Tracking article updates for latest information:
– 14th March 6:00 PM to reflect recent developments
– 14th March 7:55 PM to correct an erroneous summarisation of a notification
– 14th March 11:50 PM added information on mess cancellations
– 17th March 1:26 PM added information about Gachibowli stadium, sanitizer provision, and mess closures
– 17th March 11:30 PM added information about restricted library access
– 19th March 4:50 PM added information about further mess closures and restricted Main Gate access and screenings
– 19th March 5:40 PM added notice by Academic Office
– 20th March 9:40 PM added information on online classes
– 20th March 10:30 PM added information on attendance
– 21st March 6:18 PM added information on Institute Lockdown
– 21st March 8:04 PM general city update on people evading scans at the Airport.
– 21st March 9:19 PM to mention that IIIT Student tests negative for COVID-19
– 22nd March 11:00 PM added information about Telangana lockdown
– 2nd April 1:00 PM added information about national lockdown and director’s message
From making memes to making media headlines, the remarkable tale of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19, as referred to by the W.H.O. for the fear that using the acronym S.A.R.S. brings back gloomy memories of 2003) seems to be straight out of an apocalyptic novel (or the Simpsons)
On 29 December 2019 Chinese authorities identified a cluster of similar cases of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan in China. Wuhan is a city with 11 million inhabitants and capital of the Hubei Province. This is a special family of viruses which are transmitted from animals to humans and amongst humans via bodily contact or poor hygiene (suprise suprise). While people joked about never imagining that their death’s too would be “made in china” , the virus took to the skies thanks to human vectors and went international.
The virus was officially named as stated above on the 11th of February 2020 by which time it had already infected thousands worldwide.
This article is meant to be a live document, tracking major events related to the outbreak in the city, and preventive measures taken by the Institute in response. This includes advisories circulated, pertinent responses to advisories, and wholesale decisions.
(10:14) In his message on the IIIT blog, the Director expressed his intention to conclude the current semester via the online mode. It is notable that the average attendance for the first week of the online classes was 82%.
(10:54) Following the lockdown orders issued by the Prime Minister and the postponement of several board and entrance exams, the dates for the UGEE, SPEC and LEEE exams would be finalised by the institute on the 10th of April, after reviewing the situation.
(20:22) Telangana state lockdown order was issued by CM KCR, as a result of which all non-essential businesses will be completely shut down, state borders will be closed down, and public transport will be majorly curtailed. International arrivals have also been suspended.
“The chief minister also announced free of cost 12 kg rice per person for nearly 90 lakh below poverty line (BPL) ration cardholders. In all, 3.36 lakh tonnes of rice costing Rs 1,103 crore would be supplied to the poor people, since they would be losing their livelihood during the lockdown period.”
(Source: Hindustan Times)
Dr Prabhakar Bhimalapuram sent an email to the research mailing list, allowing students who are unable to leave due to the lockdown to stay on campus. He further stated that Aarogya will remain open.
In a reply to the email, Dr Radhika Mamidi said that the institute would try to make arrangements for transportation to the airport for those who may be leaving via domestic flights.
(20:36) The COVID-19 test of the suspected student came out negative, and the student was discharged immediately. Following this incident, the Institute Apex Committee asked all students, including research students and project interns, to leave hostels and go home by the evening of Wednesday 25th March 2020. The email (sent to the ‘research’ email list) also advised students to maintain precautions during travel. Dr Prabhakar Bhimalapuram also asked those students who cannot leave for home to personally speak with him.
Additionally, all research buildings, library, stalls and canteens were to remain closed for students. If any student needed to collect any items from research buildings, they would need to make arrangements with their faculty advisor.
The restriction regarding movement in and out of campus stayed in place, except for those leaving for home. This restriction has been in place since 19th March 2020.
(19:53) < General city update > The Times of India reported earlier today that many passengers on a flight from London to Hyderabad through Mumbai that also carried a suspected COVID-19 patient “had taken paracetamol before landing in Hyderabad to lower their body temperature and escape checks at the airport.”
(15:11) Due to the lockdown on campus, it was found that hostel buildings have been locked from the inside to restrict student movement outside hostels. Parijaat had a padlock on its gate, and OBH had a latch on.
