COVID-19 spike: Varsity shut one week after reopening

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Students of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, United States, have deserted the Ivy League institution, following a spike in coronavirus cases on campus.

They moved out on Tuesday just a week after classes began. The university, with more than 19,000 undergraduates, said 130 students and five employees tested positive for the virus last week.

The use of masks and social distancing was encouraged but were not enough to prevent the virus spread.

No more than 60 per cent capacity was recommended for hostels and 30 per cent for classroom seats.

Before the resumption, staff and the county’s health director asked the university to reconsider reopening.

As a result, other institutions, such as the Notre Dame University and the Michigan State University, cancelled classes for two weeks after a spike in cases and began a transition to remote learning, telling students to stay home.

The editorial board for the Daily Tar Heel (DTH), UNC’s student newspaper, criticised the institution after it was forced to cancel in-person classes and switch to remote learning.

The DTH editorial board wrote: “We all saw this coming. But university leadership should have expected students, many of whom are now living on their own for the first time, to be reckless.

“Reports of parties throughout the weekend come as no surprise. Though these students are not faultless, it was the University’s responsibility to dis-incentivise such gatherings by reconsidering its plans to operate in-person earlier on.”

The editorial said the school ignored the recommendation of the Orange County Health Department (OCHD) to restrict on-campus housing to “at-risk students” and to shift to remote learning for at least the first five weeks of the semester.

The National Association of University Students (NAUS), National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), and National Association of Nigerian Colleges of Education (NANCES) protested in Abuja Wednesday over the continued closure of tertiary institutions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They faulted the Federal Government for reopening worship centres, markets and airports, but not tertiary institutions.

NAUS President, Ejigah Felix, said if markets could be reopened, tertiary institutions that could be better monitored also ought to be reopened.

He said: “Our schools have been shut down for too long. Markets are open. Political campaigns are going on. What it clearly shows is that it is the educational sector that is neglected in this country.

“How do you close universities, polytechnics and all relevant academic institutions where research can be done and you are telling people that you want to stop the virus? We demand that our schools should be reopened.”

NAPS Senate President, Dio-Oghale Emeka Rex, accused the Federal Government of playing with the future of Nigerian students.

“The cure of coronavirus is not in any political party; it is in our institutions. Many political parties conducted their primary elections and rallies without regard for social distancing and wearing of a facemask.

“The age limit for national service is 30 years and most of us are 29. Many will not be mobilised if they refuse to open the schools.”

A former Zone A Coordinator, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Umar Farouk, urged the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to reopen tertiary institutions.

“Coronavirus is not an excuse for our campuses to be closed. They must be reopened. If markets and worship centres can open and Edo State can go for rallies and conduct an election, then tertiary institutions should not remain closed.”

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