Schools and third-level colleges are ramping up their preparations in the event that they have to close because of coronavirus.
The education sector is bracing itself for serious and widespread disruption, and at short notice, in the face of the rapid and unpredictable spread of infection.
A number of schools have already been closed and Trinity College Dublin shut part of a building for cleaning over the weekend, following confirmation of a case of Covid19, but otherwise it is business as usual at the university.
The use of technology for teaching and learning is widespread and in the event that a higher education institution closes, it will facilitate ongoing connectivity between teachers/lecturers and students.
As the threat grows, schools are advising teachers to ensure they have materials at home and have set up a digital platform, such as Google Classroom, to send work to and receive work from students.
However, the success of such exercises will depend on the quality of internet connectivity in the homes of individuals, with a patchy broadband coverage in many parts of Ireland, particularly rural areas, likely to be a limiting factor.
With the Easter break looming, another issue weighing heavily on the minds of some schools is what happens with international students from parts of Europe and further afield, including China.
Some schools at least are likely to give students the choice of remaining in Ireland for the holiday, or returning home on the basis that they will not be readmitted after Easter.
Third level colleges are also drawing up plans for maximum use of online delivery of lecturers and tutorials as well as making contingency arrangements for exams.
The trend towards semesterisation in higher education means that many colleges have a study week around St Patrick’s Day which will create a natural break in normal campus activity, if events do not force a closure before then.
I write as a consultant specialist in maternal medicine with 30 years of experience in caring for high-risk pregnant mothers. I have never written to the media nor made public comment on matters of policy in relation to healthcare. I do so now out of grave concern.