It’s been nearly eleven months since we first received the notice telling us that we’d be going home because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Most of us packed a small bag in a rush; others insisted that staying back would be the safer option. Nobody, back then, had ever imagined it would be so long before we were called back again.
However, with the nation gradually opening up, MAHE too decided to begin the process of calling students back. In December, the third and fourth years of MIT were called back, along with the students of MIC, as well as KMC and other Health Sciences colleges.
Second-year MIT students are being called back to campus on 5th February, 2021, and the third-years on the 12th February.
That said, Covid-19 continues to affect people from all over the country, albeit less severely now than in the thick of last year. Many are justified in their nervousness about returning to campus. While we cannot quell your fears, we have attempted to break down what you can do to ensure your safety. After all, staying safe in Manipal will require a collective effort from both the administration and us students.
Here’s a guide on what to pack, what precautions to take and a brief summary of what to expect when you reach the MIT Campus.
What to Carry With You?
According to the SOP sent by MAHE, all students are required to bring:
- Triple-layered masks (100)
- Cloth masks (6)
- Gloves (Especially for Health Sciences students)
- Student ID Card
- Consent form signed by both the student and their parent
- A negative RT-PCR Covid test report; one from at most 72 hours from the time of your arrival in Manipal.
Returning students are also required to e-mail their travel plan to the Chief Warden prior to thier arrival at Manipal along with a soft copy of the consent form attached to the circular that was released this January. The travel plan should consist of the following details:
- Student contact details
- City/town of departure
- Mode of travel to Manipal
- Date and time of arrival
- Physical copy of the consent form
Upon arrival on-campus, students are supposed to collect a Clearance Card from booths set up at NLH. The booths are open all day, and if you arrive late and you do not have a negative RT-PCR report, you will have to spend the night at a quarantine centre before being taken to your allotted hostel.
The Clearance Card will only be given to students with a negative RT-PCR test result from at most 72 hours prior to reaching campus. If you have no result or a positive one, you can get tested on campus and will have to stay in a quarantine block until you test negative.
Students are also required to bring a passport-sized photograph for the Clearance Card, so make sure you carry one with you when you go to submit your test report and consent form.
In addition to the essentials listed above, students have been asked to carry:
- 100mL Hand Sanitiser (5)
- Liquid Soap for personal use (2)
We’d recommend buying one large bottle of sanitiser to keep in your hostel and to keeping at least one small sanitiser in your bag for use before and after opening doors, using lab equipment, etc.
Students on campus reported that the cleaning staff do wear masks and gloves when they come to clean your rooms. However, we’d also recommend carrying a surface disinfectant spray to use both, when you first go to your room, and every time your room has been cleaned.
That said, sanitiser cannot replace soap when it comes to keeping your hands clean and killing germs. Carry a small, portable bottle of soap in your bag at all times and, whenever possible, make a point to wash your hands over sanitising them.
We’d suggest buying as much of the above from home as they will all be in demand on campus, and there is a chance that shops will be running low on supplies.
Lastly, the SOP given by MAHE has told students that they may get the following for safety in the mess:
- Food carriers
- Cutlery and plates
This is not mandatory; however, as the mess is one of the few places where students won’t be wearing masks, it is probably safest to carry your food back to your room.
Currently, students are not allowed to serve themselves food which should help contain the spread to an extent, but there’s no harm in taking the extra step and taking your meals to your hostel. You can also carry an extra water bottle so that you don’t need to visit the water-filters as often.
If you’ve missed out on purchasing anything, you can still order from Amazon and other online retailers. The delivery people still sit outside the Student Plaza gate of the MIT Campus, though they don’t stay there for as long as they did before. Plus, all shopkeepers on campus have been tested for Covid so you can stock up on anything else you need on campus as well.
Precautions to Take
Here are some general precautions you must keep in mind while restarting your life in Manipal:
- Social Distancing: Needless to say, this is the most effective method to contain the spread of the virus. Although keeping an adequate distance from each other may not be feasible in some situations, please try to adhere to the guidelines in the SoP as far as possible. The usage of masks in shared spaces can help curb the spread of the virus.
- Interaction and Meeting People: Going back to Manipal after a period of eleven months is certainly exciting. It may appear to some as an opportunity to reunite with old friends and experience life as it was before the outbreak of the pandemic. However, things aren’t going to be the same. Please avoid meeting people unless you absolutely need to. Should you still need to congregate in a group, please do so in an open, well-ventilated area.
- Going Out: Please, don’t. However, should you have to step out, please ensure that you do so alone. As usual, masked and carrying a bottle of sanitiser along.
