Back from the Break

As well as returning to the Department for the first time after the Study Week break, I’ve also had the chance to update my Covid-19 data page with five days’ worth of numbers after the Bank Holiday and Weekend hiatus. A total of 63,954 positive tests (either antigen or PCR) were reported today.

The latest 7-day rolling average is around 5200 new PCR-confirmed cases per day, but that number is a considerable underestimate because much less PCR testing is being done compared with earlier in the pandemic. Over 10,000 positive antigen tests were logged today (21st March) but not included in the figure below:

The surge expected after the St Patrick’s Day festivities won’t have registered in this plot yet either. Anecdotal evidence is that lots of undergraduate students have been absent from lectures and tutorials on the first day back from the break citing Covid-19 as the reason, and some tutors are also off sick. My first lecture and first laboratory session aren’t until tomorrow though.

As of this morning, 1308 people are in hospital in Ireland with Covid-19, over double the number at the start of the month. Fortunately the number in ICU and the number of deaths remain reasonably low.

It seems there is no intention at Government level to reintroduce public health restrictions so we have to continue teaching as if nothing is wrong. The fact of the matter remains, however, that the much-vaunted “return to campus” hasn’t really been achieved this Semester, with many students staying away from classes either through choice or necessity.

As Head of a small Department that is already short-staffed I am worried about what I’m supposed to do if we suffer absences among those who are teaching. We’ve got six weeks until the end of the Semester. I just hope we get through it without a crisis caused by the high case numbers.

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