World

India to hold national college exams despite coronavirus surge

MUMBAI: More than 2 million Indian students will take admission tests for medical and engineering schools next week, the government said yesterday, despite growing concern that the move could fuel a jump in coronavirus infections.

India recorded more than 60,000 cases for the eighth day in a row yesterday, as total infections crossed 3.2 million. Now the government is pushing for a return to normalcy to lessen the economic pain, after having imposed a strict lockdown of 1.3 billion people in March.

"We are very mindful of the safety of our students, we will take full precautions," Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal told state radio, adding that the tests had to be held to ensure students did not lose a year.

Already twice postponed this year, the tests will be spread over several days and held at more centres than usual, to ensure there is no crowding.

But many students have to travel long distances and there is a risk of infections, said the All-India Students' Union, a leftist group that represents university students. It urged students to wear black armbands and join online protests to put pressure on the government to delay the tests until infections fall.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg also waded into the dispute, urging a postponement. "It's deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods," Greta said on Twitter.

In the US, more colleges were grappling with high numbers testing positive just days into the start of the fall semester.

The University of Alabama on Monday reported more than 550 people across its campuses had tested positive for Covid-19 since it resumed in-person classes on Aug 19. Most of those infected were from the university's main campus in Tuscaloosa. - REUTERS