An Insight into the IQC: Ashoka’s Handling of the Pandemic
By Anoushka Singh (UG'24), Lekha Donur (YIF'22) and Prithaa More (UG'24)
As Ashoka shifted to an offline setting and tried to navigate this change and the new Covid strain, the Isolation and Quarantine Centre (IQC) and other stipulated measures put in place by the administration were faced with multiple complications.
The IQC was set-up in the Badminton court near the swimming pool by the Ashoka administration to ensure a safe and comfortable isolation place for students affected by Covid-19 on campus. It had a setup of 100 beds and a 10 member external medical team to help ease this period for students in every way possible. While the purpose of the centre was a success and the college managed to control the Covid-19 outbreak on campus, some students who were inside the centre claimed they went through conundrums due to poor execution by the administration. “There was no sunlight so our only access to the outside world was a window”, remembers an undergraduate student who stayed at the facility for about a week. They recall that while the nurses and caretakers were nice and the ward was hygienic, the facility in itself could use work. There were also logistical issues which came up. Due to the large number of people isolating in the same room, privacy became a key concern for many. This led to distress for some students as they weren’t comfortable sharing their personal space with people along with hindrances and distractions in conducting day to day activities due to the constant presence of multiple people.
Some students mentioned how access to mental health resources and the option to talk to professionals was also hurdled due to a lack of privacy. Infrastructural problems like lack of space for drying clothing or some beds not having back rests that led to discomfort added to the list of issues students had to tackle whilst battling the virus. “It was also slightly disorganised, like they were trying to open the pool and tried to shut off the big bathroom we were using and told us to use the infirmary side’s washroom, which had only two stalls and one shower and there were 20 of us, at least in the girls wing”. They had to keep using it, since there were too many people for them to just have a single bathroom. Another student mentioned how one night the floodlights outside the centre were kept on and students faced trouble sleeping with the bright lights on. Issues such as this make one question the functioning of the IQC and the longevity of these measures for possible future strains.
The Edict further reached out to the Dean of Student Affairs to reflect on some of the concerns which were popping up. Previously in the semester, the first quarantine centre was set up in residence hall 5 which allowed infected students and staff to quarantine in an individual room with meals brought to their doorstep aiding in minimising physical contact as much as possible. This was manageable due to the fact that all Ashokans were not yet on campus at the time. In the months of February and March, the remaining students were brought to campus which necessitated a shift of the IQC which was decided to be the badminton court owing to the large space available. The Dean affirmed that the college was following all important guidelines, including sanitising the beds after a positive case and making them undergo a 7 day isolation period. When questioned on logistical shortcomings such as the fumigation drive which took place while the students were inside the centre, the Dean said that this was a “ drift”, and that there were no “real challenges” in the isolation process. It was also mentioned that the college had made necessary arrangements such as allowing students to go back home and attend classes online if they fell sick, however the Dean did acknowledge that a gap in communicating information might have led to a multitude of problems that could have been avoided.
The Edict reached out to the IQC staff for some answers as well. The team inside the centre consisted of 2 doctors, 7 nurses, and a programme coordinator. Armed with single use PPE kits, the doctors would work in 6 hour shifts while the nurses had 3 shifts, during this time they would check up on the patient’s vitals and maintain medical records while the programme coordinator handles logistics such as keeping a stock of PPE kits, and keeping in touch with the government. Amidst growing cases and concerns of an outbreak, the IQC staff was also isolated in the centre as mandated and they followed all government related Covid protocols.
Experiences surrounding the IQC tend to differ according to what position one is in. A student’s feeling of discomfort could be a necessary step for a member of the administration. Similarly, protocols followed by the IQC staff could be deemed necessary but perhaps lacking in some ways. The important thing has been that the Covid-19 outbreak was contained due to the joint efforts put in by the entire Ashoka body. Despite some shortcomings and additional complications for both students and the administration, as we settle into the new normal we hope that the learnings from this semester will ensure better protocols and experiences in the coming semesters.
As of 24th May 2022 the IQC has been discontinued and any covid positive patients will be isolated in the new infirmary.