Since March 16 Universities and other educational institutions across the country have been closed as the Government of India announced a countrywide lockdown as one of the measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
The University Grants Commission has issued “guidelines for Re-opening Universities, Colleges post-Lockdown. This is how educational institutions have to adapt according to the new normal.
The new academic session is going on and the universities and colleges need a customized plan, as per the local conditions where they are located, to deal with any eventuality arising due to the COVID-19 before resuming the activities on campuses. The top priority, while opening the institutions, should be the safety, health, and well-being of the students, teachers, and staff. In view of this, UGC has framed “Guidelines for Re-Opening the Universities and Colleges Post Lockdown due to COVID-19 Pandemic” (Annexure-I) which provides in detail the measures to be taken before re-opening of campuses.
In order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the educational institutions and to ensure continuity in teaching-learning process, the Ministry of Education and UGC issued several directives/ advisories/ guidelines to the universities and colleges, including the one to impart online education by making the best use of e-resources.
- The institutions should train their staff and students to assist and undertake the work related to safety and health to prevent an outbreak of the pandemic in their campuses. Non-resident students should be allowed in campuses only after thermal scanning, sanitization of their hands, wearing of face masks and gloves. Symptomatic persons should not be permitted to enter the campus and should be advised to contact the nearest hospital for clinical assessment.
- Regular visits of a counsellor may be arranged so that students can talk with the counsellor about their anxiety, stress or fear.
- To avoid the risk of transmission, the students, faculty and staff should be screened and symptomatic ones be advised to get clinically assessed before allowing them entry into the campus.
- Isolation facilities for symptomatic persons and quarantine facilities for those who were in contact with the positively tested persons should be there on campus or a tie-up may be made in advance with some Government hospital or approved premises or as advised by the local authorities so that, in case of necessity, prompt action may be taken. Proper arrangement of safety, health, food, water etc. should be ensured for those in quarantine and isolation facilities.
- For those who have tested positive, isolation facilities should be in place either on campus itself or as a prior arrangement with some nearby hospital(s) or as advised by the local authorities.
- Universities and colleges should prepare a policy for restricting the outside experts on campuses, study tours, field works etc., keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation.
- All such programmes and extracurricular activities should be avoided where physical distancing is not possible.
- Clean and hygienic conditions, as per safety and health advisories of the concerned government departments, are to be maintained at all places, including hostel kitchens, mess, washrooms, libraries, class rooms etc.
- Proper signages, symbols, posters etc. should be prominently displayed at appropriate places to remind the students, faculty and staff for maintaining physical distancing. The details of COVID-19 cell established by the institution be prominently displayed containing the emergency number, helpline number, email id and contact details of persons to be contacted in case of any emergency in the institution.
- Ensure the norms of physical distancing, sanitization and hygienic conditions for use of common facilities, viz., Auditorium, Conference/ Seminar halls, Sports, Gymnasium, Canteen, Parking Area etc.
Safety Measures at Entry/ Exit Point(s)
- Adequate arrangements of thermal scanners, sanitizers, face masks should be made available at all entry and exit points, including the reception area.
- Crowding must be avoided at entry/ exit points. Staggered timings of entry and exit with limited strength for different programmes should be followed.
- For ensuring queue management, inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of 6 feet may be made and be adhered to.
- In case the institution has more than one gate for entry/ exit, all the gates should be used, with adequate care, to avoid crowding.
- Screening of students, faculty and staff, wearing of face covers/ mask, sanitizing of hands etc. must be ensured at all entry points.
Safety Measures during Working Hours
- Proper sanitization at all learning sites should be ensured. Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, chairs, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all class rooms, laboratories, (and also) lockers, parking areas, other common areas etc. before the beginning of classes and at the end of the day. Teaching materials, computers, laptops, printers, shall be regularly disinfected with 70% alcohol swipe.
- Sitting places in classes, laboratories, computer labs, libraries etc. should be clearly marked, keeping in view the norms of physical distancing. At least one seat should be left vacant between two seats.
Inside the Campus
- Cultural activities, meeting etc. may be avoided. However, such extracurricular and sports activities may be allowed where physical distancing is feasible and is in accordance with the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, issued under Disaster Management Act, 2005 from time to time
- Adequate arrangements for safe drinking water should be made on the campus.
- Hand washing stations with facilities of liquid soap should be created so that every student can wash her/ his hands frequently.
- Regular and sufficient supply of face covers/ masks, heavy duty gloves, disinfecting material, sanitizer, soaps etc. to sanitation workers should be ensured.
- Adequate arrangements should be made for sanitizing the entire campus, including administrative and academic buildings, classrooms, laboratories, libraries, common rooms, toilets, water stations, furniture, learning material, teaching aids, sports equipment, computers etc.
- An adequate supply of water in toilets and for hand- washing should be ensured.
- Proper sanitization of buses, other transport and official vehicles of the institution should be done.
- Spitting in the campus must be made a punishable offence. Dustbins must be cleaned and covered properly. Dustbin for collection of used facemasks, personal protective equipment, hand gloves and their disposals should be ensured as per safety norms. Provision for proper disposal of used personal protection items and general waste should be followed in accordance with CPCB guidelines.
- For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which emphasizes that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30oC, relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be there.
- Gymnasiums shall follow MoHFW guidelines.
- Swimming Pool (wherever applicable) shall remain closed.
- All employees who are at higher risk, i.e., older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions. They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the students.
- Hostels may be opened only in such cases where it is necessary while strictly observing the safety and health preventive measures. However, the sharing of rooms may not be allowed in hostels. Symptomatic students should not be permitted to stay in the hostels under any circumstances.
- Since residential students may be coming from different locations, they shall remain in quarantine and self-monitor their health for a period of 14 days before being allowed to attend classes or as per the policy opted by the State Government for quarantine (even if they bring a negative test report or the university/college plan to test them on arrival).
- There should be no crowding in hostel areas where students live in close proximity and share common facilities and utilities. Hence, their numbers need to be limited appropriately to avoid crowding. Also, hostel students should be called in phases.
- Density in dining halls, common rooms, playing areas should be limited, keeping in view the requirement of physical distancing.
- Cleanliness is to be maintained in dining areas. Meals should be served in small batches, avoiding over-crowding. Take away options should be available for students and staff.
- It must be ensured that the meals are freshly cooked. A senior staff should monitor the same.
- Utensils should be properly cleaned.
- Hostels may define the number of students in dining halls at any point in time. Mess timings may be increased to avoid overcrowding.