Revised SOP issued for conducting exams amid COVID-19

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The government has issued a revised SOP for conducting examinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, removing the provision that allowed symptomatic candidates who insist on taking an exam to do so in isolation.

According to the revised document by the Health ministry, in regular course, a symptomatic candidate should be referred to the nearest health centre and given an opportunity to undertake the examination through other means, or the university or educational institution shall arrange for taking the exam at a later date when the student is declared physically fit.

“However, if a student is found to be symptomatic, the permission or denial thereof, in such cases shall be granted as per the policy already enunciated on the issue by the Examination Conducting Authorities,” the revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) said.

The ministry had on September 2 issued guidelines as per which staff and examinees from containment zones shall not be permitted to be physically present at exam centres and there will be alternative arrangements for such students.

Such students shall be given an opportunity to undertake the examination through other means, or universities and educational institutions shall arrange for taking the exam at a later date for them.

According to the SOP, appropriate arrangements for personal protection gears like face covers or masks, and other logistics like hand sanitisers, soap, sodium hypochlorite solution etc. shall be made available by universities, educational institutions, examination conducting authorities or examination centres 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 centre. Such self-declaration form may be circulated at the time of issue of admit tickets,” the guidelines said.

If any examination functionary or examinee fails to meet the self-declaration criteria, they shall not be allowed entry, the SOP underlined.

Also, only asymptomatic staff and students shall be allowed inside the examination hall, the SOP stated, adding wearing face cover or mask is mandatory.

The face cover or mask has to be worn at all times inside the examination centre by all, it underlined.

Authorities concerned should plan out the examination schedule in a staggered manner so as to avoid overcrowding at any examination centre on any day, the SOP stated.

Examination centres in containment zones shall not be allowed to function, it said.

For pen and paper-based tests, the SOP outlines that the invigilator will sanitise his or her hands prior to the distribution of question papers or answer sheets and the examinees will also sanitise their hands before receiving or handing back these materials.

The collection and packing of the answer sheets at every stage will involve sanitisation of hands. The answer sheets will preferably be opened up after 72 hours have elapsed post collection of papers, the guidelines recommended.

“Use of spit/saliva for counting and distributing sheets shall not be allowed,” the SOP stated.

The examination centre should have a designated isolation room for isolating any person who is found symptomatic at the time of screening or during examination, till such time medical advice may be sought.

A clear policy on allowing or disallowing symptomatic candidates to undertake examinations shall be delineated by the examination conducting authorities in advance, the SOP stated.