By Mark Lynch
NUI Galway is under lockdown as measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 come into effect all over Ireland.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a statement from his state visit to Washington, in which he addressed the necessity of taking drastic action immediately to reduce the impact that the virus will have on the country’s population, as well as the health services.
At around 11am Irish time on Thursday March 12th, the Taoiseach announced that all schools, colleges, and childcare facilities would close from Friday March 13th until March 29th. As well as this, cultural institutions are closed and the Irish government recommended cancelling all events involving over 100 people indoors, and over 500 people outdoors. Public transport is to remain functioning, but private companies are permitted to open or close at their own discretion. GoBus.ie, a Galway-based bus company, decided to suspend all services from Monday March 16th, while many pubs and nightclubs in Galway City have cancelled all events, and will monitor capacity.
Speculation about the closure of NUI Galway had begun to fester as the week went on, which intensified after one student was tested for COVID-19 and Áras na Mac Léinn had been deep cleaned to HSE standards. Despite that test coming back negative, some students had becoming increasingly anxious and stressed about attending classes and coming to campus.
The day before the closure was announced, on the Wednesday afternoon, the School of Law in NUI Galway sent an email to all its students declaring teaching would move online from as soon as practicable, or by Monday March 16th. The email, seen by SIN, also announced that all tutorials would be cancelled for the rest of the semester. Following this, the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway also announced teaching would go online from Monday March 16th.
NUI Galway societies and clubs have cancelled all activities and events, while the Students’ Union have been forced to cancel the Marchathon Wednesday Walks, and postpone Clubs’ Ball, as well as the election of the SU Council Chairperson, and yoga, sign language, and LIFT training. All units, services and facilities are also closed on campus. This includes the Student Health Unit, Student Counselling Services, and all shops and cafes, while the library and the reading room were emptied of all students by 6pm on Thursday March 12th.
President of NUI Galway, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, urged all Irish students to go home, for the benefit of their families and to prevent large gatherings of people in one area. He also advised anyone that must be on campus for research, or for teaching purposes, where online resources aren’t available, to contact the University Management Team, to allow them to co-ordinate with campus security. He continued, “
At the time of writing, there is no revised protocol for examinations, although it is expected that as many forms of assessment as possible will be carried out using online resources.