Higher educational institutions as well as skill training centres can resume their classes from September 21, the Union health ministry said on Tuesday, while asking them to implement staggered classroom activities with separate time slots, mandatory six feet distance between desks and carry out disinfection of premises, among other COVID-19 safety measures.
The guidelines, issued by the ministry, said that seating arrangement should be done in a way to ensure a distance of six feet between chairs and desks.
“Staggering of classroom activities to be done, with separate timing slots, to allow for adequate physical distancing and disinfection of classroom premises. Academic scheduling should have an intermix of regular classroom teaching and online teaching and assessments,” the ministry said.
In shared rooms and dormitories, the guidelines said, beds should be placed at a distance of six feet from each other.
“Temporary partitions may be considered, if feasible. Any symptomatic student should be immediately given a single room and then provided requisite medical care,” the guidelines said.
“Mess facility, if any within the premises, shall follow physical distancing norms at all times. Staggering of meal timings may be done to prevent overcrowding. Hostels should be out of bound for all persons except essential staff with known health status,” the ministry said.
The generic preventive measures include simple public health measures that are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed by all faculty, employees, students and visitors at these places at all times, according to the guidelines.
These measures include physical distancing of at least six feet, use of face covers or masks, frequent hand washing with soap and use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, they said.
“Institutions conducting skill or entrepreneurship training, higher educational institutions conducting doctoral courses and post-graduate studies shall specifically ensure online and distance learning continue to be permitted and encouraged, skill or entrepreneurship training will be permitted with effect from September 21, and higher educational institutions conducting Ph.D or technical and professional programmes requiring laboratory and experimental works will be permitted by department of higher education in consultation with MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) strictly following guidelines as indicated in the SOPs,” the ministry said in its guidelines.
The guidelines said such institutions will only be allowed to open if they are outside containment zones. Further, students and staff living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend the institution, the ministry said.
“Students and staff shall also be advised not to visit areas falling within containment zones,” it said.
Prior to resumption of activities, the guidelines said, all work areas intended for conducting skill or entrepreneurship training, doctoral courses and post graduate studies, hostels, laboratories, other common utility areas have to be sanitised with one per cent sodium hypochlorite solution.
“Wherever skill based training on equipments are envisaged to be utilised, place the equipment six feet apart, wherever feasible, to facilitate physical distancing. Similarly, utilise any outdoor space by relocating equipment outside like in verandah, courtyard, shed, etc,” the ministry said in the guidelines.
The guidelines further said the academic calendar shall be planned with a view to avoid overcrowding and congregation.
“As far as possible, the academic calendar should promote a mix of regular classes and online teaching and training, assessments. The day-wise, time-wise scheduling of teaching/training activities may be done in a staggered manner so as to avoid overcrowding at any one location on any day,” it said.
“For practical activities in laboratories maximum capacity per session based on redesigned spaces, may be planned and scheduled accordingly,” the ministry added.