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The following public health measures are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by all (faculty members, employees, students and visitors) in these places at all times:
i. Physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed as far as feasible.
ii. Use of face covers/masks to be made mandatory.
iii. Frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be done wherever feasible.
iv. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing of used tissues properly.
v. Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest. vi. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited. vii. Installation & use of Aarogya Setu App shall be advised wherever feasible.
Indian higher education system is very large and diverse. There are various types of universities, colleges and institutions offering programmes ranging from engineering, technical, medical, sciences, humanities and social sciences at undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral level, besides research and extension activities. Also, they vary in their geographical conditions, size, infrastructural capacity, types and duration of programmes etc. Therefore, the issues and challenges faced by them in reopening their campus also vary considerably. Keeping in view the uncertainties of future due to COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the functioning of universities and colleges, they may plan to reopen their campuses in a phased manner, ensuring safety, health and well-being of all students and staff. They should be flexible in their plan and should be ready to handle any eventuality arising due to COVID-19. It may be difficult to comprehend all the challenges/ situations which the higher education institutions may be required to handle while they plan to reopen. However, some of the issues which they may be required to handle instantly are given below:
i. To follow the advisories/guidelines/directions issued by the Central/State Government, Ministry of Education and UGC from time to time to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
ii. Uncertainty among students regarding admissions, modes of teaching-learning, completion of courses, examinations, evaluation, declaration of results and the academic calendar, etc.
iii. Anxiety, mental health and psychological issues of students developed during the lockdown period and fear of infection after the opening of campuses.
iv. Safety measures including sanitisation of premises, thermal screening, ensuring physical distancing, face-cover/mask wearing, respiratory hygiene and hand-hygiene etc.
v. Preparation for risk assessment and subsequent actions which may be required depending upon the residential status of the institution – whether fully residential, partially residential or non-residential.
vi. Varied conditions of the pandemic in the state, area and environment where the students mainly live while making risk assessment and planning to address these challenges.
vii. Besides students, a serious risk of infection will also be faced by the faculty, counsellors and other technical and non-teaching staff also who face/ interact with the students and also among themselves regularly.