As guidelines for reopening schools and colleges continue to be updated in line with the public health advice it has been announced that students at third-level institutions will be advised to wear face coverings when attending lectures on campus if they cannot maintain a distance of two metres during lectures. According to new recommendations from the Government, the guidelines acknowledge that some learning will take place online, but where two-metre distancing is not possible for tuition, staff members should wear face shields or visors.The guidance refers to the recommendation of National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that face coverings be used in indoor settings where adequate physical distance cannot be maintained – in this case that is taken to mean two metres.
Emphasis on maintaining social distancing has been further highlighted by public health officials in recent weeks as the cases of Covid-19 have been on the increase in Ireland again. A physical distance of two metres should be maintained under all circumstances possible. In colleges and third level institutions, it should be feasible to maintain a two-metre separation between members of staff, or between staff and students, under almost all circumstances. However the guidelines acknowledge that there will be exceptional circumstances where this cannot be achieved and, in such situations, appropriate precautions – such as face coverings, visors or barriers – should be used.
The Department of Further and Higher Education says there are circumstances where maintaining a distance of two metres will not be possible. In addition to wearing face masks, the Government advises higher education institutions to develop one-way systems for indoor spaces or use marked lanes where practical.
Research has shown the importance of wearing a face masks where social distancing is not possible. With face covering required on all public transport in Ireland and becoming mandatory for all shopping centres and indoor commercial spaces from Monday 10th August, a face mask will form part of our daily routine for the forseeable future.