- Sanitisation: Although regular hand-washing is the most effective way to stay safe from the virus (provided each hand-wash lasts for a minimum of 40 seconds), sanitisation of the hands using a sanitiser with over 60% alcohol content is a good addition to your safety routine. Make sure you sanitise your hands every time you have to open doors, use lab equipment, and eat. You can also use a disinfectant spray to sanitise your room every time you get it cleaned or have friends over. Cloth masks should be either washed in antiseptic liquid before reuse or be left to air out for at least a day.
- Common Dining: While dining at the mess or the Food Court, please adhere to the social distancing markers that the MAHE administration has placed on the dining floor. Please bear in mind that only two people may sit at a table at once. As far as possible, take food to your room and eat instead.
- Groceries and Shopping: To ensure complete safety, be sure to either sanitise groceries/packages before using them—or better yet—purchase them a day before you need them so that all chances of the virus staying on the surface of the package are eliminated. Make sure you assign an area in your room to keep items that haven’t been sanitised yet. Under your bed, or any other place that’s out of the way would be best.
- Clothes: Have separate clothes to wear outside and in your hostel. As far as possible, put your outdoor clothes for a wash after every use or air them out for at least 24 hours before re-wear. Assign a separate hook or clothes rack for clothes that you’re airing out so that they are not in contact with your other clothes.
- Masks: Wear one. All the time. Your mask should be on before you step out of your room and should stay on until you get back. The only time it’s okay to take your mask off is when you’re eating at the mess, and even that should only be once you’re seated at your table. Make sure you don’t reuse single-use masks and dispose of them in the appropriate bins.
In the worst-case scenario, if you feel unwell or suspect that you are showing symptoms of Covid-19, make sure you inform your caretaker and stay in your room. As important as it might feel to attend that one lab, going out could put both your classmates and any staff on campus at risk. Don’t hesitate to request a Covid-19 test and social distance. It is, after all, better to be safe than sorry.
The Situation as it Stands Today
Manipal has adapted to the circumstances presented to it. The MAHE administration has been proactive in its arrangements for the influx of students.
Social distancing markers and hands-free sanitising stations have been installed.
When you arrive on campus, you will have to report at NLH to either submit your negative Covid test or get a test done. The validity of a negative covid test report is 72 hours.
Currently, RT-PCR testing takes place from 9 am to 5 pm and clearance cards are being given at all times. It’s worth noting here that the RT-PCR validity centre should be least crowded earlier in the day, so it makes sense to reach campus then. On arrival, you can leave your bags for sanitisation.
If you have an RT-PCR test result, you need to go for verification to IC and if you need to be tested, you’ll have to go to NLH. Make sure you confirm your Hostel at the stall outside IC before getting your Clearance Card. The guard at the entrance of the IC will take a thermal scan. After that, you’ll be asked to wait in line — only fifteen people can be seated in the IC at a time, and the chairs are spaced out to ensure social distancing.
For verification, you’ll be asked to submit a passport-sized photograph, the consent form, and your negative RT-PCR test result. If you don’t have a printout of the result, you can email it to them while getting your Clearance Card. Then, a doctor will stamp and verify the issued card, and you’ll be done with the verification process.
Taxis will not be allowed on campus, but if you’re in your own vehicle, you can drive from the Main Gate to your Hostel. Note that the KC gate isn’t open, but cars can leave from the Main Gate and the gate near VGT. A bus can be availed to move to the hostel blocks.
Hostel allotments for those who filled their preferences earlier this year have been made. Students can check their allotted rooms on the hostel portal. Most rooms have not been cleaned, even if your keys were given to the caretakers. On arrival at college, the cleaning staff will take about half an hour to completely clean your room in front of you and any other damage will be dealt with at the earliest.
Almost every mess is operational. No more than two persons are allowed to sit at a table in FC1, and tables are spread adequately apart. All these safety measures somewhat help placate the anxious returnee’s mind about the situation in Manipal. However, the onus of protecting ourselves falls on us as well. Overcrowding has rendered the ‘Two-person’ rule in FC1 difficult to follow. Besides, social distancing cannot be maintained with too many people in the Food Court. In such a situation, it makes sense to stagger meal timings amongst your friend circle. In these times, dining together isn’t as important as staying safe. The subsequent reopening of other messes, however, will help combat overcrowding.
Please bear in mind that once you return to Manipal, you are a resident of the town. It is, therefore, also your responsibility to curb the spread of the virus. A second wave needn’t happen if the people of Manipal resolve to observe adequate safety. Although everyone’s favourite haunts are back in business, please exercise discretion before visiting them. A conscious decision to stay committed to breaking the chain of infection will result in a better Manipal for everyone.
Written and edited by Naintara Singh and Avaneesh Jai Damaraju for MTTN
Featured Images by Vaibhav Aatreya for MTTN
Updated by Ishita Gaur for MTTN