More than 2 million Indian students will sit for admission tests to medical and engineering schools next week, the government said on Wednesday, despite growing concern that the move could fuel a jump in coronavirus infections.
India reported more than 60,000 infections, maintaining the world’s highest single-day caseload since August 7, a Reuters tally showed. With 3.2 million cases, it ranks after the United States and Brazil, though its 59,449 deaths are far fewer.
Now the government is pushing for a return to normalcy to lessen the economic pain, after having imposed a strict early lockdown of India’s 1.3 billion people in March.
“We are very mindful of the safety of our students, we will take full precautions,” Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal told state radio, adding that the tests had to be held to ensure students did not lose a year.
Already twice postponed this year, the tests will be spread over several days and held at more centres than usual, to ensure there is no crowding.
But many students have to travel long distances and there was a risk of infections, said the All-India Students’ Union, a leftist group that represents university students.
It urged students to wear black armbands and join online protests to put pressure on the government to delay the tests until infections fall.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also waded into the dispute, urging a postponement.
“It’s deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the COVID-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods,” Thunberg said on Twitter on Tuesday.
Parts of eastern India are also struggling with floods caused by annual monsoon rains.