Government Must Address Campus COVID Risks

Today, we learned of Covid outbreaks on campus at Scottish and English universities. 500 students are in isolation in Dundee Halls, as well as eighty students and seven staff infected at Liverpool University. How do Government plan to prevent this from happening here?

Tens of thousands of students will be crisscrossing Ireland from this week to attend Dublin institutions and other colleges. Many of these are young people who will be living away from home for the first time. Considering that Dr. Ronan Glen tells us that COVID is disproportionately spread by younger people, is it realistic to expect them to adhere to the rules on and off campus?

I asked the experts at today’s Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee if they had advice for government in relation to the handling of COVID at third level institutions. Do they think face-to-face teaching may have to end at least temporarily?

TCD Associate Professor of Biochemistry Tomás Ryan commented that classes had successfully moved online during the lock down and that structures including blended models, reduced contact, and low attendance lectures will be utilised. However, he also suggested that the Irish patterns of not living on campus and then returning home at weekends ‘pose very significant challenges to any regionalised strategy’. Third level institutions such as Trinity College are piloting ‘blanket testing’ to combat Covid according to Professor Ryan, ‘but that is not going to be a panacea for the challenges that we are facing.’

Circumstances that expose students and their families to infection must be minimised. The creep of Covid from campus to county cannot be allowed.