As of midnight, on Friday the 7th of August, residents of Laois, Offaly and Kildare are facing greater restrictions on their movement as another lockdown has been imposed for a two-week period which ends this Saturday. This localised lockdown period is to be reviewed by the government on Thursday.

People in the three affected counties are only allowed to travel within their own county, unless it is for work or medical appointments, or for family reasons. Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, called on cafes, restaurants, and pubs in the three counties to close for two weeks as well as cinemas, theatres, museums and gyms. Sporting events have been cancelled. Garda checkpoints have been placed in and around Kildare, Laois, and Offaly to ensure that residents abide by new restrictions. Those who need to get to other destinations through these counties will be able to do so but will be asked not to stop while travelling through these counties.

With only five weeks until the Autumn trimester is to commence and cases around Ireland continuing to rise daily, these new restrictions are expected to affect UCD students planning to move to Dublin for the upcoming academic year. Saoirse Duignan, who is a stage 2 English student from Kildare, told The College Tribune that for students from restricted counties to continue to achieve their academic potential, “face-to-face portions of the courses could be better facilitated with higher numbers of online staff so that students are not in any way disadvantaged because they live in these areas”.

Saoirse also stated that she would rather move to Dublin again as “[I] wouldn’t want to endanger anyone” by commuting because “Kildare has such a high number of cases at the moment.” UCD Students from these counties could be at a greater disadvantage compared to their peers due to restrictions so having adequate support-services for those students “who must learn primarily online are essential”.

Micháel O’Connor, a stage 2 Science student from Kildare, is unsure whether he would move to Dublin for the year “as most of [my] course will be delivered online and I don’t see the point.” Micháel is also of the opinion that should county restrictions continue, UCD should make it “mandatory for lecturers to record their lecture” as “having someone explaining the material is necessary rather than simply posting the notes”.  

UCD Students’ Union President, Conor Anderson, has commented on the matter stating “students in the affected counties should follow public health instructions and stay in place, obviously, and we are still more than a month away from the beginning of term.” He noted that “there are provisions for vulnerable/immuno-compromised students who need to take classes remotely” and believes that these provisions “would extend to students who are prevented from attending class due to a lockdown.” He concluded that “how effective those provisions will be is yet to be seen, but they are at least in place”.

Ruairí Power, UCD SU Welfare Officer commented: “A rise in cases in the midlands is difficult news for individuals affected and frustrating for students in the region.” He identified that the “challenge for the University is to ensure adequate resources for online/blended learning in the event more localised lockdowns take effect as cases rise”.

UCD announced two weeks ago that the University will follow a blended-learning model with face-to-face learning and online delivery of lectures.  The 2 metre social-distancing rule may be reduced to 1 metre if 2 metres is not possible, provided students wear face-coverings and follow respiratory health-guidelines.

The government has announced new restrictions on Wednesday evening following a surge of 190 cases, urging greater vigilance in following public health guidelines.  

Sarah Connaughton – Reporter