Level 5 restrictions, part of the Government’s ‘Living With Covid Plan’ took effect in the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, October 21st 2020. With many businesses closing and people asked to only travel within 5 kilometres from their homes, only leaving for exercise and the provision of essential goods. Simon Harris, Minister for Higher Education, confirmed that all further and higher education institutions should ‘continue to deliver the vast majority of classes online.’ Minister Harris did go on to say, however, that the Level 5 measures adopted designate higher and further education as ‘essential insofar as onsite presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely.’ He acknowledged that this has been a ‘very difficult time for students and for those working in further and higher education’ and concluded that the position of programmes operating primarily online will be reviewed with relevant stakeholders and a position will be communicated for next semester ‘before the end of the year.’
UCC Students’ Union (UCCSU) President, Naoise Crowley, confirmed to all students that Boole Library, as well as designates study spaces on campus, will remain open throughout the increased restrictions.
UCCSU have acutely focused on supporting students throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. One such initiative that UCCSU recently accomplished was a refund of rent to UCC Students, living in UCC Campus Accommodation, who wished to return home due to a lack of campus hours or any other reason. This was seen as a huge accomplishment, which came to light on UCCSU social media platforms on Sunday, 18th October, just before the Government confirmed Level 5 restrictions were to come into force from Wednesday 21st October.
On social media, UCCSU President, Naoise Crowley, said he was ‘very happy to have gotten this over the line this week.’ Mr. Crowley continued by calling it ‘the fairest and most sensible outcome given all the uncertainty and struggles many students are facing.’ UCCSU Education Officer, Eimear Curtin, expressed her congratulations to her Union colleagues who had worked on the initiative, whilst encouraging students to do what was in their best interests. Ms. Curtin urged students, in campus accommodation, to be supported in their decision to ‘be wherever you feel safest, wherever you can study best and wherever you want to be.’
In addition to this, UCCSU also launched ‘My Covid Plan’ over the past week. UCCSU Commercial and Fundraising Officer, Beth O’Reilly, took to social media to launch the plan. According to the UCCSU Officer, a ‘Covid Plan’ is a plan you set out with your housemates, around ‘what you will do if someone in the household becomes infected or a close contact of someone with coronavirus.’ Some actions that UCCSU recommend to proactively engage in, involve stocking up on some essentials in your bedroom, setting some money aside for ordering meals to be delivered and cordoning off a bathroom should someone contract the virus. Amongst these practical steps, another element of the campaign is making sure that UCC students know to call Student Health, if they receive a positive test result for the Coronavirus. In a video circulated on UCCSU social media platforms, students from a range of backgrounds in student life, concisely explain when to use one’s ‘Covid Plan.’
A point consistently underscored in the promotional video, is that a ‘Covid Plan’ is not just for when you receive a positive test result. Should you experience any symptoms, the most common of which include a temperature, cough, difficulty breathing or change in your sense of taste or smell, you should follow your ‘Covid Plan’ and self-isolate, whilst waiting for a test. If you test negative, you still need to follow your ‘Covid Plan’ for self-isolation until 48 hours after you last experienced symptoms.
Should you receive a positive test result, you should let UCC Student Health know. They can be contacted on (021) 490 2311. The Covid Tracker app can be downloaded by searching https://www.covidtracker.ie/.