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Students are being asked to consider whether they should travel to rented accommodation by the Union of Students in Ireland, in light of new restrictions announced for universities and colleges on Friday afternoon.

USI has also called on Government to act immediately to ensure students are not left badly out of pocket by necessary changes to plans and for higher education institutions to ensure Students’ Unions are included in the preparation of plans to deal with these increased restrictions and how they are communicated to students.

USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick has asked students to think about where they would be happier living and studying if they have little or no on-campus activity and to take into account the need to keep travel between regions to a minimum.

Lorna said: “If you are a student due to start college next week and have secured accommodation, it’s important to consider whether you really have to travel. If you have no on-campus activities, would you be better off staying at home and not moving outside of your region. If you are still at home and were planning to move closer to your college, or if you have already travelled, think about where you would be happier if travel is further restricted. We are being asked to minimise travel as much as possible to help limit the spread of the virus.

USI is extremely concerned at the last-minute nature of this announcement, with most students already having plans in place.

Lorna said: “This decision is coming very late in the day. There are many students who have already started back and thousands more who are due to start on Monday. This adds to what is and has been a very stressful time for many students and their families.

“However, as we have said, student safety is our main priority and we will always support and promote the public health advice. As most college activity will now take place online for the coming weeks, and with the risk of that period being extended, Government must act immediately to protect and support student renters. Exactly one month ago today, USI called on Government to introduce six emergency provisions to ensure student renters were not hit by a repeat of what happened in March when colleges and universities closed and deposits and prepaid rent were not returned and students had to fight for on-campus accommodation to be refunded. Now we are just three days before many colleges are due to start back and we are already looking at this becoming an issue again for students.”

In light of the new guidelines, the USI is urging students to mind themselves and their classmates and friends.

Lorna said: “We are very concerned about students feeling isolated. We know the impact it has on our mental health. Please make sure to reach out to friends and stay in touch, we all need to support each other now. There are resources available 24/7 if you need some additional support. You can text ‘Hello’ to 50808 any time, day or night, to speak with a trained volunteer. It is an anonymous and free service and encourage students to use it when needed.”

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