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Universities put Irish students in Italy on high alert as number of coronavirus cases there rockets

More than 10 people have died from the virus in Italy as confirmed cases reach over 280.

Image: IPA/ABACA

IRISH STUDENTS STUDYING on Erasmus programmes in Italy have been put on alert by universities as the coronavirus continues to spread across Europe.

Italy’s Civil Defence reported a surge in the number of confirmed cases of the virus, first reported in the northern parts of the country, but which has spread to southern parts in recent days. 

Yesterday, the death toll climbed to 10 and the number of confirmed cases nationwide reached over 280. A number of other European countries, including Switzerland, Croatia and Austria, have also reported cases.

In light of this, a number of universities in the northern region of Italy have cancelled classes and almost a dozen towns have gone into lockdown in a bid to stifle the spread of the novel Covid-19. 

Universities in Ireland have now reached out to their Italy-based students in recent days, urging them to take the advice of local authorities, and advising that college officials will be back in contact if the number of confirmed cases continues to rise. 

University College Dublin has more than 30 students studying at a number of universities across the country, including in northern parts where the outbreak is most concentrated. 

A spokesperson for UCD said “some classes may have been cancelled” and “at the moment, we don’t have full clarity as to whether classes will resume”. 

“Our advice to students is to keep monitoring whether classes will resume next week, pay close attention to local updates and the advice to students from universities and the national health services in Italy, and to adhere strictly to local guidelines issued,” they said.  

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and if the situation changes, we will be back in touch with them directly with further advice and guidelines.”

The advice was specifically issued to students in universities around Milan, Venice and Turin in the north of the country. 

Another 22 Irish students are currently studying in Italy through their courses at Trinity College Dublin. The university has partnerships with 12 colleges in Italy under its Erasmus programme.

TCD is not asking students to return to Ireland but a spokesperson said it is monitoring the situation as it develops. 

“All those students – and indeed all students at Trinity – have been contacted by the Secretary to the College in relation to the situation,” they said.

“At present we are not requiring students to return from Italy but we will continue to monitor things very closely as things evolve and we are following recommendations made by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Italy. As always, the health and well-being of our staff and students is paramount.”

National University of Ireland, Galway confirmed 19 of its students are on Erasmus in Italy but added that none of those students are in towns which have been placed on lockdown. 

“All students in Italy were contacted on Monday by the university and advised to pay close attention o the guidance of their host universities and organisations, and to follow all instructions given by them or by the local authorities in Italy,” a spokesperson said. 

“Any students who are due to travel to the affected regions of Italy within the next week are advised not to now travel. NUI Galway’s priority is the health and well-being of its students, and is following closely the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the HSE.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has requested that all Irish citizens refrain from travelling to the 10 towns in Northern Italy which have been put into lockdown by Italian authorities.

Maynooth University is also partnered with Italian universities under the Erasmus programme but it did not confirm what advice they had for students at the time of publication. 

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