By Conor Brummell
NUI Galway’s Student Health Clinic is re-open and accepting appointments from students for all
Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 health issues and complaints. The service is operating in a different
manner from the usual ‘walk in service’ they provide, as they strive to provide remote consultations
wherever possible for health advice and repeat prescriptions, in order to maintain infection
prevention and control protocols.
As public health advice is constantly changing and the country faces a surge in coronavirus cases,
SIN spoke to Eoin Mac Donncha, Medical Director and GP of the Student Health Clinic about the
upcoming semester and the advice he has for student safety during the winter months.
“Though advice and guidelines change, there is certain elements of public health advice that are
unwavering, and that is the basics. The key thing is keeping your hands clean, and away from your
face- that is your mouth, nose, and eyes. Wherever you see a hand sanitising unit- use it,” Eoin says
at the beginning of the interview.
“What I would advise is for students to carry around one of those small pocket hand sanitisers in
their bags, because the amount of time I’ve seen one in shops that has been empty is ridiculous.
“The next thing is to wear masks- legislation dictates that you have to wear masks on public
transport, in buildings and in shops- but what I would say is that anywhere you feel someone might
come into your two metre space, wear a mask. In corridors, one-way pathway systems on campus-
basically anywhere outside your accommodation where you might bump into someone, I would
advise students to be wearing a mask.”
In terms of keeping themselves protected, the Student Health Clinic wants to get every student using
The HSÉ’s Covid Tracker app and the Student Health Matters app.
“There are two elements to the tracker app- it allows you to update how you’re feeling every day
and if you’re feeling unwell, it gives you instructions on what to do next. You do not need WIFI for it
to work, just your Bluetooth, and that is important because it’s how contact tracing works which is
“It’s been highlighted to us in the cases we have seen in the last two weeks how well this app works.
It removes the thinking on the student’s part of whether they need to get tested or not- the app will
do that thinking for you. In my opinion, it is brainless for a student not to have the app.”
The Student Health matters app, on the other hand, is the perfect guide for every student to have. It
has HSÉ advice, as well as having links to all the information one would need, without needing access
to WIFI to use it.
In terms of socialising in the coming months, Eoin has no reservations about what needs to happen.
Students need to keep social contacts to a complete minimum.
“You’re going to have to meet some people from your class setting, as well as if you’re part of a
sporting team, but that should be it. The ones that are necessary- academics, sport, your
housemates- are fine, but beyond that, you should be trying to minimise social contacts as much as possible.”
“House parties are bananas. They have unfortunately kicked off a load of problems for us in the past
week, and that message needs to get out there. Things can get out of control very quickly.”
New year- same old problems. Fresher’s flu ravages campuses across the country every semester,
but how can students tell the difference between Covid-19 and the common cold?
“If you get any respiratory symptoms- such as a cold, a cough or a runny nose- you should
probably self-isolate immediately for two days as we don’t want them circulating,” Eoin says.
Covid symptoms are quite simple: if you have any type of cough, or if you have a fever, you should
“There is one piece of equipment I would recommend every student gets this year, and that is a
thermometer. It does not have to be a fancy, just one that sticks under the tongue to measure your
temperature is fine and they only cost a couple of euro.”
“Everyone knows what a fever feels like- the aches and pains, the chills and hot feeling at the same
time- everyone knows them. The game changer is if we can confirm whether the temperature is
higher than 38 degrees. That is a definite symptom of Covid-19.
“The last symptoms people need to look out for is a complete loss of smell or a complete change or
loss of your sense of taste. If that happens, stay in your accommodation or get back there
immediately to self-isolate and contact a GP.”
“If anyone is any doubt, don’t let the student try to decipher whether it is a cold or Covid. Get in
contact and we will help you out. Err on the side of caution, and self-isolate.”
News came on Friday evening (25 th of September) that NUI Galway, along with all other college
campuses in the country, would be moving operations online for two weeks to combat the surge in
Coronavirus cases nationwide.
However, does Eoin feel like a second lockdown is inevitable?
“I think at the moment, the power rests in the hands of students and the community of Galway.
Practice hand hygiene, and if you are meeting up with social contacts, it must be at a minimum. The
fewer contacts you have, if anyone gets it, the less likely it is to spread.”
“Galway is entering a tipping point, and the next two weeks are crucial. Students have huge power
to influence that. Huge power.”
If you have any health queries, please visit https://www.nuigalway.ie/health_unit/ to book a
For urgent queries, phone 091 492604.