University of Otago students are being asked not to party as the country remains in Red and cases of Omicron continue to rise.

Notices were put up on the Otago University Students’ Association's social media pages on Tuesday, encouraging students to “put the parties on pause”. 

The notice said “we’re all hoping for a good 2022 so now is not the time”.

“Let’s keep each other safe and remember that emergency services may be needed elsewhere,” it said. 

“You also could face infringement, a fine up to $4000 or prosecution for not following Covid guidelines.”

This announcement comes just a few weeks before Orientation week (O-week). 

University of Otago postgraduate student, Alex, says the majority of students would likely not put a pause on partying. 

“As much as the university would like to deny the party culture at Otago, it is a big part of a student's time here,” Alex says. 

“It’s almost the literal definition of ‘here for a good time not a long time’.”

Alex, who only wants to be known by his first name, says taking away parties was taking away the one thing students are still able to do amidst all the events, gigs and clubs being canned.

Several orientation events such as the Toga Party and Clubs Day have been cancelled this year.

“That being said, I think a lot of students aren’t so silly as to risk their health for a party so if we see Covid-19 cases go up in Dunners, we’d see a lot less parties.” 

Another University of Otago student, Sebastian, says students have made their own plans after O-week events were cancelled. 

Sebastian, who also wants to only be known by his first name, says he has heard that each flat on Castle St will be hosting a party which is invite-only as the hosts have been warned by police about Covid-19 restrictions. 

In an email, University of Otago proctor Dave Scott, told Re: that it was disappointing that O-week would not be like other years. 

“We understand that it is tough news, but these are challenging times and the interests of our wider whānau and community takes priority right now,” Scott says. 

“Our aim is to educate and inform students of the risks and expectations to keep them and the community safe. We are not looking to mandate anything; rather, our approach is one of informing and educating students about the Government’s guidelines at the Red Level,” Scott says. 

“Ultimately, our students are smart young adults, who are responsible for their own decision making and accountable for their own actions – we live in unprecedented times and we ask them to be socially responsible and do the right thing and abide by Red Level guidelines and expectations.”

Gatherings can go ahead under the Red light framework, but are limited to 100 fully-vaccinated people using vaccine passes, or 25 if someone is not vaccinated and no vaccine passes are being required.

There are also major penalties for people who breached Covid-19 rules. This includes fines and prison. 

Otago University Students' Association chief executive, Debbie Downs, says the association is passing on information to students and drawing attention to the possibility of a fine in case they were not aware of the rules around gatherings during the Red light setting. 

“We do not track or police parties,” Downs says.

Top Image: The clocktower at the University of Otago. Photo: imagoDens/iStock

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