The Union Health Ministry on Thursday issued a revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for conducting examinations amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, cancelling the provision that allowed symptomatic candidates who insist on taking an exam to do so in isolation.
According to the revised document, 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 should arrange for the student to sit for the exam at a later date when she/he is declared physically fit.
“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 SOP said. On September 2, the ministry had 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. However, that provision stands cancelled now.
According to the new SOP, appropriate arrangements for personal protection, like facemasks, hand sanitisers and soap shall be made available by universities, educational institutions, examination conducting authorities or examination centres to the staff as well as students.
Exam functionary and examinees will also be required to submit self-declaration forms regarding health status at the time of entrance to the examination centre. “Such self-declaration forms may be circulated at the time of issue of admit cards," 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.
The SOP also underlined that face cover or mask has to be worn at all times inside the examination centre by all. 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. Also, examination centres in containment zones shall not be allowed to function.
For pen and paper-based tests, the SOP outlines that the invigilator will sanitise his/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 checked only after 72 hours post the collection of papers, the guidelines recommended. "Use of spit/saliva for counting and distributing sheets shall not be allowed," the SOP added.
The examination centre is also required to have a designated isolation room for isolating any person who is found symptomatic at the time of screening or during examination, until medical help can be sought.