Ireland's only dedicated college for training seafarers has confirmed it has dealt with a "small number" of positive Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, but that it must continue in-class training on the premises in order to satisfy European training regulations.
The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI), based in Ringaskiddy in Cork, said it would continue to be guided by its regulator, the Marine Survey Office (MSO) at the Department of Transport, but that in-class work could not be avoided, despite the confirmed positive cases.
Students have privately voiced concerns that the college, considered a world leader in its field for preparing naval and shipping personnel, was continuing to hold classes in person, claiming many could have been held online.
Concerns were also expressed to thethat social distancing measures were not being fully adhered to, leading to a warning sent to students from the college's administrators that they had to up their game when it came to precautions.
It comes as 322 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed across the country, bringing the total to just over 63,000 since the crisis began, while five new deaths were also confirmed.
That included 96 cases in Dublin, 35 in Meath and 23 in Cork, and came with a warning from the CMO Tony Holohan that the country needs to keep up the efforts made in recent weeks to continue to drive case numbers down.
The Tuesday toll means that the 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 has fallen to 228 per 100,000, after peaking at 310 per 100,000 one week ago.
NMCI head Cormac Gebruers told thethat cases at the college were inevitable eventually, considering the nature of the movement of many in attendance meant boarding ships and assisting supply chains function.
However, they had been kept to a minimum, he emphasised.
"We will continue to work with the regulator, which has been hugely supportive, to be fair. We are training people for frontline work such as supply chain, which means getting food and medicine into homes, so it is very specialised.
"When it comes to social distancing, we have set the bar exceptionally high, and that is why perhaps students have been concerned if they perceive it to be slipping."
In relation to onsite training, Ms Gebruers said it was a requirement of European and international regulations that students partake in some coursework deemed essential for their professional qualifications.
"We have tried to keep classes online as much as possible, but we have been trying to catch up since August," he said.