WEST Cork’s public will need to be much more careful about practising social – or physical – distancing, following criticism of the crowds which gathered at many beaches and beauty spots last weekend.
Supt Ger O’Mahony of Clonakilty Garda Station said the public needed to take the message very seriously.
His comments came in the wake of anger over the large crowds which gathered at several West Cork beaches including Long Strand, Owenahincha, and Garrettstown last weekend, forcing one restaurant to close its doors over fears that people were not practising enough distancing.
There was also traffic chaos in a number of locations, with local residents worried that emergency vehicles wouldn’t have been able to gain access if necessary.
Last night (Wednesday) another two Covid-19 deaths were confirmed, bringing the total number of Irish deaths to 9, with an additional 235 cases confirmed, bringing the total to 1,564 cases. There are now 133 cases in Co Cork.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Supt O’Mahony said the gardaí and the government’s view should be quite clear to everyone at this time.
‘Gardaí were on patrol last Sunday and observed a lot of people at Long Strand, but the vast majority of people were practising social distancing. Still, people need to be very clear about observing social and physical distancing,’ Supt O’Mahony added.
He said that following consultations between the gardaí and the owners of The Fish Basket restaurant on Long Strand, a decision was made to close the popular venue once it became clear, on Sunday afternoon, that social distancing could not be adhered to, given the large crowds gathered at the café.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page, the owners of The Fish Basket said that the measures that they had in place for social distancing were unworkable due to the sheer volume of people there last Sunday.
‘We really do apologise for any upset caused – it was absolutely not our intention to do so,’ they said.
There was a lot of criticism from members of the public on the post that the availability of outside seating meant poor social distancing was inevitable, and it should have been removed.
Supt O’Mahony said that beaches like Long Strand and Garrettstown were extremely busy last weekend, due to the improved weather.
There were also complaints of increased traffic at other popular locations like Gougane Barra, Glengarriff and Lough Hyne.
‘The message going out is that people need to listen and practise social and physical distancing so we can get through this together,’ said Supt O’Mahony.
Meanwhile, Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan is calling on people to become ‘obsessive’ about social distancing after he was inundated with messages from people about the scenes last weekend.
‘Let’s be obsessive about social distancing. Older people and people with underlying conditions will thank us later, as will the frontline healthcare workers,’ said Deputy O’Sullivan.
The beach scenes were described as ‘outrageous’ by Cllr Paul Hayes who said that if people see crowded beaches, they should ‘move on’ immediately, while Crosshaven-based Cllr Audrey Buckley said she couldn’t get out of her driveway due to the crowds trying to access Church Bay in Crosshaven.
Road bowling organisations Ból Chumann na hÉireann and the Gaeltacht Road Bowling Club have condemned those who attended a road bowling score on the Ballyvourney to Coolea Road last Sunday, despite a ban being put in place on road bowling due to the ongoing crisis.
The governing body said that ‘any breach will be dealt with firmly’, while the Gaeltacht Road Bowling Club said that none of those present at the score were affiliated members or supporters of the their club and were not local to the region. It is understood up to 50 people attended the score with gardaí attending the scene.
Villagers said they were upset with the fact that some of the participants visited local shops afterwards and did not practise social distancing.
Meanwhile, new restrictions introduced by the government on Tuesday evening mean that the farming sector is coming under increased pressure. With many chain restaurants like McDonald’s already closed, farmers now also have to contend with the closure of marts. However, Ruth Field of Field’s SuperValu in Skibbereen said there was some silver lining as local producers were in bigger demand than ever. The shop was now sourcing even more produce from West Cork. ‘We bake our own bread so we are in full control of that. But eggs, yoghurts, cheese, fish and more are all on our own doorstep,’ she noted.