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File phot of Trinity College Dublin. Shutterstock

Students encouraged to keep their social life 'safe, small and distant' in new campaign

The USI aims to make sure students stay up to date with public health guidelines.

THE ACTING CHIEF chief medical officer has encouraged students to form social bubbles, as he lends his support to a new campaign aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 in third level environments.

‘Keep it Small, Keep it Safe, Keep your Distance’ is the message the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) hopes to get across to the thousands of people starting or returning to higher education this autumn.

The campaign will be conducted over social media, and has also received the support of the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris.

Concerns have been raised that the return of students this month could exacerbate the spread of the virus.

The government on Friday asked all higher education institutions to deliver lectures online where possible. Students have been asked to not visit campus unless absolutely necessary, such as for practical and lab-based classes.

The disease has been promdominatley circulating among younger people for some time now, although the number of cases among older demographics who are more susceptible to serve illness from Covid-19 continues to rise.

A number of countries have experienced clusters connected to universities. Scotland has banned students from going to pubs, and an outbreak at a Swiss university lead to 2,500 people being placed in quarantine.

The USI’s new campaign is part of efforts to prevent a repeat of scenes like this in Ireland.

“For younger people in particular, this pandemic has impacted on your education, your relationships and your social lives,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said in a statement.

You have all been committed throughout the pandemic to following public health advice – and for that I thank you. But the disease is continuing to spread disproportionately among younger people, and so, I am asking you to stick with this and continue to follow the public health advice.

“Be a role model for others. Limit the number of people you meet, try and meet the same small group of people all the time, maintain two-metre physical distance, wear a face covering, wash your hands well and often.

“Together, every safe behaviour counts.”

The advice around sticking to socialising with the same handful of people – known as a social bubble – has been recommended at National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) meetings for the general population as well.

NO FEE MIN HARRIS GOV BUILDINGS JB1 Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris.

Minister Simon Harris said this was a difficult time for young people, who have already missed many milestones due to restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

We are asking students to follow three simple messages – keep your gatherings small, keep yourself and those around you safe and keep your distance.
Throughout this pandemic, our young people have been leaders and I urge them to stick with us, to hold firm, and help us ensure a safe resumption of the academic year.

While the campaign is focused on encouraging students to stay up to date with and stick to public health guidelines, it is also aimed at encouraging socialising in a safe and responsible manner.

“We all have a part to play in limiting the spread of the virus, but we are also concerned about the impact of loneliness or seclusion on students,” USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick said.

“So, depending on where we are in the country and the restrictions in place at the time, we can meet friends and family providing it’s done in a safe way. This will help support our mental health while reducing the risk of spreading the virus.” 

The government has committed an extra €5 million to mental health supports for students.

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