Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati
Illustrations: Kamran Akhter
The last week has been a whirlwind. I am a student at Manipal Institute of Technology in Udupi, Karnataka. Our campus, particularly the hostels, was declared a containment zone on 17 March. On Sunday, 21 March, 145 cases were reported. In fear of further spread, several students left the campus premises with a negative RT-PCR report. In 48 hours, this was reversed and we were told no more students will be allowed to leave, even with a negative report.
Many people are blaming the student community for this outbreak – from over-excited freshers to some in the second year partying after end-semester exams. This is only partly true.
Students of all years came with a negative RT-PCR test report to the campus. There is an equal probability of the virus spreading through classrooms during exams, or during practical labs.
Common water filters, toilets, utensils at food courts, unrestricted access to halls – all of this is to blame as well. For that, the administration must be held accountable.
Students were called back in the months of February and March, and after a few days, some positive cases started to emerge. We got to know this from other students as the college was reluctant to provide us with any information on the number of cases.
In the initial days of the outbreak, the testing facility (one at that time) was awful. Confusion and misinformation were rampant, students had to queue up to get tested. They made forms to prioritise symptomatic testing but even that was not followed. Friends of mine who were symptomatic had to wait days to get tested, as testing was carried out block-wise. Some who were positive had to isolate within hostel rooms, as there was no space in quarantine blocks.
“Students who tested positive were quarantined in the same block as others, as they ran out of quarantine space. Management of such cases leaves a lot to be desired. Food courts are open to all, and even those who are symptomatic go there for meals. This isn’t safe for other students eating there.”
Despite all this, the faculty was operating on its command to keep classes running. Several batches boycotted lab classes. It was only with government intrusion that the campus was shut.
Some Calm, Finally
Thankfully, on 22 March, we got another notice that said both block-wise testing and testing of symptomatic students will happen simultaneously.
Now, testing has ramped up and a lot of students are getting tested daily. Block 10, the largest block for boys, has been converted into a quarantine block and existing students of that block are being shifted to other blocks.
Because the campus strength is around 50 percent right now, there is much better social distancing. For example, in the food court, they have reduced the seating capacity on each table from four to two. They have spaced out the tables. They are also ensuring everyone wears masks. A classmate in the girls’ hostel points out:
“The wardens are looking after us well. Whatever you need, may it be medicines, they are the first ones who go out and get it delivered to us.”
The food courts, too, have started delivery to the hostel rooms, so that students can self-quarantine.
As of 24 March, most of the students have been tested. The administration has set up fever clinics for those students living outside campus as well. Students may also be able to return home with a negative rest report if permitted by their parents.
In conclusion, this fiasco could have been averted if students were called back systematically or in low numbers. The administration was not at all prepared for a situation like this. They could have done better on that front and we, the students, could have done better by abiding by the COVID protocols. Some students' careless attitude created the whole mess, but the callous attitude of the administration turned it into a full-blown disaster.
(The Quint has reached out to the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. The story will be updated if there is a response.)
(The author is a student at the Manipal Institute of Technology and wishes to stay anonymous. All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)