FACING COVID-19: HOW USM NAILED IT

USM, PENANG, December 2020 - COVID-19 had turned the world upside down, as the outbreak went global in 2020.

Communities, organisations and nations across the world scrambled to seek solutions.

Some stumbled, others fumbled; yet there are those who have managed in their own way on how things were handled.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) went to ‘war’ and coordinated most efforts from its Nerve Centre (COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre) at the Main Campus; meetings were held, decisions were made, announcements and procedures were drafted and sent through various channels including social media and actions followed through almost every day.

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Note: First COVID-19 crisis management meeting chaired by the Vice-Chancellor in early March 2020. 

Initiatives such as setting up a COVID-19 Fund, preparing equipment and infrastructure for scanning/monitoring/observation, providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for frontliners and ensuring that others concerned would be well-cared for were taken, all involving USM staff and students, as well as alumni members and industry players.

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The initiatives were coordinated on all four campuses: the Main (on Penang island), Engineering (on Penang mainland), Health (in Kelantan) and the Advanced Medical and Dental Institute (at Bertam), as well as the USM offshore campus (USM-KLE) in Belgaum, Karnataka, India.

Though distance separates all the campuses, all acted in unison while also taking localised measures. All the while, everyone kept in touch and was kept abreast on all initiatives taken.

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Frontliners comprising of staff from selected departments were mobilised to plan and execute every necessary action.

‘Armed’ with PPEs, masks and sanitisers, most frontliners went to work, doing screenings and tests as well as monitoring to keep the virus in check.

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Face masks, face shields all ready.

Sanitisers, social distancing all set.

SOP reminders, banners and even billboard notices were put up as ‘war banners’ to show that the University means business in fighting against the outbreak. #wewillnailthis became the hashtag sign for all.

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The main aim was to safeguard the campus community, and at the same time ensuring their welfare is also cared for.

As movements in and out were restricted, students were provided with the necessary provisions while staying in their ‘desasiswa’, especially food and other daily needs.

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Local students were later sent home in batches in buses under strict SOPs, whenever the situation permitted, all the while following the directives from the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) and Ministry of Health (MoH).

The spirit of volunteerism and charity was evident as the University stepped up initiatives to keep everyone safe and well-provided.

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Donations in cash filled up the University COVID-19 Fund, thanks to the campus community, alumni, industry partners and the general public, while food items and other provisions were donated in kind.

USM has so far been able to keep the pandemic under control from spreading among its community members.

However, it is not yet the time to breathe a sigh of relief.

Meetings are still being held regularly at the Nerve Centre, although currently the situation is seemingly more manageable.

Staff members were encouraged to work from home (WFH), with an online registration platform (SKKF) to facilitate the process. Students can choose to stay on campus or stay home, with procedures to facilitate that too.

Life continues on campus, albeit with fewer ‘participants’. Others have ‘moved’ online, holding and joining webinars, MOUs as well as trainings and classes.

The year 2020 will come to an end soon, but there is still uncertainty regarding the pandemic lurking in the horizon.

COVID-19 does not come with terms and conditions. No data or statistics provided beforehand. It arrives only to cause disruption.

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‘We Lead’ will always be in our minds, as we make more sustainable preparations for the next wave.

And all the while, the teaching and learning process continues.

Text: Mazlan Hanafi Basharudin/Photos: Ebrahim Abdul Manan

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