KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) this afternoon announced that it has taken the initiative to order a temporary lockdown of all its campuses for three weeks from tomorrow onwards, due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
USM, which maintains campuses in Penang and Kelantan, said that this lockdown will be carried out in stages from March 17 (tomorrow) until April 5 (Sunday).
USM vice-chancellor Professor Faisal Rafiq Mahamd Adikan said that the first phase of March 17 to March 22 would see all staff at all the university’s schools and academic and research centres being required to work from home.
As for USM students, the university said it has decided to bring forward the mid-semester break initially scheduled from April 6 to April 12, and to have the break take place earlier on the new dates of March 30 to April 5.
“Students are not barred from going home during the mid-semester break. However, students are HIGHLY ADVISED to remain on campus throughout the duration of the break. This is meant to avoid further risk of the outbreak,” he said in a statement posted on USM’s official Facebook page.
USM said it will also execute a “self-decontamination process for all campuses in a progressive manner” to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its community.
Strict access rules
As part of lockdown measures, USM said it would restrict access into all USM campuses, with visitors who enter through the gates required to undergo safety and health screening checks at the checkpoint nearest to the entrance.
It then provided detailed information on access points to the university that will remain open during the lockdown, stating: “At the Main Campus, only TWO main gates would be opened (Sg Dua gate and Stadium gate). The gate leading to RST will be opened as well. At the Engineering Campus, ONLY the main gate would be opened. Access to the Health Campus and IPPT will remain open as usual.”
USM said it will establish drop-off and pick-up points for parents and visitors to pick up or drop off students, with parents and visitors disallowed from being within the compounds of USM students’ residence halls.
USM also said that all outlets selling food items at all its campuses are required to only prepare ready-packed food that customers can take away during the March 17 to March 22 period.
“All customers are PROHIBITED from dining/being present at the premises throughout this period,” it said.
Closure of USM facilities
USM said all library services will only be available until 2pm tomorrow (March 17), with the library to then be closed until further notice.
USM said it will close down its Museum and Gallery Tuanku Fauziah (MGTF), CEMACS and Archaeology Galleries to visitors and patrons from today (March 16) until April 30.
Public discouraged to use university mosque, campus facilities
USM said that the congregational Friday prayers would not be performed this week (March 20) at USM’s Masjid Al-Malik Khalid in Penang and that its members are requested to do this at their own homes.
As for the daily fardhu or obligatory prayers five times a day for Muslims, USM said congregation members of the mosque are required to bring their own prayer mats and telekung or female prayer robes.
“Those from outside of USM are highly discouraged from coming to the masjid to perform their fardhu prayers throughout this period,” the statement said.
USM also said the public is not allowed to carry out transactions at the banks, post office and other public service facilities located within the campus, urging them to seek other alternatives outside the USM campus instead during the lockdown.
Having outlined its detailed list of nine initiatives as part of its lockdown announcement, USM requested for all its campus community members to remain patient at this time of distress and to maintain togetherness in facing the Covid-19 outbreak.
“All initiatives listed above are measures executed for precautionary and containment purposes for the next 3 weeks, to prevent the outbreak from spreading, as part of the university’s social responsibility (CSR), containment and social distancing exercise,” it said.
USM had early yesterday morning published a detailed list of some of its 16 initiatives to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak, including a special allocation of RM350,000 to deal with Covid-19, replacing all lectures with online learning from March 15, and banning all staff and students from overseas official trips and urging the postponement of non-official travel both locally and internationally.
Earlier today, Malay Mail published a compilation of the measures that all the 20 public universities had separately announced this month up to noon today on their measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. The full list can be read here “Covid-19: What are Malaysia’s public universities doing? Online classes and more”.