Island says ‘stay safe – but away’

March 23rd, 2020 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

Joanne Coughlan puts on gloves before heading to do her shopping Picture: Anne Marie Cronin Photography

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BERE Island is doing everything it can to protect its inhabitants from the coronavirus by issuing an appeal to visitors to stay away.

The decision was taken following a meeting of island community group Bere Island Projects Group and the ferry operators after island residents voiced their concerns over the number of visitors arriving on the island in recent days.

John Walsh said: ‘We were concerned for vulnerable members of our community – Bere Island has one of the highest dependency rate of all the Irish islands, 78.5% which is twice the national average. We need to ensure that we give our community the best chance to beat this virus. We know that if someone on an island gets the virus it will take a lot of resources that are already stretched to the limit, so by making this difficult decision it will ensure that we have given the island and our community the best opportunity for all of us to get through this.’

Eugene Glendon, chair of Bere Island Projects Group, stressed the need for visitors to stay away from the island at the moment: ‘Bere Island survives by its community, without which we would become another Great Blasket island.’

Meanwhile, the community is using technology to help everyone feel connected regardless of their location.

Pauline Hurley, principal of Scoil Phobail Bhéara contacted Bere Island Community Radio and since Monday March 16th the radio station has been broadcasting the school assembly at 8.55am each weekday followed by updates and advice from teaching staff. The school plans to expand this service over the next few weeks.

The radio station has also been broadcasting mass with Fr Noel Spring, parish priest of Castletownbere.  Mass is live-streamed from the empty Church of the Sacred Heart, Castletownbere, the station also broadcast St Patrick’s Day mass, and a special St Patrick’s Day programme, interviewing Beara residents who are currently on lockdown in Italy, and providing advice from a local GP.

Castletownbere’s main supermarket, Murphy’s SuperValu, remains open and is providing hand sanitisers and gloves in the main entrance and is asking customers to maintain one trolley length away from each other to ensure social distancing. They are also providing a home delivery service for all those who are unable to visit the store. The town’s two pharmacies, Berehaven Pharmacy and Cronin’s Chemist, are asking customers not to visit them if they have any symptoms, such as fever or cough, but to contact them by phone and arrangements can be made to get prescriptions out to people.

Sgt Stephen O’Sullivan of Castletownbere gardaí said they are ready to assist the elderly or people unable to travel, or anyone who is worried about the current situation.

‘We are here to assist and help where possible, be it prescription pick-ups medication or escorts for the sick. We will help wherever we can and even if some more isolated people want to give a ring for some assurance, if nothing else, people can contact us on 027 70002.’

With all sport and fitness facilities closed, local businesses are using technology to allow people to keep fit. Scoil Rince Carney is hosting a Facebook live Irish dance class on Mondays from 5.30pm and Gina Lewis of Beara Fitness is also holding exercise classes via Facebook.

A spokesperson for the Castletownbere Development Association said: ‘We’re all worried, it’s only natural, but we’re a strong community and we’re ready to help when needed. Behind the scenes there is a growing team of volunteers ready to step up to the plate and deal with whatever comes our way.’

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