EghtesadOnline: Iran began holding its largest university entrance exam on Wednesday morning amid concerns over a recent spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“Health protocols were followed more strictly and were handled with more experience,” head of the National Organization for Educational Testing, Ebrahim Khodaei, was quoted as saying by IRNA.
This is the second year that authorities hold the Iranian university entrance exam, known as Konkour (from the French concours) amid the coronavirus pandemic. Over 1.1 million students take the test in enclosed spaces.
Health authorities postponed last year’s exam several times in response to protests by students’ families worried about the safety of their children. According to a screening by the Health Ministry carried out two weeks after the exam, no student caught the virus last year.
Khodaei pointed out, “This year, we increased test centers from 3,200 to more than 3,500, and cities where the exam is held from 390 to 414.”
The four-day exam will conclude on Saturday and the Health Ministry plans to contact every student 14 days after Konkour to check if safety measures had prevented transmission.
Some 63 cities across the country have been placed on red alert as the infectious disease spreads from southern regions to central and northern areas.
Iran registered 11,700 confirmed cases and 137 fatalities on Wednesday.
Health protocols devised for this year’s Konkour include mandatory masks, disinfectants, good ventilation systems and distance between student chairs, an authority with the Health Ministry, Mohsen Farhadi, said.
Farhadi noted that they have made preparations to allow students diagnosed with Covid-19 to take the test. “If pupils infected with the virus are hospitalized, they will take the test in the hospital.”
He added, “If they feel alright, they can take the test in the test centers in isolation.”
The Health Ministry has also stationed health inspectors in every center to ensure that coronavirus safety measures are fully observed.
All test centers have been disinfected and candidates are instructed to gradually leave exam centers to avoid crowing.
Since last week, Iran has been hit with a fifth wave of the coronavirus outbreak, sparking fears that holding Konkour could escalate the situation.
Of the 1.1 million students competing for university seats, over 662,000 are women (59.55%) and 449,000 are men (40.45%). The number of applicants have dropped by 35,000, compared to last year.
Test results are scheduled to be announced in late July.