A growing number of car parks and recreation facilities are being closed amidst fears that 'social distancing' is being flouted
The popular Bray to Greystones cliff walk has been closed as concerns about recreational crowds and the spread of Covid-19 grow.
Wicklow County Council this afternoon advised that the cliff walk, along with all of its council-operated playgrounds and the public toilets at Bray seafront, were now closed until further notice.
"Wicklow County Council regrets taking this decision and urges the public to follow social distancing guidelines," it said.
It follows the closure of car parks and facilities at Glendalough, as well as both sides of the Sally Gap this weekend, due to what Gardaí called "the sheer volume of traffic in the area".
Local communities have expressed fears that crowds flocking to popular parks, beaches and walking trails are making it impossible to maintain 'social distancing' - a key concept in the public health guidelines issued as Ireland battles the spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19.
The HSE's tips for social distancing include recommendations to "avoid crowded places", "reduce interactions" and "keep a space of 2 metres (6.5 feet) between you and other people".
Traffic Alert Laois / Offaly - The car parks at Glenbarrow, Slieve Bloom Mountains are now closed until further notice due to #SocialDistancing concerns. GardaÃ are currently on approach roads diverting traffic. #SocialDistancing #WashYourHands pic.twitter.com/uWIjwCgyUf— An Garda SÃochÃ¡na (@GardaTraffic) March 22, 2020
With shuttered sports, schools and leisure options however, a pent-up demand for activity has seen peak season-style crowds congregate around popular parks and trails, making such distancing more difficult.
In the midlands, car parks at Glenbarrow and the Slieve Bloom Mountains were closed this weekend with Gardaí on approach roads to divert traffic, while images of crowds and concerns about high volumes of daytrippers have been shared from Ardmore, Co Waterford to Achill Island in Co Mayo.
A meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team will tomorrow decide whether to recommend restrictions on gathering in parks, playgrounds and public spaces in Ireland.
Health Minister Simon Harris has warned that some public areas may be shut to visitors, and said Wicklow County Council was right to restrict car parking and food outlets in Glendalough.
However, the minister has also noted the importance of exercise and the outdoors to mental health and wellbeing as Irish people come to terms with life without schools and sports.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today said that people visiting crowded parks and public spaces at the weekend “probably turned up not realising how bad they were going to be so I don’t think we should be berating people about this”.
“If [the National Public Health Emergency Team] recommends further restrictions, we will implement those further restrictions," he added.
"But you know, I should say that any decision was made on further restrictions isn't going to be made because of what's trending on Twitter, or because of populism or political pressure.
“It will be made on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, and his team of expert public health doctors and biologists, immunologists and that's as it should be.”