Following a government request, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) have mandated that all higher education institutions (HEIs) apply to “enhanced public health protection measures”, in a bid to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.
These measures were placed on Dublin-based colleges and universities last week, as Dublin was moved to Level 4 of the government’s Covid-19 five-tier plan.
In a press release this evening, IUA stated: “All universities to introduce enhanced measures in response to increased Covid-19 incidence.”
“Due to rising Covid-19 numbers across the country, at the request of government, all HEIs will now move to the enhanced public health protection measures applied in Dublin-based HEIs last week,” the press release added.
The statement continued: “While the safety of staff and students has always been a priority of the new academic year, the focus of the next 2-3 weeks is on limiting the cross country movement of students and avoiding congregation of large groups on campus.”
Following new government guidelines, IUA universities plan to make further health provisions in their institutions, such as using “discretion when deciding between onsite and remote for the scheduling of particular activities and favour remote delivery if feasible during this period”.
Alongside this, on-campus classes “will be minimised with priority given to teaching and learning that can only take place on-site”.
Such teaching includes small group teaching and research in laboratories, practical tuition and workshops, according to IUA.
The new measures will also “include limited planned on-site attendance” for other priority student events. IUA stated that this “may include small tutorials and elements of first-year orientation or induction which cannot be undertaken online”, as long as they are provided on a “staggered” basis.
“University libraries will remain open with strict social distancing protocols and entry registration,” IUA stated.
All research activities on campus are to resume as normal, while social and club activities on-campus will be suspended until further notice.
IUA claimed universities will also “enhance” any protection measures such as more extensive wearing of face masks in certain settings.
IUA stated: “In addition, the universities will ensure that all necessary health protection measures are in place and that there will be clear communication to students and staff in this regard.”
This is underpinned by national guidance for the further and higher education sectors and by more detailed implementation guidelines developed by public health experts,” the statement continued.
“Individual universities will communicate revised plans to students and staff. It is anticipated that these additional measures will be reviewed after an initial period in view of evolving public health advice.”
The IUA claimed to also be collaborating with other “sectoral stakeholders” and with the Department of Further, Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to finalise a Covid-19 response plan to deal with any incidence of Covid-19 that may occur.