Covid-19: Gardaí to patrol UL to deter student gatherings

Immediate fines to be issued for breaches of regulations as university grapples with virus

Prof Kerstin Mey: ‘Vast majority of you doing your best to abide by the current restrictions.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

Prof Kerstin Mey: ‘Vast majority of you doing your best to abide by the current restrictions.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Gardaí are to patrol the University of Limerick (UL) campus to deter students from gathering in each other’s houses.

On-the-spot fines will be issued for detected breaches of the regulations. A €100 fine can be issued for leaving home without a reasonable excuse, a €500 fine can be issued to anyone arranging a gathering and a €150 fine can be issued to anyone attending a house party.

The university is struggling to contain a spike in cases with the number of students being referred for testing rising from five two weeks ago to 50 this week following “household outbreaks in off-campus student accommodation”.

UL president Prof Kerstin Mey said there was “huge disappointment among both staff and students” about a report on RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime programme on Wednesday, on which students admitted openly they were mixing with other households.

One student said: “What do you expect? College students to stay in their house doing their college work alone with [their] house-mates?”

Another said he was not worried as Covid-19 “does not hit young people too hard”.

Prof Mey told students in a campus email that it reinforced a “growing public concern that our student body is acting irresponsibly and spreading the virus, despite the vast majority of you doing your best to abide by the current restrictions.

“So to the minority of you who still believe there is no harm in continuing to gather – you are endangering yourselves, your friends, your families, your community and your university.

“This is a highly infectious disease that has shattered millions of lives around the world. I know it is hard for you to live under almost constant public health restrictions – but Covid-19 does have an impact on young people and can indeed have devastating effects. We require you to abide by the restrictions and, as a UL student, to respect the community around you.”

She added that all UL students are encouraged to register for the free on-campus Covid-19 testing.

In response to UL’s approach, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said: “The universities have been really proactive in the approaches they are taking, not just on the campus but also off campus.

“We have a strong evidence of moving between apartments. We want to commend the colleges for their activities.”