Queen’s University Belfast has said it will no longer hold face-to-face lectures from Wednesday due to the coronavirus outbreak.
At this stage, laboratory sessions, tutorials and seminars are unaffected - unless advised otherwise by specific schools within the university – but further contingency plans are being put in place.
Lectures will be delivered online, while all field trips have been cancelled.
On the subject of assessment, the QUB website notes: “We are currently working hard to identify alternative forms of assessment should they be needed.
“Unless advised otherwise, the current examination/assessment schedules will continue as published. Contingency planning for any necessary changes to normal arrangements is in progress and will be communicated as soon as possible.”
The university has said overseas students who wish to return home and students on placement overseas who wish to return to Northern Ireland will not suffer any academic disadvantage.
Social distancing measures are also being put in place on campus and all indoor gatherings of 100 people or more and outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more have been cancelled.
Meanwhile, police and universities in Belfast are urging non-residents to avoid the Holyland area of south Belfast on St Patrick’s Day.
Annually, students living in the Holyland and friends who travel from outside the area gather in large numbers to celebrate 17 March, leading to issues around noise and anti-social behaviour.
Efforts have been made in recent years to reduce the impact, with universities and police working to minimise the disruption.
However, concerns have been raised that gatherings this year would increase the risk around the spread of Covid-19.
A PSNI spokesperson said police were again working with Belfast City Council, Queen’s University, Ulster University and Belfast Met to monitor the Holyland.
“We appeal for people to stay out of the Holylands – be safe and responsible during this period,” they said.
Concerns around the spread of the virus have led to a huge number of events around the world being cancelled, with many schools closed and some pubs and bars following suit.
St Patrick’s Day parades have been cancelled in cities across Northern Ireland and the Republic.
No order has been given by the government to close schools in Northern Ireland – unlike in the Republic - but fears among parents have led to some children being kept at home anyway.
A Belfast law firm is to take a case on behalf of a family in Co Armagh over the decision not to close schools.
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