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Colleges and universities in Punjab reopened on Monday after being shut for nearly eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

The decision to open these educational institutions in areas outside COVID-19 containment zones was taken by the state government earlier this month.

Institutions have been directed to strictly observe COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) framed by their respective administrative departments in consultation with the state health department and the Union health ministry.

Earlier an official spokesperson had said that “all higher education, medical education, and research and technical education institutions, including all universities and colleges in areas outside containment zones in the state would be allowed to re-open from November 16”.

The educational institutions in the state were closed from March 24 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the first phase of reopening, only final-year students of departments such as science, medicine, engineering, and technology where hands-on training is an essential part of the curriculum will be called for attending classes, followed by students of other courses, according to the SOPs.

In hostels, not more than one student will be accommodated per room to begin with and educational institutes have kept separate gates for entry and exit of students and staff.

Thermal screening, hand sanitising, wearing of masks, social distancing in classrooms, with not more than 50 per cent of total strength of students being called to attend classes, are part of the SOPs.

Even though attendance was thin on the first day, majority of students across the state said they were happy to attend regular classes.

“Online classes have helped us during these months, but these cannot match regular classes where we meet our teachers face-to-face in a campus environment. There are distractions and limitations while studying at home,” said a student outside a government college in Bathinda.
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