Explainer: What’s happening at home and abroad?

Shauna Burdis

Over the past few weeks, some of the biggest stories in Irish media have centered around the country remaining in level 5 lockdown, the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine, or rather the pace of vaccinations. Along with education, as second-level students have pleaded with the Department for Education for clarity on the position of the Leaving Certificate 2021. 

Living with Covid Plan

Taoiseach Michael Martin announced the new Living with Covid-19 plan. 

The new plan means that Ireland will remain in full level 5 restrictions until April 5, at which point the government will review the potential easing of measures. 

The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 agreed to keep the country in the highest level of restrictions for another 6 weeks, over concerns about the continued high rate of new coronavirus cases and Covid-19 variants.

The continuation of level 5 restrictions means that the 5km travel limit remains in place, along with the continued closure of non-essential retail, construction, and hospitality. 


Under the revised Living with Covid plan, the phased reopening of schools and childcare is at the centre of the government’s new plan. As 330,000 students are expected to return to classrooms on March 1.

Primary schools will see the return of junior infants, senior infants, first-class and second class while Leaving Cert students will be the first to return to second-level classrooms. 

On March 15, second-level fifth-year students are to return along with all other primary school students. 

All other classes in secondary school are scheduled to return on April 12, which is after the Easter holidays. 

On February 17, the government confirmed that all Leaving Certificate students will be given the option of choosing predicted grades or sit the written exams in June 2021. 

According to Minister for Education Norma Foley, the written exams are to begin on June 9, subject to public health approval. 

Alternatively, Leaving Cert students will have the option to sit the written exam for certain subjects while choosing to take a predicted grade for the subjects they do not sit an exam for. This strategy was set up in order to secure whichever grade is highest. 

Third Level 

Despite second-level and primary schools returning to classrooms, third-level institutions are continuing online teaching. 

Last year, during the first semester of the academic year, universities were optimistic about the chance of increasing on-campus teaching and activity for students. Due to the revised Living with Covid plan and the extension of level 5 restrictions, Irish universities are continuing online learning throughout the second semester of the academic year, meaning some students may not set foot on their university campus for the entire 2020/2021 academic year.

DCU has confirmed that it will continue the remaining 2020/2021 academic year online due to extended level 5 restrictions, despite previous talks of increased campus hours for students.

In an email sent to the student body, DCU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs confirmed that: “Teaching activities for the remainder of Semester 2 will continue online as they currently are.

“We considered all limited options available for teaching on campus, but the situation nationally remains serious.

“DCU had an early start to this semester; this means that any relaxation in restrictions that would allow a return to campus teaching would only give us a week or two at best and leave students scrambling for accommodation and transport arrangements for a very short period.

“This would be far from ideal and so we have taken a decision for the full semester.”


On February 23, the United States of America hit a numbing millstone. Roughly one year since the U.S reported its first known fatality of Covid-19, the country has now hit a death toll of half a million people. 

President Joe Biden addressed the nation, as the US passed the figure 500,000 Covid-related deaths. This is the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 in any country. 

It is reported that more American citizens have died from the pandemic than on the battlefields of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. 

Each death has left an empty space in American communities are the country mourns for their lost loved ones. 

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled plans to end Covid-19 restrictions in England by June 21. 

A new four-step plan was created to ease the lockdown and see all legal social contact restrictions lifted if strict conditions are met. 

Step one of the plans begins on March 8 reopening schools and allowing two people to meet outdoors. While the final stage of the plan is June 21, when all legal limits on social contact will be removed and final closed sectors of the economy will reopen like nightclubs.

Shauna Burdis

Image credit: Pexels.com

Note: This article was reuploaded on 26/03/2021 due to a fault with The College View website.