Egypt universities set to start new year under strict coronavirus measures

Amr Mohamed Kandil, Monday 7 Sep 2020

Safety measures include not allowing students with a fever to enter university campuses and keeping students of vocational universities in small groups

Cairo University
Egypt's Cairo University

As universities are set to start a new school year on 17 October, Egypt has set a number of anti-coronavirus safety measures, including not allowing students with a fever to enter universities and keeping students at vocational colleges in small groups.

University and school classes have been suspended since March over the spread of coronavirus. Universities have instituted remote learning, cancelled midterms and replaced final exams with research papers.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has said in a statement that universities should opt for remote learning and virtual meetings, and that if face-to-face meetings are required, they should be organised via email beforehand.

Students shall enter and leave universities in separate groups while maintaining a distance of two metres, the statement said, adding that students who record a temperature of 37.5 degree Celsius or over will not be allowed to attend, and will instead have to head to the university’s hospital or clinic for further medical examination.

Also, it is the duty of university professors to refer students to the medical units at their universities in the event they show coronavirus symptoms such as tiredness, aches, coughs, difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhoea, nausea or headache.

The statement also urged university staff, workers and students to leave universities at the end of the day only, and to have their temperature checked before they re-enter the university. It also advises those suffering from health problems and elderly people to not be present on campuses.

Students who suffer from chronic diseases, weak immune systems or cannot attend classes, including those in quarantine, are to be granted access to alternative ways of learning, including e-learning, until further notice, the statement said.

It is up to each university to determine the number of students allowed in each lecture hall, as long they maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other, the statement said.

Vocational universities will have to divide students into small groups of ten, and the members of each group cannot be changed or interact with other groups.

For curricula requiring students to interact, students have to remain in a specified lecture hall and teaching staff are to give them lectures in this one hall and not have them change halls. Also, each of the students should have their own chair and desk and should not be allowed to change them.

Students of each grade shall be separated from students of other grades as much as possible, said the statement.

Concerning food services, places selling food and drinks, including university cafeterias, will be allowed to continue selling pre-packaged food, the statement said, adding that they have to stick to relevant safety guidelines, including using disposable plates and keeping distance between tables.

Also, the statement urged universities to make sure students do not share food and advised students to wear facemasks during lunch breaks.

For cafeterias, safety rules related to maintaining social distance, capacity and sterilisation should be adhered to.

Specialised places for eating can open for individual use for food and drinks only, while water coolers will be banned and replaced with bottled water.

Joint activities, including festivals, feast celebrations and sport competitions shall be postponed or cancelled, while other group activities such as trips, sports and student camps shall be suspended.

The statement urges universities to encourage carrying out summer activities over the internet.

Universities should also provide electronic copies of study materials and encourage tasks that do not require the use of paper.

Laboratories, studios, music halls and others should implement a number of measures, including adequate natural ventilation and a social distance of 1.5 metres in classes. Also, surfaces and equipment frequently touched must be cleaned and disinfected after each use, and students should be encouraged to bring their own equipment and tools if possible.

For libraries, librarians have to wear masks and gloves and use sanitisers each time they deal with another person. Also, places receiving readers shall be disinfected every hour and used books shall be put in a separate container to be ventilated or disinfected.

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