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Executive to meet universities as Queen's students self-isolating after positive Covid cases

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Elms Village on the Malone Road. Photo by Matt Mackey / Presseye

Elms Village on the Malone Road. Photo by Matt Mackey / Presseye

Elms Village on the Malone Road. Photo by Matt Mackey / Presseye

The Executive Office will meet representatives of Northern Ireland's universities on Tuesday to discuss their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It comes after a number of students in Queen's University halls of residence in Belfast have been told to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus.

Speaking at the Assembly on Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster said the Executive Office planned to hold meetings with representatives from Queen's University and Ulster University on Tuesday.

The DUP leader said she was aware of a number of Queen's students self-isolating and sent them her "best wishes".

"I hope it doesn't become wider spread," Mrs Foster said.

"There are many scare stories about our universities and our young people but I believe in our young people. I believe on the whole they want to do what is right and I'd appeal to them to abide by the public health guidance and the restrictions that are there."

A spokesperson for Queen's confirmed on Monday morning that a "small number" of students had tested positive for the virus.

"Robust protocols are also in place to minimise the risk of the virus spreading," the spokesperson added.

The number of students asked to self-isolate has not been specified by the university, which runs a number of large accommodation sites in Belfast's city centre and on Malone Road.

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A number of students at self-isolating at Elms Village on the Malone Road. Photo by Matt Mackey / Presseye

A number of students at self-isolating at Elms Village on the Malone Road. Photo by Matt Mackey / Presseye

A number of students at self-isolating at Elms Village on the Malone Road. Photo by Matt Mackey / Presseye

It is understood that one accommodation block at the university's Elms Village in south Belfast has been asked to self-isolate. The number of students involved has been estimated in double figures.

The spokesperson said: "The University can confirm that a small number of students living in Queen’s accommodation have tested positive for Covid-19.

"The university is working closely with the Public Health Agency and in line with their guidance all affected students or those who are considered to be at risk have been informed, asked to self-isolate and are being fully supported to do so."

"It is believed that transmission of the virus is taking place in social settings."

"All other students and their families should remain calm and continue to follow public health guidelines to protect themselves and others," said the spokesperson.

The First Minister welcomed police intervention in the Holyland area of south Belfast after hundreds of Covid notices were handed out to young people in the area for breaking the coronavirus regulations.

Both Queen's University and Ulster University has suspended students as a result of their behaviour in the area.

"It's important we continue to try and work with our young people to get the message to them," Mrs Foster said.

"We are continuing to work with out partners, the PSNI, local government and indeed everyone else involved in enforcement so that we can make sure that as well as having restrictions in place, there is an effective enforcement regime as well."

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First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

There have been calls for clarity over whether students should remain at their university accommodation, as fears grow about young people spreading coronavirus to their family homes.

And some students have been told to isolate at several universities in England and Scotland, including about 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University

Many QUB and Ulster University students are taking a proportion of their courses online after the new university year commenced on September 21.

Belfast Telegraph