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With the NEET 2020 round the corner, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has recently released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on preventive measures to be followed while conducting examinations to contain the spread of COVID19. This year more than 15 lakh candidates have registered for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) that is scheduled for September 13.
The SOP comes in light of the fact that examination centers are frequented by a large number of students (as well as their parents) and staff till the entire duration of the exam and therefore, it’s vital to plan and conduct these examinations while following specific preventive measures, as detailed in the paragraphs below.

Generic preventive measures

The generic measures include simple public health measures that are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed by all (staff, students, and parents) in these places at all times.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

The physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed as far as feasible

MASK COVER

Use of face covers/masks to be made mandatory.

HAND WASH

Practice frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty.

Respiratory etiquette

to be strictly followed. This involves the strict practice of covering one's mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing

Self-monitoring

of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited.

Aarogya Setu App

Installation & use of Aarogya Setu App shall be advised to all, as far as feasible.

All Universities/Educational Institutions/Examination Conducting Authorities/Examination centers shall specifically ensure the following arrangements
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Planning of examinations

  • Only those examination centers which are outside the containment zone shall be allowed to function. Staff/examinees from containment zones shall not be permitted. Such examinees shall be given an opportunity to undertake the examination through other means or the Universities/Educational Institution shall arrange for taking the exam at a later date for such students.
  • Universities/ Educational Institutions/ Examination Conducting Authorities/ Examination centers may plan out the examination schedule in a staggered manner so as to avoid overcrowding at any examination center on any day.
  • Keeping in view the physical distancing norms, institutions should have the adequate room capacity to ensure proper seating arrangements for examination.
  • Appropriate arrangements for personal protection gears like face covers/masks, and other logistics like hand sanitizers, soap, sodium hypochlorite solution etc. shall be made available by Universities/ Educational Institutions/Examination Conducting Authorities/Examination centers to the staff as well as students as per requirements.
  • Exam functionary and examinees may also submit self-declaration about health status at the time of entrance to the examination center. Such a self-declaration form may be circulated at the time of the issue of admit tickets. A simple do’s and dont’s/ Advisory may also be circulated at the time of issue of admitting tickets.
  • Students should also be given prior information on what they should carry,which includes exam related documents (Admit card, ID card etc) , face mask, water bottle, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Adequate manpower shall be deployed by the Institution for maintaining discipline (to ensure observance to distancing norms and other preventive measures at all times) during the conduct of the examination.
  • An adequate number of registration rooms and manpower for document verification and recording of attendance shall be planned duly ensuring social distancing norms.
  • Invigilators and supervisory staff need to be briefed on the code of conduct in the context of COVID.
  • Provisions must be made for the display of Posters/standees/AV media on preventive measures about COVID-19 prominently at the examination center (outside and inside).
  • The examination center should have a designated isolation room for isolating any person who is found symptomatic at the time of screening or during the examination, till such time medical advice may be sought. A clear policy on allowing symptomatic candidates to undertake examinations shall be delineated by the Examination Conducting Authorities in advance.

Transportation to and from the examination center

If any transportation is arranged by educational institutions conducting examinations, proper sanitization of buses/other transport vehicles shall be ensured. Entry and exit to the examination center

