Clonmel woman Aoife Hickey has voiced her concerns about the effects of lockdown
A first year music student at University College Cork has hit out at what she claims is the targeting of Third level students in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter sent to the Government, 19-year-old Clonmel woman Aoife Hickey has also criticised the second lockdown, saying that it is isolating people and contributing to both “deteriorating mental health within the country” and the loss of a sense of community.
She says she is aware everyone has had their own difficulties, and her first year in college has been a very difficult time so far. As a Leaving Cert student in 2020, she has found this year to be one she could never have imagined.
“From being sent home from school on what began as any other Thursday in March, I was unaware this would be the last time I saw many of my peers and teachers, and did not get the chance to say goodbye as restrictions since have not made it possible to do so.
“This was followed by two months of online classes until the announcement of the cancellation of this year’s exams. Then came the messages from teachers wishing us well and logging off from our Zoom calls for the last time.
“The wait for our results caused anxiety among all, only to be postponed even further. Luckily, I received satisfactory points and the course I had always wanted, but others were not as lucky and did not receive the results they rightfully deserved.”
She says that along with the stress of the students’ futures being placed in the hands of their teachers and the Government, it was a struggle not being able to see family and friends over the last few months.
“This has most definitely had an impact not only on students’ mental health but the mental health of all ages. It has been hard to see students in primary and post-primary carrying on as normal with their friends, while Third level students are almost being targeted because of our age.
“The minority does not represent the majority. As a majority we are attending our online classes and doing all that we can to prevent the further spread of the virus. But it is not easy as the country chooses to point a finger at us, when in reality they should look at themselves.”
She says that because of the Level 5 restrictions and not allowing visits by family or friends, many people have been left alone.
“This has had a knock-on effect of deteriorating mental health within the country. I, personally, am an optimistic person, but the events of this year have strongly affected me and I can only imagine the consequences for a person suffering mentally.
“Another lockdown will not benefit the people of Ireland as depression, anxiety and suicide are drastically on the rise. Please consider those who are suffering before completely isolating them again.”
Ms Hickey says that while lockdowns have not been easy for anyone, and while necessary to prevent the further spread of Covid-19, she believes there are better solutions.
“Nobody has been faced with this situation before, the world is learning together, but as a country the right decisions should be made. Not the decisions decided elsewhere that our little island just follows. We are independent and now is the time to make the right choices.
“Would you jump off of a bridge just because NPHET told you to do so? I think not. So, when coming up with a solution to this situation, do what is right for the people of this country. Take note of what has worked elsewhere in the world.”
In her view Ireland is losing its sense of community due to bad decisions, and contradicting choices cannot be made.
“Travel must be suspended, how can we allow people in and out of our country if we cannot control the spread amongst the people who are here long-term. If we can focus on our own country first then we can eventually go abroad once our home situation is sorted. There are currently no countries on the green list, yet flights are still coming into our country every day.
“This virus cannot be controlled if there are people across the globe travelling to Ireland.
“The Republic of Ireland needs to work in unison, we must be on the same team, otherwise we will never overcome this pandemic. It has already been seen through protests, which did not benefit the country in any way.
“When a rule is set it must be followed with an explanation of why, so that people know the reason for doing so and that it is not just a guessing game. We need the Government to be confident in their decisions. Only then will the people of Ireland have the confidence to follow.
“Going into lockdowns every few weeks and changing levels constantly is not the way to do things. A lockdown will lower the cases, but the weeks that follow after will always see a rise.
“It cannot continue like this as there will come a day that enough is enough, and that is when devastation will strike.”
Addressing the Government, she says: “I do hope you can help our country through this tough time and make the right choices to get our island back on track. I trust you will make beneficial decisions and we can rely on you to put the citizens of Ireland first.”
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