College students may need to wear face masks in lecture halls


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

07.54 6 Aug 2020


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Face masks and social distancing are part of the "compromise" needed to get college students back to campuses and lecture halls, according to a universities group.

Yesterday, the Government published guidelines for reopening campuses this autumn - offering a range of recommendations on how to limit the spread of coronavirus.

It recommends that students wear face coverings when two metres social distancing can't be achieved, while staff should wear face shields or visors when staff members need to be less than two metres from students.

Meanwhile, it's advised that students in campus accommodation should not visit other buildings other than the one where they live - while guests should also not be invited into the residences.

Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association, told Newstalk Breakfast that the "very clear" guidelines will allow colleges to plan for more face-to-face teaching than would otherwise be possible.

College students may need to wear face masks in lecture halls

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He said: "Face coverings is one [measure], but there are many other measures as well - rotas for classes, staggered classes, sanitising stations, signage, one-way systems and so on.

"What is very clear about it is that two metres is preferred, but it's very clear and very explicit that from a public health point of view one metre distancing is safe provided appropriate measures are taken."

'Students want to be back on campus'

Mr Miley said we're now getting to a point where people are beginning to accept face coverings as "a somewhat normal part of life for the foreseeable future".

He said: "What we're seeing is a huge demand from students... they want to be back on campus. This is the compromise, I guess.

"Universities and colleges are different to primary and secondary [schools] - students are not in the same classroom all day long.

"They are moving around, so it's not as if you're stuck in the same place with a mask on your face for three, four or five hours."

In terms of limits on accommodation, Mr Miley said it shouldn't be seen as a matter of 'policing' the rules.

He explained: "What we're trying to do here is change behaviour - we're trying to introduce good practice.

"This is for students, for staff - this is about their own health, and the health of their families and friends.

"The advice here is discouraging people from aggregating in groups that may increase risk."

He said he's "fully aware" of the challenges involved, but suggested we're seeing many young people following the restrictions and rules introduced in recent months.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/DPA/PA Images

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