(00:20) Upon finding out that despite the lockdown due to suspected infection, students were still trying to leave for home, Dr Prabhakar Bhimalapuram sent the following email:
“If students leave during these restrictions in the situation of national medical emergency, I will initiate strict Institutional action on all such students including terminating their student status immediately.
Please cancel your travel plans while the restriction and self-isolation period is on. I understand the inconvenience, keep in mind the level of danger you are placing your family in by returning before the campus situation becomes clear.”
Students were barred from leaving their respective hostel buildings, and the wardens and caretakers started tracking students, to establish contact history with the suspected student case. Dr Prabhakar further clarified in an email to a UG5 student that no visitors, including parents will be allowed into the campus.
(22:17) In response to a UG2 student who raised concerns, the Dean (A) confirmed that there would be no attendance for the online classes. An official announcement is yet to be made regarding this.
(17:03 – added on 21st March) Following a suspected case in one of the college hostels, the Institute immediately put into action measures to restrict potential further spread of the virus. Dr Prabhakar Bhimalapuram issued the following advisory for on campus research students.
- All students on campus are advised to report to Arogya if they have any signs of fever, cough, respiratory distress, etc.
- As an extreme precautionary measure, all students currently on campus are strongly advised against leaving the campus until this case is cleared.
- All students are strongly advised to practice isolation or at least strict social distancing.
All academic spaces, research spaces and the library will be closed for students (this means that Vindhyas, Himalayas, KRB, Nilgiri, T-Hub, CIE); all canteens and stalls will shutdown tentatively till coming Tuesday.
Furthermore, students were allowed to have meals only in respective hostel messes, while food will be cooked in Kadamba kitchen and transported to respective messes.
This was to be exercised pending the results from the student.
This also created some panic among research students on campus who rushed to book tickets for home.
(16:42) Handling the current academic situation during these exigent times in a highly pragmatic way, the Dean of Academics announced some key points regarding the proceedings of the online classes which are scheduled to commence from the 23rd.
Listed below are the major decisions regarding the new online manner of teaching which will be carried out on Microsoft Teams unless otherwise specified by the faculty.
- The classes will follow the same timetable that was announced for Spring 2020.
- All 8:30 classes have been shifted to the 5pm slot on that very day, with SMAI moving to the 2 PM slot on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- All course assignments etc will be handled via moodle.
- Most Lab/Project based courses or labs which are a part of a course (AEC lab, IoT lab, EW2 project, Science 2 lab…) will be conducted when the students return, on campus, at a later date.
- The semester aims to be completed within 3-5 weeks, course assessment plans will be informed in the month of April.
- All courses will have several activities (online quizzes, weekly assignments, projects etc) for which sincere participation is requested.
- https://faculty.iiit.ac.in/~venkatesh.choppella/rc/ is the link provided for all technical and other support.
- All online classes will be recorded and the recording will be available on the cloud.
(17:06) The Academic Office asked students to avoid frequent personal visits to the office. Requests for urgent certificates can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office will prepare, scan, and send the documents necessary. Fee amounts will be collected later.
Students were also asked to raise help tickets (at help.iiit.ac.in) in case of “unavoidable circumstances”.
(19:06) Dr. Prabhakar announced decisions made in “a spate of meetings today” regarding the movement of people in and out of campus. This restricts the movement of students and visitors, with implementation details to be managed by the Security Committee and the GAD; Aarogya medical staff to collaborate on certain aspects as well.
- The in/out movement of students at the Main gate has been restricted starting from the morning of 19th March, 2020.
- Visitors to campus are strongly discouraged. He announced that T-Hub and CIE have been disallowing visitors since this Monday (16th March).
- Everyone entering campus is now required to undergo a body temperature check at the main gate. The Institute is procuring a contactless thermometer for the same. Persons with high temperature may be disallowed entry.
He also announced that the Institute is following the Standard Operating Procedure advisory issued by the State of Telangana issued for IT companies located in Hyderabad.
(21:16) After another meeting regarding the fall in number of students, the MessComm decided to suspend Yuktahar operations, rendering kadamb as the only functioning mess from Friday (20.03.20). They said that a factor that they took into account in making this decision was that the turnout of students in the messes was significantly lower than the number of registrations, this difference could be attributed to the possibility that students vacated the hostels without cancelling their respective mess registrations.
