By Siobhán Cronin
and Jackie Keogh
WEST Cork has offered a cautious welcome this week to the large number of visitors that arrived into the region since the easing of travel restrictions on Monday.
Beaches including Garrettstown, Tragumna and Barleycove have seen an influx of camper vans, and holiday homes are quickly filling up as visitors arrived since the weekend from Dublin, Cork city and other locations around Ireland.
While the region is in urgent need of an injection of business as the normal tourist season has been greatly curbed by Covid-19, there are also fears that many may unwittingly bring the virus with them.
Dublin has the highest number of cases, with over 12,000 people there having been diagnosed with Covid since records began.
And despite government advice that customers in shops should wear masks, there has been a relatively low take-up of the practice in West Cork. This week the government’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he was nervous about the amount of new clusters emerging, and also a trend showing younger people were becoming infected. There have also been concerns expressed about the increasing numbers of flights in and out of Irish airports, including Cork Airport.
The eight inhabited islands off the coast of West Cork also reopened this week. It is understood that one person on Bere Island – which went into lockdown one week ahead of everywhere else – tested positive for Covid-19 but has since recovered.
Cape Clear was the only other local island identified by a ‘red dot’ on the map issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) as a possible location for an infected person. Islander Séamus Ó Drisceoil, described this as ‘misleading’ and said: ‘The marking was used to denote the greater electoral area and does not specifically apply to Cape Clear Island, where there have been no cases of Covid-19.’ A spokesperson for the HPSC confirmed that the broad areas marked with the red dot – or the ‘<5’ figure – could mean a maximum of four cases, but it could also mean ‘zero’ cases.
Throughout the lockdown, the eight islands were off limits to visitors. The decision to bring the date for their reopening forward from August 10th has left some local businesses struggling to get up to speed with new distancing regulations.