Unlock 4: Schools to stay shut, flights to resume
Schools and colleges in Bengal will remain closed at least till September 20 because of the Covid-19 situation, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday.
“Under these circumstances, I do not believe it will be prudent to lift the lockdown completely. As of now, we are announcing that the schools, colleges and universities will remain closed till September 20 as they already are. The status quo in terms of functioning will be maintained,’’ Mamata Banerjee said at a news conference in Nabanna.
Earlier, the chief minister had expressed a wish that schools could open on alternate days from September 5, Teacher’s Day, if the situation improved.
On Wednesday, Mamata requested the Centre for a third time in three days to put on hold the all-India engineering and medical entrance examinations until the situation became conducive again. “25.06 lakh students will write the tests (JEE-Main and NEET). They will be crammed in the centres to write the test…. Let the tests be held when the situation becomes conducive,” said Mamata.
The JEE-Main exams, through which students are admitted to engineering colleges, are to be held from September 1 to 6. The National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET), through which students are admitted to medical colleges, is scheduled for September 13.
“The chief minister scrapped the plan to reopen schools from September 5 as the Covid situation has worsened,” an official in the higher education department said.
Five-hundred-and-fifty-four Covid-19 cases were detected in Calcutta on Wednesday, according to the state health department. Nineteen people died from the disease in the past 24 hours. The number of active cases in the city stood at five.
“Given the spike in cases, the chief minister announced on Tuesday that her government had launched a door-to-door survey to identify people with comorbidities. The death of over 87 per cent of Covid patients has been attributed to such health conditions,’’ the official said.
“She is against conducting JEE-Main and NEET now as any kind of physical assembly at the exam centres could pave the way for the spread of the disease.”
A professor at Jadavpur University, where only a handful of employees are attending office to run the essential operations, said the administrative headquarters of the institute, Aurobindo Bhavan, had to be closed twice as two employees tested positive for Covid. “If normal gathering is allowed, there could be a disaster,” he said.
“In the absence of regular transport, how will students come to campuses?” asked a vice-chancellor.
The teachers, many of them elderly and suffering from comorbidities, are too scared to visit campuses. Non-teaching employees are reluctant, too.
“How could there be classes without teachers? The state government is justified in extending the closure. Let the situation stabilise first,” said another VC.
The condition is so bad that the state government has not been able to announce the start of the academic session even as colleges are about to publish the merit list for the first-year students.