With Over 40 Deaths In A Month, Aligarh Muslim University Fears A Virulent ‘AMU Strain’ Of Coronavirus

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Chief minister Yogi Adityanath visited the university to review the situation on Thursday.

Authorities say that the lack of vaccination could be a reason behind the deaths. The vaccination drive at the campus has been going on since December.

A spate of deaths at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh has raised concerns and fears of a particularly deadly variant of the coronavirus in the campus. Some at the campus are even calling it “AMU strain”.

As per reports, at least 44 employees of the university have died in a month, including 19 professors and 25 non-teaching staff. Not all deaths are Covid-related but most are suspected to be.

Newspapers are reporting that the cemetery at the campus is running out of space for bodies.

India Today has quoted Proctor Professor Mohammad Waseem Ali as saying, “In the past 20 days, we have lost almost 16 members of our faculty, eminent teachers, including the chairman of the medicine department, dean of law faculty and many others. As we come to terms with this loss, there is a sense of fear and restlessness.”

Authorities are concerned if there is a more virulent strain in the university area that is causing multiple deaths. University vice chancellor Tariq Mansoor has written to the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for a special study for genome sequencing.

“This [the deaths] 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," Monsoor wrote to ICMR last week.

NDTV reported on 11 May that samples have been sent to Delhi's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology to conduct genome sequencing to identify the particular strain(s).

On Wednesday, Lok Sabha MP and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Danish Ali urged prime minister Narendra Modi to send a central team to the campus to help fight the “virus variant”.

Danish Ali wrote to PM, “Apart from being a Member of Parliament, I am also a Member of AMU Court, and a lot of AMU alumni from all over the country and abroad, are expressing their concern and urging to save this great educational institution which recently completed 100 years of its existence and you yourself addressed the centenary celebrations as a chief guest, in December, last year.”

Authorities have expressed concerns that the high mortality rate could be a result of lack of vaccination. Mohammed Waseem Ali recently has told the media that “hardly anyone” has received a jab of Covid-19 vaccine at the university, and “a couple of professors” who did, have recovered.

Waseem said that the vaccination drive has been going on at the campus since December.

On Thursday, chief minister Yogi Adityanath visited AMU’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC), which is reportedly one fo the largest hospitals in Aligarh and caters to four neighbouring districts.

The official handle of AMU put out a press release regarding the visit, saying that the V-C requested for continuous oxygen supply and Remdesivir injections.

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The university also sent out a press release a day earlier, requesting the keep the celebrations of Eid (Friday) home-bound.

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As per reports, around 30,000 students study in AMU. Around 16,000 of them stay in 19 hostels. There are about 5,000 non-teaching staff and around 1,700 teaching staff at AMU.

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