(17:06) The HR Office announced restrictions on Library functionality – to be open only from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with all “library circulation services” (checkout, check-in, and renewals) temporarily stopped. The announcement stated that the discussion had happened in the “COVID-19 meeting held on 16.03.2020 (Tuesday)”. We could not confirm if this date/day pair meant Monday or Tuesday.
(12:33) In a valiant effort to keep the corona cases in the city to a bare minimum, the state health officials along with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) are working to convert the sports village center in Gachibowli stadium to a 50 bed quarantine facility with proper sanitation teams on standby. The work started on Monday (16/3/20) is expected to be completed in two days time.
The village with 468 rooms has remained unoccupied after the National Games of 2002 and has been taken over by the health department. These rooms are expected to house passengers arriving from China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Germany and Spain.
Source: Telangana Today
(22:21) The Mess Office announces that only the Kadamb and Yuktahar messes will be functional from the 19th of March (the day after the date given to students to vacate their hostel rooms). This scaling down of operations would enable the mess staff to focus on maintaining the required levels of hygiene along with other measures in place, such as including regular thermal screening of mess staff and regular fumigation of the serving areas.
(12:18) In the afternoon, Dr. Prabhakar Bhimalapuram announced that the institute was able to acquire 250 small bottles of hand sanitizers. It was announced that these bottles would be given on request to students leaving the campus and who do not have other access to hand sanitizers.
(20:49) The MessComm announces that they will provide 17 extra mess cancellations for the month on account of the mandated student holidays.
(19:56) In another circular pertaining to the suspension of in-campus teaching on campus, Dr.Prabhakar mentioned that the decision to suspend academics was taken unanimously in a meeting with the Apex committee which was called for due to the rapidly escalating medical situation regarding CoVid-19.
This meeting was held at 3:30PM, by which time several state governments in India had ordered closure of educational institutes in their states, also .
Just after the conclusion of the meeting, the decision taken by the Telangana State Government to close all academic institutions was brought into the limelight connoting that regardless of the verdict reached by the Apex committee, this outcome would’ve been inevitable.
This caused some concern for students whose place of residence may impose a restriction on people flying out of the country if the college was to recommence its activities after a ban imposed on the same.
The Dean of Academics proposed two solutions to one such student:
- Stay on campus if the Council of Wardens agrees.
- Stay with a local guardian.
(17:33) The director, Dr. PJN sent out an email to all the residents of the campus. This mail deals with two points:
- Regarding academics: With immediate effect, all academic work – “All in-campus teaching/laboratory activities” that takes place on campus is to be suspended. While no date was given for the restarting of the laboratory activities, the mail stated that the institute is exploring options to resume all or a part of coursework in an online, digital or hybrid fashion by the 23rd of the month. This happens to be after the start of the quizzes (as stated by the almanac) which were to commence from the 21st of March.
- Hostel Stay: All the UG1, UG2, UG3, UG4, MTech1, MTech2 students are required to vacate their hostel rooms, at the latest by the 18th of the month. For the ones who cant comply with the above, special permission needs to be taken from the chair CoW on Monday, March 16th. For the students not mentioned in the above email, the decision to leave the hostel depends on their will.
(13:51) “On considering the advisories received from the government on the precautions to be taken regarding the COVID-19 virus, BITS pilani announces the following:….”
The mail sent out to the students of all the BITS campuses in India, has two major takeaways, those being:
- All the degree students will have their classes suspended, with immediate effect, until the 31st of March.
- The students mentioned in the above point are to vacate their hostels by the 17th of March and go home, to the care of their respective parents/guardians.
The mail also hinted at using viable online platforms to continue the course operations.
The Director announced the setting up of an Apex Committee to “monitor the situation and take any necessary actions”, that would meet daily/as often as necessary. The committee comprises:
- B Prabhakar (Health Warden)
- P Krishna Reddy (CoW Chair)
- V V Ramana (Dy Registrar, Administration)
He also added a note on avoiding “non-essential travel”, both outside of and inside the city, noting that “We have a close community, which will be at risk if the virus comes into the campus”
In a decision that took the student committee by surprise, the dean of academics announced that attendance won’t be taken in classes till the 28th of March.
