Universities move lectures online to slow coronavirus spread

Some major universities are moving classes online in efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Harvard in the US has told students not to come back to campus after their spring break, and Trinity College in Dublin said lectures will be given via the internet.

The institutions said the efforts, both announced on Tuesday, were being made to limit the spread of, and people’s exposure to, the disease.

Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow said the decision to move classes online by March 23 was not made lightly.

Detailing the changes in a letter published on the university’s website, he said non-essential gatherings would be limited to no more than 25 people, and that students who need to remain on campus should “prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions”.

Mr Bacow said: “The goal of these changes is to minimise the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls and residential buildings.”

Harvard’s move follows similar efforts by Princeton, which were announced on Monday.

The fellow Ivy League institution said its lectures, seminars and precepts would be moved online by March 23, but that classes and mid-term exams would continue this week as planned “following social distancing protocols”.

Trinity College said lectures were being delivered online in order to minimise the need to bring students together in large groups.

The university said while tutorials, seminars and laboratory practicals will all carry on in the usual way, “social distancing protocols” will be used.

In a statement on its website the university said: “This will slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, but further measures may be necessary and these arrangements will be kept under continuous review.”

The university also confirmed it was closing the Book of Kells exhibition and Old Library from Tuesday, as well as the Science Gallery and the Douglas Hyde Gallery.

Guidance for all educational settings, including universities, from Public Health England advises that even if there is a suspected case of coronavirus “no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for Covid-19 are awaited”.

The guidance, dated February 28, adds there is “no need to close the setting or send other learners or staff home”.