Fears virus could spread quickly in student residences

The roadmap for the re-opening of third level recommends the wearing of masks in lecture halls when social distancing is not possible.

If Covid-19 enters student residences at universities it can spread quickly, according to new guidelines.

The roadmap for the re-opening of third level recommends the wearing of masks in lecture halls when social distancing is not possible.

It also recommends colleges to have alternative accommodation to deal with outbreaks in residences as they are "dense congregated settings" which are unsupervised, while students will be encouraged to look out for symptoms of others.

The Irish Universities Association say they are very detailed guidelines.

Director General Jim Miley believes students want to be in college as much as possible when the semester starts.

“We know that students are looking for as much on campus learning as possible, and this provides for that.

“Face coverings is one part of that, but we also have rotes for classes, staggered classes, smaller groups for certain instances.

“So there’s a range of measures there that will enable us to respond to the demand from students,” said Mr Miley. 

However, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Lorna Fitzpatrick says there was no input from students into shaping the guidelines.

This directly impacts students in so many different ways, that it seems a real shame to me and a real lost opportunity that students weren’t involved in the discussion at all.

“We are concerned that this was developed and put together by representative bodies for institutions and so on, but there was actually no student involvement in the process about developing this advice.

“This directly impacts students in so many different ways, that it seems a real shame to me and a real lost opportunity that students weren’t involved in the discussion at all.”

Elsewhere, secondary school teachers are calling for clarity regarding whether students will be required to wear face masks during classes.

General Secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, Kieran Christie says the advice about masks has changed over the last few weeks and guidance is needed for schools.

"There has been significant changes in public policy in the whole area of mask wearing. What we have asked is for the minister to go and ask the medical professionals to review the matter before the reopening of schools, so that the matter is cleared up once and for all."