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West Cork pulls together

March 22nd, 2020 6:25 PM

By Emma Connolly

Drinagh Pharmacy staff take precautions at their premises in Skibbereen. Photo: Anne Minihane.

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Local communities show unprecedented solidarity and strength in face of Covid-19 threat

THE communities of West Cork have this week rallied around in an unprecedented show of mutual support and solidarity, to help beat the impact of the coronavirus.

As the realisation dawns that the country will likely be living with the impact of Covid-19 for months, a new way of living is already emerging in West Cork.

There are now 48 cases confirmed in Cork, and a total of 366 cases in the country – with 31% of these hospitalised. A total of  22% of cases are healthcare workers. A virus testing centre was opened in Dunmanway earlier this week to deal with increasing numbers of suspected cases being referred by GPs.

This is one of four testing sites now in operation in Cork and Kerry, where over 140 people were tested on Monday alone. The HSE said the capacity of these sites is expected to increase significantly over the next few days as the processes become more streamlined and additional staff are recruited.

People everywhere are still adjusting to drastic but vital restrictions on travel, social contact, education and work.

But now networks throughout West Cork are already being set up to help those more vulnerable and less supported and the thousands of elderly who are genuinely terrified of leaving their homes.

Supermarkets, now among the few businesses still trading, have early morning slots in place to accommodate the elderly, including Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty.

Sam’s Gala in Dunmanway are also holding ‘Senior Sundays’ from 2-4pm.

Many food businesses and pharmacies have changed the layout of their shops to allow social distancing.

Meanwhile, Casey’s restaurant in Clonakilty is offering free dinners to be delivered to their elderly and vulnerable customers.

Dunmore House Hotel, now closed for business, has donated 40 hot dinners for the town’s ‘meals on wheels’ in another show of solidarity.

The town’s Chamber of Commerce has also launched a social media campaign called ‘Clonakilty will Prevail’ which saw Oak Fire Pizza deliver pizzas to staff in the community hospital.

St Patrick’s Day didn’t go entirely uncelebrated, despite the cancellation of parades. Bandon Girl Guides Emma Lovell and Niamh Harrington organised a hugely-supported car parade through the town. Something similar took place in Castletownbere, Carrigaline and Ballinhassig.

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen went virtual with what would have been their entry in the town’s parade and Kilmeen NS called for people to sing ‘Óró sé do bheatha ’bhaile’ out their doors and windows at noon.

People in villages like Timoleague, Rosscarbery, and Ardfield have organised themselves into networks to collect shopping, medicine, fuel, and more, for those in need. Bandon AFC have also put out a similar offer of help.

A website based on the hashtag #selfisolationhelp with an interactive map at randall.ie/help has already had over 300 offers from locals in West Cork to deliver shopping and do other jobs for the elderly and isolated. A similar initiative called CovidCommunityResponse.ie has also been established.

Post offices are to open from 8am, specifically for more elderly customers, at the end of this week, and with all Parkruns, fitness events, gyms and exercise classes cancelled, and playgrounds closed, workouts and yoga sessions are being hosted by providers online.

There’s even an online tea party being organised by a Rosscarbery woman on Friday March 20th to ‘inspire the nation with the universal power of the cuppa.’

While many events are light-hearted and designed to raise spirits, there’s no underestimating the gravity of what lies ahead.

Bantry-based Ind Cllr Danny Collins has requested Cork County Council suspend commercial rates for up to four months, and, following a meeting yesterday, five of the major banks said customers affected by the Covid-19 crisis will receive a three-month mortgage break and the banks have agreed to a simplified application process.

FF Cllr Gillian Coughlan has called on the government to increase child benefit from €60 per month per child for families whose children receive subsidised meals at school.

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