The tests will be facilitated on campus at the University of Limerick | PICTURE: ADRIAN BUTLER
THE University of Limerick (UL) is to facilitate on-campus Covid-19 tests in a bid to prevent further transmission of the virus among students.
The tests, carried out by HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare, come in response to a reported rise in cases of the disease in recent weeks in the Castletroy area of the city. These are believed to be associated with students in off-campus accommodation.
UL president Prof Kerstin Mey has again strongly urged students to understand their own individual roles in keeping our communities safe and to be aware of the consequences of breaking current government Covid-19 restrictions.
The free on-campus tests will be given to students who will be invited to register without needing to display symptoms of the virus at a testing centre being established on the UL campus this week.
“As a result of constant engagement and close ties between UL and Public Health Mid-West we are in a position to act very swiftly now at the first signs of a possible increase of cases among students living off campus,” said Prof Mey.
“We have reduced on campus activity to approximately 2% of what would normally take place so there are barely any students or staff on campus under level 5 restrictions. Where we can put any further measure in place to protect our own and the surrounding communities we will do so,” she added.
Dr Marie Casey, specialist in Public Health medicine, welcomed the on-going cooperation with the university and the swift response to any potential rise in cases.
“Public Health Mid-West is seeing a noticeable increase in Covid-19 clusters among the student population, particularly in housing estates in the Castletroy area with links to some households in Limerick city, as a result of household transmission in the past three weeks,” she explained.
“The student population is unique insofar that they can often live with a number of housemates in large households. Some students have part-time jobs, and many will go home on the weekends to visit family and friends. With the onset of the dominant British Covid-19 variant, which is more transmissible than the original strain, there is now a high level of risk of transmission in the student community.
“As many young people will carry the virus without any symptoms, this presents an increased risk of infection to household, workplace and family contacts. Outbreaks arising out of household transmission is starting to become a worrying trend across the Mid-West, at a crucial time when we need to suppress the virus’ spread in the community.
“We are urging everyone in the region to avoid household visits and social gatherings of any kind, as we have seen far too many times how a single episode of social contact has led to serious illness and death,” she added.
Students have been contacted with full details on how to register online for an on-campus test. All tests will be processed by the HSE.