Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.46 3 Mar 2021


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A DCU professor has said suggestions students involved in a Limerick street party against public health regulations could be expelled is 'absurd'.

Professor of Health Systems Anthony Staines told The Hard Shoulder gathering outside is much safer than gathering inside.

"It is much safer to socialise out of doors than indoors - the risks of transmission out of doors, they're not zero, but they're very low.

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"If those people had been in a friends house... or as I came across relatively recently - a group of women in their 70s went to a restaurant and had a meal and they stayed there for five hours - those are the events that spread this disease mostly.

"So it really is indoor spaces.

"Young people are easy to get at because they're very visible: they're out on the street, they're on social media, they put themselves on social media.

"But there is other stuff going on that would make your hair curl if you knew about it."

'Very difficult on students'

He said we forget how difficult it can be for students.

"If everyone who did something stupid at college was thrown out, there'd be about five graduates in the country.

"We have first year students - I work in DCU - who've hardly seen the campus, who've never met anyone in their class.

"We've done what we can to give them the best social environment we can, but the reality is that most of their teaching is online.

"To most of them I'm a fuzzy blob on Zoom, and unfortunately they're fuzzy blobs on Zoom to me."

"It is very difficult on students, they're at a transitional stage in their lives - they're moving away from home, setting up their own identities maybe separate from their families.

"It is very hard and I feel very sorry for them.

"But to bring this under control, we need a serious plan... to get this virus out of our society, and that's going to be difficult to do - but I think we should get on with it".

And he said most people are keeping to the public health regulations for the vast majority of time.

"It's very stressful and very tough for everyone, and I have sympathy for people who breach them.

"But if you are going to breach the rules, it makes enormously more sense to do it out of doors".

Trying to set us back'

Earlier Higher Education Minister Simon Harris told Lunchtime Live the gathering was an "attack on the national effort" to suppress COVID-19.

"Anyone who goes out and breaks public health rules is actually trying to set us back as a country. It is utterly, utterly indefensible," he said.

"Not too far away from those scenes in Limerick, there are patients fighting for their lives in University Hospital Limerick... there are nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants and others working around the clock to save lives.

"To say it was a kick in the gut or slap in the face to that work is probably an understatement."

It comes as the University of Limerick met An Garda Síochána on Wednesday to discuss the incident in Castletroy on Tuesday night.

It said in a statement: "UL deplores the behaviour of a small minority of students living in the off-campus estates in private rented accommodation.

"The university is conducting an investigation to identify any UL students who took part in the gathering, which represents a serious breach of both the public health restrictions and the institutional code of conduct.

"Students at UL are subject to a Code of Conduct. Any student found to have attended the gathering will face suspension, pending a full investigation, or possible expulsion."

Main image: Anthony Staines is seen at the the DCU Child Health Conference in 2013. Picture by: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

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