Colleges told to minimise student-staff interaction under new Covid-19 guidelines for third level

Colleges told to minimise student-staff interaction under new Covid-19 guidelines for third level
File Picture of UCC's quad.

Classes or lectures should be less than two hours long, and face-to-face meetings for staff and students should be minimised when colleges return, the Department of Further and Higher Education has recommended.

Temperature checks on campus have been ruled out and face coverings may be required in certain instances, the department also said.

Government advice published today on the return to third-level education recommends that the two-metre physical distancing rule remain in place across campuses in most instances.

Staggered lecture times, enhanced cleaning routines, new advice for student accommodation, and protocol for international students are some of the areas addressed directly by the framework.

International students will have to self-isolate for 14-days in line with the current advice when they first arrive here.

“Universities with halls of residence may be able to facilitate this self-isolation period for international students and visitors," according to the guide. 

"However, this is a matter or the individual institution to decide as to whether this is feasible or not." 

If a person develops Covid-19, anyone who spends a cumulative period of more than two hours in one day enclosed with them is considered a close contact, the guide states. Therefore, teaching scenarios of less than two hours, with appropriate physical distancing are recommended.

Longer class times may be permitted if institutions have assessed the risk and have appropriate safeguards in place, the guide states.

“However, the focus here should be to minimise exposure as much as possible. Therefore, the need for face-to-face meetings for staff and students should be minimised.” 

Students and staff recommended to take precaution when on campus 

Students and staff are recommended to wear face coverings in certain cases where it is difficult or impossible to maintain their distance, which is in line with the current public health advice.

Some examples of where a student may wear a mask and a visor cited in the advice include students working together in small laboratory groups, or for hairdressing instruction in a further education setting.

When it comes to student accommodation, which is seen to present “a potential risk” when it comes to outbreaks or clusters, students who reside together will be treated as the same household.

Should one student contact the virus, then all residents of that apartment should restrict their movements.

“Institutions operating accommodation will need to develop or adapt protocols to manage outbreaks in these situations.” 

Shared rooms also present a “particular concern”, the guide notes.

“Students traveling to and from the family home from their student accommodation during term time should do so in line with the public health advice in relation to national travel restrictions in place at the time.”

Hand hygiene stations are also advised, but temperature checks on campus have been ruled out. 

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