Two students who wrote the Kerala Engineering Architecture Medical (KEAM) examination in two separate centres in Thiruvananthapuram have tested positive for COVID-19. A parent who had accompanied his ward to a third centre has also been declared positive.
Both the students who tested positive were from the coastal areas of the district; one from Karakulam and the other from Pozhiyur. While the student from Karakulam who wrote the test at a centre in Karamana was provided a separate room for writing the test, the Pozhiyur student who wrote the test at Thycaud was not.
The parent who tested positive lived within the city limits, at Manacaud, and he had gone to a centre in Vazhuthacaud. All the students who wrote the KEAM exam with the Pozhiyur student at the Thycaud Centre have been notified of the development and have been asked to go into quarantine. The student's mother and sister have also tested positive.
The Karakulam student, because he was given a separate room and therefore did not come into contact with others, is not considered a potential spreader.
Tracing the contacts of the parent from Manacaud, however, is proving to be problematic. Hundreds of people had been at the venue and it is not clear who had come into close contact with the Manacaud native. "No one who had been at the Vazhuthacaud centre can be sure either as these people did not know each other," a top Health official said.
Over 1.10 lakh students had appeared for the KEAM Examination that was held on July 16. The next day, on July 17, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared the conduct of the examinations a huge success.
However, the sight of massive crowds - students, parents and guardians - streaming out of examination centres on July 16 as if COVID was unheard of had evoked a major scare across the state, especially in Thiruvananthapuram where community transmission had already begun.
Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, who had repeatedly asked the government to postpone the exams, tweeted: "Kerala is already paying the price for the Govt’s unwise decision, despite appeals from students & this MP, to hold the KEAM exams amid the lockdown." He urged the UGC not to repeat this mistake elsewhere in the country.
The successful conduct of the remaining SSLC examinations in the last week of May seems to have emboldened the LDF government to go ahead with the KEAM examination.