Strict new Garda powers to halt any non-essential travel outside 2km; Cork public strongly urged to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions

Strict new Garda powers to halt any non-essential travel outside 2km; Cork public strongly urged to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions
Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland. 8th Apr, 2020. Despite the government imploring people to stay at home for the Easter weekend, a Baltimore car park was almost full today. There were many Dublin registered cars and also some vehicles with UK reg plates. Picture: Andy Gibson

PEOPLE caught travelling without an essential reason or exercising more than 2km from their home can now be hit with a fine or a prison sentence. Under the new regulations signed by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, those caught flouting the new measures can be faced with a fine of up to €2,500 and/or imprisonment for up to six months.

The move followed a meeting by Commissioner Drew Harris with members of the government, including the Attorney General, regarding the measures which had been included in legislation passed through the Oireachtas two weeks ago.

It also comes as concerns are raised by people in coastal areas about an influx of people from other parts of the country to holiday homes for the Easter holiday season, despite the restrictions on movement which are not due to expire until Sunday and which are expected to be extended.

West Cork councillor Karen Coakley (FG) warned that people must adhere to restrictions.

There are reports Union Hall, Baltimore and Glandore have already seen people flock to stay in holiday homes ahead Easter weekend.

Ms Coakley said there is an “awful lot of concern” on social media.

“We need to look after our community,” she said. “While we value business and business is important, right now health is most important. Our health is our wealth and we need to make sure that we are protecting people. Our older people are cocooning and most other people in the community are adhering to the regulations and the restrictions.

Fountainstown Car Park during the COVID 19 crisis and ahead of the Easter Weekend, Fountainstown, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan
Fountainstown Car Park during the COVID 19 crisis and ahead of the Easter Weekend, Fountainstown, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan

“We welcome people and we want people to come and visit but unfortunately now is not the right time. Here in West Cork we’re so fortunate, we’re all this beautiful air and we have space and if we have people coming from cities when sadly the East has had such high statistics, it’s bound to be a concern for people.” She said that people arriving from other parts of the country are putting the communities in West Cork towns who have been following the guidelines in danger.

“People are being good and yet there's a chance they're going to get the virus even though they’re doing everything right themselves. It’s just not knowing that’s the problem.

“Even people in the supermarkets, if we have people going in to do the shopping from their holiday homes, the workers are the people who are at risk and they’re working such hard hours and they’re doing fantastic,” she said.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris today announced that people staying in their holiday homes will need to remain there for the duration of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Fountainstown Car Park during the COVID 19 crisis and ahead of the Easter Weekend, Fountainstown, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan
Fountainstown Car Park during the COVID 19 crisis and ahead of the Easter Weekend, Fountainstown, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan

Cllr Coakley said: “With the new law brought in last night that the gardaí have the power to stop people and question them I would say that that it should impact on the numbers travelling but sadly it will be too late for some people.” “We love our tourists and we’re so dependent on them, they contribute so much to West Cork but we don’t want to be spreading the virus we need to keep Covid-19 out.” Although gardaí have been on checkpoint duty as part of the coronavirus response to ensure a clampdown on movement to prevent the spread of the virus, up until yesterday there were only able to act in an advisory capacity Now gardaí are able to order people to comply with the public health guidelines and issue sanctions if they don't.

Under the regulations, someone believed to be at risk of spreading the virus, and who fails to self-isolate, can be detained by the HSE and gardaí, and could face up to three months in prison.

Fountainstown Car Park during the COVID 19 crisis and ahead of the Easter Weekend, Fountainstown, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan
Fountainstown Car Park during the COVID 19 crisis and ahead of the Easter Weekend, Fountainstown, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan

In order to further discourage people from flocking to tourist sites, Cork County Council also announced it was closing the car parks at fourteen beachside locations in Cork county.

“Unfortunately some people continue to venture out and are not adhering to the restrictions currently in place,” Cork County Mayor Ian Doyle said. 

“Closing off access to these coastal car parks sends out the message that it is not acceptable to visit places that fall outside of the 2km area of your home. We can all still get exercise and fresh air in close proximity to our homes. We have collectively been doing a great job so far in staying home and stopping the spread of COVID 19, so let’s keep working together.” 

“Government guidelines are clear that all citizens must limit their leisure and exercise to within 2km of their homes,” Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey said. “Driving for non essential purposes is not permitted as part of these public health measures. With the good weather and Easter weekend approaching these closures have been put in place to make it clear that people outside the immediate 2km area should not visit public beaches or other amenities at this time.” 

The beachside car parks that are to close include: Youghal beach, Claycastle beach, Garryvoe beach, Ballycotton Cliff Walk, Fountainstown, Garrylucas, Barleycove, Garnish, Tragumna, Lough Hyne, The Warren, Inchydoney, Owenahincha, and Long Strand.

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