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Connacht Tribune

Stranded far from home by Covid-19

Ciaran Tierney

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Kayla Isabel Sandigo Davila, from Nicaragua, with her housemate and fellow student Nadia Bea Gonzalez, from Spain. They've been enjoying the Prom during lockdown.

Lifestyle – Students from all over the world who came to Galway to learn English were shocked when language schools had to shut down in March as part of the Irish Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Many who were able to fly home did so then. Those who stayed continued to study online and have been enjoying Irish hospitality and time out, as three of them tell CIARAN TIERNEY.

They are among the forgotten victims of the coronavirus crisis in Galway. Many of them spent years saving up to come here, planning to change or improve their lives, and they never imagined the transformation that would occur when schools across the country were forced to shut down in mid-March.

They come from countries as varied as Switzerland, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Mexico. Many get eight-month visas which allow them to work part-time and the thousands of students who come to Galway to learn English every year make a significant contribution to the local economy.

From the host families they stay with to the hotels and shops they work in, and the tour companies who bring them on weekly excursions to Connemara and the Aran Islands, foreign students make an immense contribution to the economy.

Language schools contribute an estimated €880m to the national economy and there have been pleas for the Government to provide support to a sector which is facing a very uncertain future.

Three of the country’s biggest and most established schools are in Galway (Atlantic, the Bridge Mills, and Galway Cultural Institute), so the difficulties faced by the sector are a cause for concern locally.

Almost all the language students who come to Galway go on day trips to the Aran Islands, Connemara, or the Cliffs of Moher at the weekends, using local companies like Lally Tours and Aran Ferries.  Meanwhile, trips on the Corrib Princess and outings to Galway pubs for special student nights out are scheduled into their weekly timetables.

While there’s no roadmap for when language schools can reopen, these places rely primarily on advance bookings from students who plan their trips to Ireland months or even years in advance. It is hard to see too many people in Brazil, Spain, or Italy planning to come to Galway to study English in the near future.

For those who were already here when the schools shut down on March 12, it has been a surreal time. Many of them choose Galway because of its famed night life and compact size. And they found it strange to see roads and beaches deserted and pubs and restaurants closed during the first few weeks of the lockdown.

Among them are three students who came here in February, with plans to spend months studying English at Galway Cultural Institute (GCI) in Salthill.

They are Kayla Isabel Sandigo Davila, originally from Nicaragua; Nadia Bea Gonzalez from Granada, Spain, and Caio Eduardo Batista from Brazil.

They were given no notice when the Government announced on a Thursday at lunchtime that all schools in Ireland were shutting down.

It was a strange time, they recall. Some students never got a chance to say goodbye to classmates or teachers. Some of their friends wanted to go home as the places where they worked part-time were also closing and they wondered what they’d do with their time.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Influx of visitors heightens Covid fears

Dara Bradley

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Saolta CEO Tony Canavan

Local health chiefs are planning for the worst case scenario of a second surge of Coronavirus brought on by domestic tourism – as ‘staycationers’ from parts of the country where the virus is more prevalent carry it into the west.

There has been just one new confirmed case of Covid-19 in Galway in the past week, and just a handful of new cases in the past several weeks.

But the authorities fear tourists from parts of the country more affected by the virus will result in an increase here during August and September.

There are also concerns that there are not enough beds in the public health system to cope with a resurgence of Covid-19 alongside regular winter hospital admissions.

Tony Canavan, CEO of Saolta, which manages public hospitals in the West, at the HSE West Regional Health Forum this week, said health workers are anxious that the deadly virus will spread to the West, as the reopening of society continues.

“There are concerns among those working in the health system associated with Government plans to reopen society and the economy, even though we know that is absolutely necessary and important for the well-being of the population as a whole.

“But the concerns we have relate to the greater movement of people whether it’s going to and from work, or going about their business, whether it’s attending the shops or entertainment events and so on, and that greater movement of people creates an environment where the risk of the spread of Covid-19 is increased.

“We’re particularly concerned in the West and North West, that there would be a level of movement of people associated with tourism at this time of year,” said Mr Canavan.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also add the paper to your online grocery delivery; you can purchase a digital edition here, or you can have it delivered at no extra charge by An Post; full details are on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

Chanelle McCoy unveils her clinically proven cannabinoid cure

Stephen Corrigan

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Chanelle McCoy (left) and Caroline Glynn with their new Pureis product line in Galway this week. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

The usage of CBD food supplements to treat a whole raft of illnesses and conditions in recent years has given rise to concern that many of the products currently on the market are being sold to consumers without any clinical trials to verify their safety.

It was the rise in demand for these products that first caught the attention of well-known Loughrea business woman Chanelle McCoy who this week, together with her business partner and fellow Galwegian Caroline Glynn, launched the first CBD product on the Irish market that has been clinically proven to be safe – Pureis.

Chanelle, whose family business Chanelle Pharma in Loughrea has a proven track record in the medical world, stepped back from that venture five years ago to focus on her own Chanelle McCoy Health.

“My family business in Chanelle Pharma in Loughrea and so I’ve worked there for about 18 years. When I joined the business, it was a veterinary business and my father and I co-founded the medical side of the business. Then I was lucky to have the opportunity to lead that medical business over the last 18 years with a great team and with Caroline working with me,” says Chanelle of the beginning of her working relationship with Caroline.

“We bought the medical business into 96 countries around the world and we got over 2,500 product licences granted across those 96 countries. We would be looking at products in terms of what to put into the R&D pipeline and I started looking at CBD back in 2015, probably inspired a bit by Vera Twomey and the inability for moms like her to access good quality CBD products for kids like Ava,” she says, explaining that Cork woman Vera Twomey’s plight to secure cannabidiol treatment for her daughter’s epilepsy was a real eye-opener.

Read the full feature in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also add the paper to your online grocery delivery; you can purchase a digital edition here, or you can have it delivered at no extra charge by An Post; full details are on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

State can’t leave Galway addiction services in limbo

Dara Bradley

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Any further delay in setting up an alcohol addiction treatment service in Galway City will result in more deaths, including suicides, of problem drinkers – and cause ‘total devastation’ to local families, addiction experts have warned.

Addiction Counsellors of Ireland (ACI) has demanded that the Health Service Executive (HSE) immediately establishes an alcohol treatment service in the city.

The professional body which accredits counsellors claims that GPs in Galway are ‘flooded’ with drink-related patients, and the Emergency Department ‘can’t cope’ with the level of alcohol admissions.

It said the long-awaited alcohol addiction treatment service planned for the city would save lives and save tens of thousands of euro on alcohol-related emergency admissions at University Hospital Galway.

Some €470,000 a year funding for the service was announced by the previous Government last December; and a commitment for the service was contained in the Programme for Government agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party.

This week, Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton, a Minister of State in the new administration, confirmed that some €225,000 for the service from now to Christmas, is available in the 2020 HSE budget to get the service up and running.

Local addiction counsellors have now demanded that the HSE urgently hire the staff, and source a building, to roll out the alcohol addiction service, which has been absent for the past seven years.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also add the paper to your online grocery delivery; you can purchase a digital edition here, or you can have it delivered at no extra charge by An Post; full details are on this website.

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