A positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed on the grounds of University College Dublin’s (UCD’s) main campus.
Reports emerged on Wednesday night that a staff member at Oakmount Creche, located on the university’s Belfield campus, had tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, August 9th.
Sixteen children at the creche and two members of staff are required to self-isolate for the next fourteen days, as a result of coming in to close contact with the confirmed case.
Although the creche states it can cater for up to one hundred children at full capacity, only eighteen close contacts of the worker are required to self-isolate and get tested for the virus. Only one Montessori room in the creche has been impacted and has subsequently been closed off; the rest of the creche remains open.
According to the Irish Times, the creche informed parents that the worker had tested positive for the virus on Sunday night, August 9th. However, official written communication from the HSE informing parents of the worker’s condition was not received until Wednesday evening, August 12th. The HSE’s letter states that all staff, children, and siblings of the children “will have to restrict their movements for 14 days from the date of contact with the case which was August 5”
The College Tribune reached out to Oakmount Creche for a comment but has not received one at the time of publishing.
Statistics from 2017 show around 30% of children at the creche are those of current UCD students – the rest are staff members’ kids, with a small minority of children coming from the wider community. Places for students’ children are means tested; only children whose parents’ combined incomes are under €39,000 are eligible for places. UCD only covers up to 50% of childcare costs for student parents if they qualify for support.
UCD has previously received criticism for its lack of supports for student parents, particularly regarding the astronomical prices at Oakmount Creche, which makes their childcare services inaccessible for many UCD student parents. Former President of the UCD Students’ Union Joanna Siewierska told the College Tribune earlier this year that discussions were underway regarding “ways for UCD to improve support for student parents, and how the SU could lobby for this, similarly to how we support other groups of students. For example, campaigning for an affordable creche facility on campus and designated supports”, however these talks were postponed as a result of COVID-19.
This development brings into question the implications of a positive coronavirus case on UCD grounds for students returning for the Autumn Trimester in just a few weeks’ time. The positive case at Oakmount Creche is the first known occurrence of the virus on UCD campus.
The College Tribune reached out to UCD officials regarding potential implications for returning students but has not received anything at the time of publishing.
Nessa Collins – Assistant News Editor