Amid growing fear over spread of coronavirus in the country, students of Dhaka University have demanded suspension of academic activities until the situation improves. Rejecting the demand, the university authorities said they are not considering the move yet, though on March 8, first three cases of Covid-19 was announced in the country.
Declaring the ongoing viral outbreak a pandemic, World Health Organisation have issued a set of guidelines to stem the virus. WHO has advised people to avoid gatherings and follow hygienic procedures to avoid possible contraction of coronavirus. But scenario was opposite at DU with more than 3,500 students staying at ‘common rooms’ of the university’s 18 dormitories.
During visits to the common rooms of five male dormitories, this correspondent found scores of students living in an utterly unhygienic conditions. Besides, these students use same canteens, washrooms, lifts, which they fear can be potential sources of spreading the virus.
Citing it is hard to maintain a hygiene condition in such crowed place, a resident student of Bijay Ekattor Hall, Shafique, said “Authorities should immediately decide to close the university. Students also vented anger over the authorities’ poor precautionary measures, which they put as only “limited to circulating some cautionary notices.”
“Asking students to attend class increases risk of being more exposed to their family members,” said Mahdi Hossain, a non-resident student, who resides in Azimpur.
Mahbuba Yeasmin of Ruqayyah Hall told that the authorities failed to control dengue outbreak on the campus. “If a student gets infected with coronavirus it will be very difficult to control." “The university should be closed immediately to avoid any possible consequence,” said Rakibul Islam, a third-year student of Mass Communication and Journalism department.
When asked DU Vice Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman urged the students to not panic and contact the respective hall authorities in case of an emergency. Authorities are not mulling to suspend the academic activities for now, said DU Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani.
"If any student is reported infected with coronavirus or the country’s situation gets worse we will consider then,” he added. Citing the university is an overcrowded area, Chief Medical Officer of DU Medical Centre, Dr Sarwar Jahan, warned, “If any person is affected with Covid-19 (inside the campus) it can lead to an epidemic.
“The government set up only three coronavirus test centers. So, we can do nothing except raising awareness. If students stay inside the dormitories and avoid meeting people who return from a virus-hit country, then nothing to panic,” he added. Meanwhile on Thursday, the DU authorities, at a meeting, took a set of preventive measures to tackle coronavirus with a decision to provide hand sanitisers to the student dorms.
Students were advised to avoid large gatherings on the occasion of Mujib Year, and Independence Day celebrations. Foreign students were asked to not travel home country until further notice and DU teachers pursuing higher studies abroad were told not to return for now.
The DU medical Centre has been kept ready and people catching cold are being given special treatment, the university said in a statement.