Kollam: Kerala government's plan to reopen residential educational institutions has been dealt a blow after more than a dozen fully vaccinated medical students in Kollam tested positive for COVID-19.
The Government Medical College (GMC) at Parippally in Kollam has been closed for two weeks as at least 17 students in the hostel have contracted the virus, with five among them found positive on Wednesday.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had the other day conveyed the State cabinet's decision to permit the functioning of Kerala's higher educational institutions with hostel facilities, provided the students and teachers had received at least one dose of the vaccine against the pandemic disease.
According to sources, the medical college authorities debated the possibility of continuing with the offline education after isolating the infected students, but a majority had advised against it for fear of the formation of a COVID-19 cluster at the hostels with more than 450 residents.
The government had recently announced that final-year undergraduate and post-graduate students of technical and polytechnic institutes, besides medical education institutions, will be allowed to return to campuses from October 4.
GMC considers special transport
The medical college authorities are considering to provide their own transport facilities for bringing back the students who have gone home once the hostels reopen.
As a majority of the students hail from outside Kollam, the authorities feel they are prone to infection during the journey back from their homes.
According to Dr Habeeb Naseem, deputy superintendent of the GMC, Kollam, the goal is to prevent the students from choosing public transport.
"We have prepared a list and the idea is to get students of the respective regions to converge at a common point for pickup. They will have to get an RT-PCR negative result before we bring them back to the campus," Dr Naseem told Onmanorama.
The GMC authorities are planning to reopen the hostels on September 22.
Govt to go ahead with plans
Meanwhile, the state government has decided to go ahead with its plans to reopen the educational institutions by ensuring that the COVID protocol is strictly followed.
Higher Education Minister R Bindu told Onmanorama that the opinion to reopen was unanimous as students across age groups have been experiencing much stress in the absence of offline classes.
"The incident (at Parippally GMC) seems to be an isolated case. But how long do we keep our educationa institutions closed. It is known by now that peer interraction is essential because we have been seeing various issues of outbursts from children," the minister told Onmanorma.