Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said that there has not been enough discussion about the impact of the pandemic on young people.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said that he is “concerned” that there has been a lack of dialogue about the impact restrictions have had on young people and students.
“We’ve talked a lot about the impact of Covid-19 on older people and rightly so, we haven't talked enough about the impact on younger people. I am concerned about that.
“It is likely now that the rest of the college year this year and in the run up to Christmas will be largely online, its not because - it’s not a criticism of students, it's not a criticism of colleges, it's just the sheer movement of people and the volumes that it brings,” he said.
His comments come as the government has put in place further restrictions on social visits, with no household visits now permitted.
Most colleges will see nearly all lectures take place online in the period in the run up to Christmas.
In a a message aimed at first year students, he said that “this will not be your college experience” even though the restrictions make it feel like we are stuck in a “time warp”.
“This will not last forever. It may feel like it does, it may feel like we’re stuck in some sort of time warp where everyday we’re talking about Covid-19 but this too will pass,” Minister Harris said.
“I want students to know that - and in particular first year students of a three or four year programmes - this will not be your college experience.
“We’re going to get through the next few months, we’re going to put your health and your safety first.”
He added that “you can’t live under a rock” so for students who do socialise, they should meet up with as few people as possible, practise social distancing and “keep it safe”.
“When you do socialise - do three things, keep it safe, keep it small and keep your distance.
“So do meet your friends, do go for that walk, do have that cup of coffee outdoors but obviously don’t jam pack a load of people into a house.
“It’s common sense,” he added.