Coronavirus: Students going back to university is ‘biggest concern’

Queen's University Belfast

We have been living with Covid-19 for more than six months and a lot has changed including how the virus seems to be shifting to the younger generation.

But don’t be fooled: although a greater number of younger people are testing positive, the virus remains the same.

While the reopening of schools is a factor, it’s not the main one.

At this stage in September there are no clusters in schools or evidence to show the virus is spreading within schools.

In fact according to the Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Ian Young, schools at the moment are “safe for those inside.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Thousands of students are preparing to return to university after the coronavirus lockdown

However, it’s what is happening outside the school gates that is causing most worry.

With schools re-opening, teenagers are out and about more, enjoying a social life again.

The gradual relaxation of lockdown rules means young people are clawing back the time they lost from mid-March.

Often there is little sign of social distancing as they walk home from school or call into the local shop for supplies.

  • Face coverings to be mandatory at Queen’s campus
  • Ulster University: Face coverings to be mandatory

While younger children aren’t required to wear masks indoors, most teenagers are unless they have a medical condition which exempts them.

Then there are the weekend gatherings including house parties. While they are only doing what young people are expected to do – unfortunately for this generation there are ramifications.

On the whole, younger people can cope with Covid-19. They may survive the symptoms but medics know when passed onto older and more vulnerable people, the outcome can be very different.

Freshers’ week looming

Covid-19 loves those who socialise and considering that freshers’ week for universities is looming, the virus could be about to have a field day.

People heading back to University, according to officials, is their biggest concern.

While it’s a headache for every country, compared to the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland is different as there are a substantial number of students who study in cities but return home to communities at the weekend.

While universities have plans in place to mitigate the spread of the virus on campus, those plans could be left at the door when students return home to their own communities.

There will be those who will travel home together in packed cars and who won’t wear face coverings.

Plans will be made to catch up with friends and older relations. These are all normal activities but these are not normal times.

Image caption

Students sharing a car should wear masks and maintain social distancing

Professor Ian Young appealed to students to act responsibly. If sharing a car those on board should wear masks and maintain social distancing.

That could mean only two people travelling together unless they are already living together.

On Sunday, the Department of Health announced that there were 87 new cases of Covid-19 diagnosed during the previous 24 hours. The number of deaths is not updated at the weekend.

According to the Department of Health, the total number of recorded coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland is 8,314 and the number of deaths remains at 568.

The only way we can navigate our way out of this pandemic is by finding a vaccine.

But until we reach that point the regulations are there for a reason.

By following them we can continue to open up society as opposed to closing down.

BBC News