Dr. Samia Altaf Leads the 'Health and Safety Hour' for the LUMS Community
The first session of the ‘Health and Safety Hour’ was held on September 25, in which the Director of Campus Health and Safety and Professor of Practice in Public Health at LUMS, Dr. Samia Altaf, addressed the concerns of the LUMS community with regards to the phased opening of the campus.
Phase one of the campus reopening began on September 15 and 160 students were invited to come to campus, out of which about 107 students are at present living in the hostels. Dr. Altaf gave an overview of the systems and processes in place to minimise the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Through a triage system, students inform the wardens in case they experience any flu-like symptoms, which then triggers a series of steps. “The Health Centre is notified, who then make arrangements to come and examine the student. We move the student into isolation and the staff has to equip and protect themselves with protective gear. Once the doctor examines the student, he makes the recommendation and they are treated symptomatically.”
A PCR test is done on any student that presents with symptoms. “Two students did present symptoms of Coronavirus in the past two weeks but tested negative. Both isolation facilities, one for males and the other for females worked well in those situations,” she said. Dr. Altaf added that the support system in place including the Health Centre doctors and the staff at the Office of Student Affairs and General Administration Services are doing a remarkable job of taking care of the students and keeping the system running.
Dr. Altaf also advised the students to thoroughly read the SOPs provided to them. “From a small sample of students I have taken a survey of, it seems they have not read the SOPs. I think that is a huge gap in their knowledge. We have our strategy and SOPs in place, which is a dynamic document the student community members have access to. That document is the framework we use to see what needs to be done. Many people have worked hard on it and given their input including the students.”
The Health and Safety Committee under Dr. Altaf’s guidance has also trained 160 janitorial staff, and 130 of the service staff that include staff that come into the LUMS Pepsi Dining Centre (PDC), that maintain electricity and water, and the teaboys, office staff and security staff.
The need to think differently and find a way to protect ourselves and each other is essential, said Dr. Altaf. “One thing I want people to take away from a forum like this is to keep in mind the people who are less fortunate, and less strong as we are and have vulnerabilities that we have no idea of. This is a time to seriously think about creating a community in which we pull and push together for each other, especially those who are weaker and vulnerable than ourselves. This is something students should also keep in mind because in a few years they will also be in positions where they will be asked to make decisions like these.”
Dr. Altaf elaborated that the management is working round the clock to identify missing links in the strategy and is coming up with solutions. “For example, under what circumstances do we allow students permission to go off campus, how do we do it, what are the implications, what are the consequences; these are some details that are not in place yet,” she explained.
Associate Professor at the School of Science and Engineering, Dr. Shaper Mirza took this thought forward and said that the danger has not yet passed. “Thinking that the virus is gone is being very naïve. There will always be a small population of people who will carry the virus and then there are groups of people that are very high risk for acquiring the virus. The spike is gone but we still have a small number of cases that are incubating in our population so we should always have our guard up just to make sure we don’t get the infection.”
The session ended with Dean Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Ali Khan reiterating the need to be cautious. “We’re being thankful for where we are, but we’re also keeping our feet on the ground. I do want to thank Dr. Samia for the enormous amount of work she has put in; her team, and all the people who are supporting her, including the students on campus. They have done a fantastic job so far.”
The Health and Safety Hour will be a weekly session that will be held every Friday so that the LUMS community can keep the conversation, regarding safety procedures and SOPs on campus, open and transparent.