Forty-four employees of the Aligarh Muslim University – 19 professors and 25 non-teaching staff – have died after contracting the Covid virus, sparking concern over yet more cases, and deaths, emerging from the prestigious educational institution.
AMU Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor wrote to the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research, the central government’s nodal body in this crisis) to say the deaths were from a “lethal” variant, and asked for genome sequencing.
“This is giving rise to suspicion that a particular viral variant may be circulating in the Civil Lines area of Aligarh, in which AMU and many adjoining localities are situated,” the Vice Chancellor wrote.
Samples have been sent to Delhi’s CSIR’s (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology to conduct genome sequencing to identify the particular strain(s).
“The university’s cemetery is now full. This is a huge tragedy. A lot of big doctors and senior professors, including a dean and a chairman, have died. Young people – who are fit and healthy – have also died,” Dr Arshi Khan, a professor of political science, said.
The press officer at AMU pointed out that the university played an important role in helping the local community when the first Covid wave struck.
“This time it is worse… the mortality rate is much more this time, and it is a matter of huge concern,” Shafey Qidwayi, the university’s spokesperson, said.
Some of those who have died over the past few days are Dr Shadab Khan and Dr Arif Siddique from the Medicine Department and Professor Humayun Murad from Zoology
Professor Jamshed Siddiqui from the Department of Computer Science and Professors Saeeduz Zafar and Sajid Ali Khan from the Psychology Department, have also died.
The History, Political Science, Law and Theology departments have also lost professors, and the impact is not just on the faculty.
Around 30,000 students study in AMU, of which around 16,000 stay in 19 hostels. Earlier, even when the university was shut, some students stayed on but now even the hostels are emptying.
“Now 50-60 students are compelled to stay because they are working on or submitting their thesis. They’re getting daily calls from worried parents, asking them to come home… but the students say they cannot leave without finishing their work,” Salman Qamar, a research scholar, said.