New measures announced to further stop the spread of COVID-19 could potentially impact University College Dublin’s [UCD] plans to reopen at the end of September, with knock on effects for society and student life.

Following a cabinet meeting yesterday, the government announced their decision to implement a number of measures which will “limit congregation and social interaction among households”. These new measures, which will be in place until September 13th, include more restricted limits on indoor and social gatherings, which could thwart UCD’s plans to reopen its campus to students for the Autumn trimester.

At the beginning of August, UCD students received an email from Registrar and Deputy President Mark Rogers updating them on the plans to reopen the university in September. A start date of Monday September 21st  was given to all students, except first years who would start a week later. The e-mail also stated UCD would aim to provide “as much face to face teaching as possible”, with a figure of 30%-70% of normal classroom time estimated for undergraduate students.

However, the e-mail made clear that these plans to re-open were based on the 50 person capacity limit for indoor events in effect at the time, with the acknowledgement that this was due to increase to 100 in Phase 4 of the Roadmap for reopening. Student services and campus facilities were also predicted to reopen in line with Phase 4, set to begin on August 31st. It is unclear to what extent these new measures and the delay in moving to stage 4 will affect UCD’s previous plan for reopening.

Campus access is just one aspect of UCD students’ lives that may be affected by these new measures. Matches for UCD sports teams will have to take place behind closed doors, with trainings limited to groups of 15 players; gym and dance classes will be restricted to 6 people per class. 

Use of public transport is being discouraged, which many students rely on for transport to and from college. There is also to be an “enhanced level of enforcement” to ensure that organisers of social activities adhere to guidelines, which may result in a crackdown on social gatherings and house parties.  For UCD staff, the government is recommending remote work if at all possible, which may be a curveball as faculty prepares for reopening.

The government says it will publish a Roadmap for Resilience and Recovery in advance of 13th September, which they hope will “bring some greater certainty to that society and business can at least plan forward”.

Sadhbh O’Muirí – Reporter