The reason stated was: During the weekend preceding this announcement, many people went home and with the prevailing spread of COVID-19, the institute didn’t want to compromise on the wellbeing of the students.
As the current rule of 85% attendance per class is quite a demand, this came as a relief for the students who are panicked about contracting the disease from crowded areas.
Earlier in the day, Dr.Prabhakar sent out another advisory stating that if, on return to campus, any symptoms of the virus are felt by a student then the concerned should go to Aarogya immediately. The caretakers were advised to talk to the students coming back to campus regarding the circulated advisory.
Dr.Prabhakar responded to the faculty who raised their concerns about the spread of the virus. The email provided a reasoning for the practises followed by the campus to prevent the spread of the virus. He also apologised for the inconvenience caused by implementing such measures but claimed that if, in the future, we look at the campus’s response to the situation, the decisions that seem unjust and unnecessary at the current point of time will all make sense. He also stated that advisories would be issued every week.
A reminder regarding the institute issued advisory of not playing Holi due to the current state of affairs was also sent around by the same.
5th March/ 6th March:
Seating arrangements for courses with a large number of students was circulated in accordance with the demands of the students against biometrics.
Another advisory was put out by Dr.Prabhakar which listed out previous points and steps to increase overall hygiene on campus, like wiping desks down with disinfectant twice a day, providing proper hand sanitizers in most restrooms and minimizing avoidable human clustering in the form of meetings, especially in T-HUB.
Reports of a case of the coronavirus surface in Hyderabad’s tech center (Mindspace).
The R&D showcase which was due to commence on the 7th of March was cancelled (“postponed” was the term used, but no alternative dates have been given yet).Taking into account that the virus has found its way to Hyderabad and this event allows a stream of visitors and guests coming onto the campus and the students fear of the virus lead to this prudent call being taken.
Dr. Prabhakar sent out another mail which once again highlighted the importance of personal hygiene.
He also advised travel outside campus to be avoided where and when possible.
He brought about the topic of celebrating holi in these times, and while not explicitly calling off students from celebrating the festival, “safe ways of sharing the gaiety” was encouraged.
Prabhakar M. (not to be confused with Dr. Prabhakar Bhimalapuram) wrote about the importance of having a good night’s sleep, which was received well by the students (well… sort of).
While more people from the student body spoke up and proposed different solutions to the prevention of acquiring the virus, such as not allowing the entry of food delivery people/ cabs onto campus, faculty and staff gave their take on this episode and had advice including the abstinence from non-veg (stopping the serving of non-veg in the messes).
The spread of false information led to the circulation of a link from the World health organisation (and of course, another friendly reminder that in times like this, the importance of personal hygiene cannot be emphasised enough).
Hospital visit experiences were shared. Posts were posted on Life@IIITH. Dr.Kamalakar shared a video regarding the virus which encouraged people to stay calm in such times as “panic never helps”.
As panic about the arrival of the virus in Hyderabad sparked, an advisory on the virus, given by Continental Hospitals was circulated via email. Students were informed of symptoms of the virus, so that help could be sought if required. Several instructions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus were given, they include;
- NO unprotected contact with live wild or farm animals.
- Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
- Using masks.
- Reiterating that personal hygiene is the best way to stay safe.
The students of the college have a say in this saying that steps must be taken not just at a personal level but also at an administrative level, the suggested precautionary measurements are listed;
- Suspending the use of biometric devices, especially in the classrooms and messes.
- The issuing of quick medical leaves.
- Replenishment of the Sanitary stations on campus and the encouragement to use sanitizers.
- Mess staff using masks and gloves.
Shortly following this mail, Dr.Prabhakar listed out a few more points regarding the concerns that were raised by the student body after discussion with medical doctors.
The mail stated that the virus is new and the quality of assessment and risk the virus poses is not very high at the time being but is constantly improving. Once again, the importance of personal hygiene was the first point to be brought up.
The campus preparations for combating the spread of the virus to the IIIT community at the time being are;
- Activating the RFID sensor at the main gate (further reducing the usage of biometrics)
- Procuring face masks at Aarogya.
- Requesting the students to be mindful of going out of the campus to populous areas such as DLF.