The city’s parks have been lauded as a fine amenity that benefits the public’s physical and mental health, but Cork City Council has warned people to ensure that park users maintain a social distance of two metres when using the facilities.
Ballincollig councillor Derry Canty said the suburb's regional park has been "bursting at the seams" in recent days since all schools, colleges and childcare facilities were asked to close by the Government, followed by pubs and restaurants.
“The four car parks are all full,” Mr Canty said, “There are four entrances to Ballincollig Regional Park and people need to use them all not just go to the main entrance."
Mr Canty said that most people are keeping away from each other and some are elbowing as ‘Hello’.
“The playgrounds and parks are bringing such relief to people, there is wide open space for everyone, the old buildings to look at and the history of the gun powder mills.
“It is lovely to walk along beside the water with the birds it is needed to keep people healthy, mentally and physically. The fresh air is vital.” Mr Canty said all the parks were full at the moment.
“Fitzgerald Park, Tramore Valley Park, they are all packed and they are open to everyone to enjoy. It is important to get out, but it is also important to keep your distance, just smile and wave. No congregating or shaking hands, enjoy it while we can.”
A spokesperson for Cork City Council said: “Cork City Council’s parks are open as they are an important amenity for people living and working in the city.
“We are advising all park users to remember to heed the advice from the HSE around social distancing.
“The HSE Chief Medical Officer said last weekend that playgrounds still have a role to play in family life once numbers are kept small and parents or guardians can ensure appropriate social distancing.”
Some Cork families have also chosen to visit Fota Wildlife Park in recent days, as the park has remained open with some additional measures. It has been limiting the numbers of the public who can be in the park at any one time to a maximum of 500.
Certain attractions, such as the tropical house, playgrounds and the tour train were closed to the public as soon as the restrictions on gatherings were announced last week.
The activities and events marquees will also remain closed until further notice.
Management of the park have said that they are “reviewing the situation and all advice from the Government daily”.
Meanwhile, leading air pollution expert John Sodeau has said there are health benefits to be found in the ongoing stall on commercial activity, despite coming at a severe price.
Mr Sodeau, who works in the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork (UCC) said he agreed with estimations that the sudden reduction in nitrogen oxides in the air will save lives, but also acknowledged the unfortunate circumstances that necessitated the pause in business.
“It’s a bit like asking would you rather be mauled by a wolf or a bear, neither is ideal,” Dr Sodeau said.
While nitrogen oxide is significantly reduced, Dr Sodeau said that other pollutants could increase with people heating their homes.
“There isn’t an abnormal amount of burning of solid fuels around Cork at the moment, in the last week or so, which may be so that people may be staying in their homes but the weather has not been particularly cold.”
Dr Sodeau, who is a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at UCC with research interests in Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerobiology, said that two major benefits from a reduction in air pollution were improved respiratory and cardiac functions for society.
“The most important conclusion I would say is people can see in front of their eyes, the reduction in nitrogen dioxide in the air, all due to the air pollution being much reduced.
“All of the things that scientists have been saying to the public for the past two-three years has been shown in an experiment we would not want to see, but it is there.”