TRADITIONALLY the busiest bank holiday weekend of the year, this August’s will have no problem emulating that expectation for 2020 because all the others so far this year have occurred during the earlier stages of Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions. This August bank holiday weekend is the first one of the year so far where people have the proverbial free rein to wander the country and avail of what the hospitality sector is allowed to offer – although minus the pubs who don’t serve food, which is the majority of them.
However, holidays don’t revolve around drink for the majority of people and there are plenty of attractions and nice scenery across West Cork for visitors to enjoy as they get away for a while from the monotony and, in some cases, claustrophobia that the lockdown restrictions brought. The lack of foreign visitors is going to lead to a reduced number of tourists, but this is likely to be partially compensated for by an increase in domestic visitors who might otherwise have gone abroad and we trust that the hospitality sector will pass on the full benefits of the temporary VAT reduction to their customers.
‘Staycationers’ are going to be crucial to the hospitality sector for what’s left of the tourist season, which usually peaks in August, ahead of the return to schools and colleges in September. It remains to be seen how the whole back to school scenario is going to be safely managed, but in the meantime it is still holiday time and families should make the most of it.
It is incumbent on all of us to safely manage our holidays too, given that the Covid-19 coronavirus is still around and there have been warning signs in recent weeks with the increase in the ‘R’ number – the average number of people an infected person passes Covid-19 on to after contracting the disease – that people need to be more careful about social distancing, especially, as well as all the other precautions that still need to be taken, such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and wearing face coverings where two-metre social distancing is not possible. As we have said here in the past, just because people are away from home on their holidays does not mean that they can forget about the ongoing precautions that need to be taken in order to keep the virus suppressed.
It has not gone away and the ‘new normal’ has to be living our lives as fully as we can, but having constant regard of the fact that Covid-19 is out there in the community and that we need to take all possible safeguards to protect ourselves and others from contracting it. This big holiday weekend will truly test people’s resolve and is not the time for people to let their guard down, as any further spike in new cases could jeopardise the re-opening of schools at the end of this month.
With the schools having been closed since March 12th last, both parents and children will be anxious that they do re-open for the autumn term. However, the key to this is in the hands of the general public who need to do the right thing in terms of putting recommended public health precautions into practice in order to get the ‘R’ number down again.
This holiday weekend, it is not only public health that must be minded, but also both road and water safety. Unfortunately, even though there were two months during the lockdown period in which traffic was drastically reduced – and with most pubs still closed – the number of road fatalities so far this year is slightly up on the same period last year, so with this August bank holiday weekend set to be the busiest of the year on our roads, it is incumbent on all road users – drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – to exercise caution for their own safety and that of others.
The same advice applies to people using the water, be it the sea or our rivers and lakes or swimming pools. Always swim, where possible, at locations where lifeguards are on duty and obey their directions.
As Roger Sweeney of Water Safety Ireland pointed out recently, ‘Drownings typically occur when a person overestimates their ability and underestimates the risk.’ We have had more than enough tragedy this year with all the deaths from Covid-19, so let’s try not to add to them by being careless, especially during this holiday period which everyone should make the best of and enjoy.