  • Entrances to have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions. If any examination functionary/examinee fails to meet the self-declaration criteria, they shall not be allowed entry.
  • Only asymptomatic staff and students shall be allowed inside the examination hall.
  • In the regular courses, the asymptomatic candidates should be referred to the nearest health center and given an opportunity to undertake the examination through other means or the Universities/Educational Institution shall arrange for taking an exam at a later date when the student is declared physically fit. However, if a student is found to be symptomatic and insists on giving the examination, he may be allowed to take the examination by shifting the candidate to a separate isolation room. The permission in such cases shall be granted as per the policy already enunciated on the issue by the Examination Conducting Authorities.
  • All staff and students to be allowed entry only if using face cover/masks. The face cover/mask has to be worn at all times inside the examination center by all.
  • Enough entry & exit gates for students and staff shall be ensured to avoid overcrowding.
  • Maintaining physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the center as far as feasible.
  • Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises.
  • Proper crowd management in the examination center, as well as outside premises like parking lots, waiting for areas — duly following physical distancing norms, shall be ensured.
  • Bags/books/mobiles should not be allowed in the examination center.
  • The examinees will be taken to a registration room in batches maintaining adequate physical distancing norms for document verification and recording of attendance. Thereafter they will be escorted in batches to the allotted examination hall.
  • Frisking of examinees, if needed, shall be undertaken after the thermal screening. Personnel involved in frisking shall wear triple layer medical mask in addition to gloves. Proper hand hygiene shall be maintained by such personnel every time they change their gloves.
  • On completion of the exam, the candidates should be permitted to move out in an orderly manner

    Special precautions for high-risk individuals

  • All staff that is at high risk (older employees, pregnant employees, and employees who have underlying medical conditions) shall not be deployed for invigilation/conduct of the examination.
  • Such staff should preferably be deployed in tasks not requiring direct contact with the students.

    Movement within the examination center, seating arrangement including the conduct of examination

  • The number of people in the elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining physical distancing norms.
  • The provision of wheelchairs, if warranted, should be ensured and these should be disinfected regularly.
  • In the case of PwD candidate availing a scribe, both the candidate and scribe must wear the masks and be made to sit with adequate physical distancing.
  • Institutions may adopt contactless processes like OR code, online forms, digital signatures for the examination.
  • Adequate arrangements for safe drinking water (preferably with disposable cups/glasses) be made in the examination hall.
  • Seating arrangement in the examination hall to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained.
  • For pen & paper-based tests, the invigilator will sanitize his hands prior to the distribution of question papers/answer sheets. The examinees will also sanitize their hands before receiving such papers and handing them back to invigilators. The collection and packing of the answer sheets, at every stage, will involve the sanitization of the hands. The answer sheets will preferably be opened up after 72 hours have elapsed post collection of papers.
  • The use of spit/saliva for counting/distributing sheets shall not be allowed.
  • Sharing of personal belongings/stationery shall not be allowed.
  • For online/computer-based examination, the systems shall be disinfected using alcohol wipes before and after the conduct of the examination.
  • Record of all exam functionaries/examinees shall be maintained in the system for future reference and traceability.
  • For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which emphasize that the
  • temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30°C,
  • relative humidity should be in the range of 40- 70%,
  • re-circulation of air to be avoided to the extent possible,
  • intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and
  • cross ventilation should be adequate.

 

Sanitation and Hygiene

  • The examination hall and other common areas shall be sanitized each time before and after the examination.
  • Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on lavatories, drinking, and handwashing stations/areas.
  • Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all examination hall and other common areas.
  • Students and staff should be advised to dispose of used face covers/masks in covered bins available at the center. The waste thus generated may be disposed off in accordance with the hazardous waste disposal guidelines.
  • SOP to be followed in case of a suspect case or person who develops symptoms during the conduct of examination
  • Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others.
  • The person will remain isolated while wearing a mask/face cover until such time he/she is examined by a doctor.
  • The examinees exhibiting symptoms and willing to give the examination may be allowed to take the examination by shifting the candidate to a separate isolation room.
  • If symptoms deteriorate, inform the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the state or district helpline.
  • A risk assessment shall be undertaken by the designated public health authority (district RRT/treating physician) and accordingly further action be initiated regarding the management of the case, his/her contacts, and need for disinfection.
  • Disinfection of the premises to be taken up if the person is found positive. It may be noted that the SOP detailed above provides for minimum
  • Precautions to be followed during the planning and conduct of examinations. Universities/ Educational Institutions/ Examination Conducting Authorities/ Examination centers may put additional measures in place as per their local assessment and in line with activities permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as per MHA orders issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 from time to time.