Due to a recent outbreak of Covid-19 at the University of Limerick (UL), the university is to begin a round of testing on campus.
This testing is being led by HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare and the National Ambulance Service in partnership with the Department of Public Health Mid-West.
The amount of students recommended for testing has increased exponentially since a few weeks ago, based on a statement by a spokesman for the Department of Public Health Mid-West. The spokesperson told Independent.ie that it “has recorded more than 200 cases associated with the current student outbreak in Limerick since early January, the majority of cases were recorded in the past two to three weeks”.
Dr. Ronan Ryder, Director of the Student Health Centre at UL, stated that “the vast majority of the student population have done exceptionally well to protect themselves since Christmas”. However, he also stated in an interview with Independent.ie, “when case numbers start to rise, it does take some time to bring them back under control.”
He continued: “So, I am encouraging all students in the Castletroy area to avail of testing, and to avoid household visits and socialising so that we can manage this disease in our community.”
“If you are a student in the area, and you are concerned about symptoms or you are a close contact, your first port of call should be the Student Health Centre or your own GP, and the test is free for everybody.”
A spokesperson for Public Health Mid-West stated that “the test is free and you do not need symptoms to avail of it”.
Public Medical Health Specialist Dr. Marie Casey stated that there are a series of “behavioural patterns” that have been contributing to an increase in cases. According to Dr. Casey, students have a unique risk profile as they live in large households, travel to and from their family homes, and may have a part-time job. With a common lack of symptoms in cases among students, there is a risk that becomes worse when students socialize in multiple households and meet beyond their social bubble.
Dr Casey stated: “Our contact tracers are seeing new positive cases identifying an excessive number of close contacts outside their households. This is problematic as, largely speaking, your only close contacts should be your own household.”
“We are also noticing that some people are building wider ‘social bubbles’, whereby some people within the same household are exposed to separate social settings, such as visiting partners or classmates.”
She continued: “While we are managing an outbreak among the student population, we are seeing similar patterns of inter-household and family outbreaks in housing estates and communities across Limerick and in the Mid-West, which is due to increased levels of social mixing.”
Multiple students have also tested positive for Covid-19 in the Trinity accommodation, Goldsmith Hall. All of the student residents and staff have been being tested. This testing took place at the Aviva Stadium.