Dr. Paddy Mallon, a consultant at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and professor of microbial diseases at UCD, has called on the government to close borders immediately in order to prevent new cases of COVID-19 entering the country. As one of the leading infectious diseases experts in the country he has said “We have got our own outbreak in the country that we are trying to extinguish but the big threat is new infections coming in”. He argues that by closing our borders we will be able to stop imported infections and gain the ability to greater control the infections we have.
It is not known whether the government will follow his recommendations as uncertainty over the virus continues within the cabinet as well as the Health Service Executive. This uncertainty over what the future may hold is making decision making more difficult and it is unlikely a decision about closing borders will be made in the foreseeable future as essential travel remains a priority for Varadkar’s government.
Doctors and professors in similar positions to Dr. Mallon have also begun to make similar recommendations to the government. Prof Sam McConkey of the Royal College of Surgeons called for political leadership to build a “unity government that helps us beat the virus in the next few months” in order to fast-track debate on possible stricter travel and quarantine rules. However, it remains unclear and uncertain whether or not the Irish government will take on board the recommendations and advise of these experts.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced last week that universities, schools and crèches will remain closed until at least April 19th. Outdoor gatherings have also been limited to a maximum of four people unless individuals belong to the same household. Non-essential businesses are also now closed.
UCD students began learning online on March 23rd. All students are to finish the remainder of the trimester through the online learning system Brightspace. Lectures have been streamed using the video conferencing tool Zoom.
In recent weeks, fears have mounted over financial fallout within the university. UCD President Andrew Deeks has said that students are not expected to receive any additional costs due to potential financial fallout in UCD. This comes after Deeks warned staff of “very severe” financial implications for the university due to COVID-19. He has also stressed delays in additional student supports and a negative short-term financial impact on UCD. The President has also said the university plans to “defer expenditure where possible and to minimise the loss of income.”
Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter