Harris and HSE chief warn against blaming young people for spread of Covid-19

Harris And Hse Chief Warn Against Blaming Young People For Spread Of Covid-19
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Vivienne Clarke

Warnings have been issued about the blaming of younger people for the spread of Covid-19, by both Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris and HSE chief executive Paul Reid.

It comes as video footage showing a group of young people drinking and partying on the streets of Killarney, Co Kerry was widely shared on social media over the weekend.

Minister Harris said there would always be people “who do stupid things” in reference to the scenes of revelry, but added that we should not lose sight of the fact that the majority of people are doing everything that has been asked of them.

He told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that it was not one generation, young people, who were the issue: “There were no students in Clifden.”

Regarding the “Golfgate” controversy of last week, Mr Harris said what had happened in Clifden was a breach in public trust that had created an “us versus them” attitude “that we just can’t have”.

Return to college


Mr Harris said most students were responsible and concerned about the health of their parents and grandparents: “College life is going to be difficult. We have to recognise that the virus is going to be with us for some time.”

He said there would be strict rules when students return to college, but it would vary from institution to institution. The priority would be first year students, he said.

When it came to college accommodation, authorities were being asked to group students who study the same subjects to limit contacts, while some third level institutions are introducing flexible accommodation where students pay only for the days they are on site.

Mr Harris said he did not want “any messing around” as some students had been treated “shabbily” at the start of lockdown.

The Minister also pointed out that the SUSI grant system would make allowances for students whose family circumstances had changed because of Covid-19, while the student assistance fund had been doubled and €15 million had been granted to purchase 17,000 laptops for students who need them.

HSE Chief

HSE chief executive Paul Reid has also warned against the targeting of young people, saying that while the scenes on the street in Killarney were unfortunate, he did not want to see young people being blamed.

There needed to be a redoubling of efforts to win their hearts and minds, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“As we head into the winter we need to be communicating to people with hope and confidence,” he said.

The country had learned a lot about how to protect the vulnerable during the pandemic. The impact of lockdown “was massive for us.” But the country needed a functioning economy, a functioning society and a functioning education system, he said.

“We need to give people hope and confidence, not fear. We are not on the verge of a second lockdown, we are dealing with spikes.

“The strongest message is that we have to live differently, behave differently,” said Mr Reid.

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