Northern Ireland news

Coronavirus: Universities urged to take action against partying students in Holylands

Council staff patrol the Holylands area of south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

NORTHERN Ireland's two main universities were under pressure last night to start "coming down very, very hard" on students partying in the Holylands area of Belfast.

Residents said there are growing fears it will become a "hotbed" for the coronavirus as hundreds of students are partying both indoors and outdoors on a nightly basis wearing no face coverings.

Householders in the area spoke up following reports that some people are travelling to the area and paying money to party in some houses - sometimes for days.

With Freshers Week due to get underway and with local lock-down restrictions being ignored, residents are concerned a health disaster is around the corner.

Briege Ruddy, chairwoman of the Holylands Residents Association, said hundreds of young people were partying outside on Monday evening, playing loud music and not social distancing.

While anti-social behaviour in the area has been a concern for years she said there were now real health concerns amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Ruddy said the "authorities had turned their backs" on the issue, adding there had "never" been "any enforcement".

"There is a threat to everyone's health," she said.

"This has been ongoing from April and May and we have been saying this. We have been writing to the chief medical officer, MLAs and councillors.

"We are told that people are charged £20 by the person who leases the house or apartment and parties, sometimes for days.

"The partying is taking place in the houses and that's a danger with Covid and we are concerned we will have a local lockdown and we will be a Covid hot spot. It's really, really dangerous."

She added:"It's about time the authorities did something to stop it."

Alliance assembly member Paula Bradshaw described the scenes in the Holylands area as "frightening".

Ms Bradshaw said the issue was a "ticking time bomb" and called on Queen's and Ulster University to come "down very, very hard on these students" as there was "potential for people to lose their lives over it."

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