — whether it is in your hostel rooms and mess halls, labs and practice spaces or in other public spaces. Please avoid big group gatherings and crowded spaces. Prior to your return, you were all sent health protocols prepared by our Health Centre. Please go through them in order to practice appropriate behaviour every day. Do bring to the notice of your respective heads and deans, the Chief Warden and the DSW’s Office, and the Health Centre if you experience any virus symptoms and take immediate action. It is your duty as much as it is the institution’s to minimise health risks to yourself and to your fellow students, not to mention those of your faculty members and the staff.

Take care and be safe.

Prof. Vinod Pavarala

for the UoH Task Force