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UL to set up test centre after rise in Covid-19 cases among students living near campus

The cases are “largely based around simple household visits”.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths

ON-CAMPUS TESTING at the University of Limerick (UL) is to be set up after an increased number of Covid-19 cases among students living close to the university grounds.

Covid-19 testing will be provided to students for free by HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare “in a bid to prevent further transmission among the student population”, the university said in a statement.

Students can register online for a test without needing to show symptoms. The testing centre is being set up on the UL campus this week and all tests will be processed by the HSE.

UL said that the Department of Public Health Mid-West has seen evidence in recent weeks of an increase in Covid-19 cases among students living in the immediately vicinity of the campus.

It said these are “largely based around simple household visits”. 

UL President, Professor Kerstin Mey, said the univeristy wants to act “swiftly now at the first signs of a possible increase of cases among students living off campus”. 

“We have reduced on campus activity to approximately 2% of what would normally take place so there are barely any students or staff on campus under Level 5 restrictions. Where we can put any further measure in place to protect our own and the surrounding communities we will do so,” she said.

Students have been contacted with full details on how to register online for an on-campus test. 

In December, UL set up on-campus Covid-19 testing for students who wished to receive a test before travelling home for the Christmas period.

Dr Marie Casey, a specialist in public health medicine, said there is “now a high level of risk of transmission in the student community” due, in part, to the more transmissible UK variant. 

“Public Health Mid-West is seeing a noticeable increase in Covid-19 clusters among the student population, particularly in housing estates in the Castletroy area with links to some households in Limerick city, as a result of household transmission in the past three weeks,” Dr Casey said.

“The student population is unique insofar that they can often live with a number of housemates in large households. Some students have part-time jobs, and many will go home on the weekends to visit family and friends.”

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She said there is an “increased risk of infection” because many young people may not show Covid-19 symptoms while carrying the virus.

“Outbreaks arising out of household transmission is starting to become a worrying trend across the Mid-West, at a crucial time when we need to suppress the virus’ spread in the community,” Dr Casey said. 

She said everyone in the region should avoid household visits and social gatherings of any kind. 

“We have seen far too many times how a single episode of social contact has led to serious illness and death,” she said. 

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