Outdoor enthusiasts have been urged to “stay local” this weekend to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Two mountaineering organisations have urged people to refrain from heading to the uplands this weekend and ensure their one daily walk is “low” and “local”.
This follows tighter Covid-19 response restrictions announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on March 24th, urging people to stay at home for all but essential trips.
Last week, the Irish Sailing Association advised that all organised sailing events should be cancelled, noting that social distancing was “ not only difficult to achieve onshore from an organisers’ perspective but also difficult to achieve at a personal level on the water”.
The Wicklow Uplands Council has said “anxious upland communities” are “appealing directly to would-be visitors” to “please stay at home and avail of recreational amenities within their own locality”.
“Each visitor brings with them an increased chance of the virus spreading to the area. Each rest stop, each hand that touches a metal gate or stile, each person that engages another, potentially brings that daunting reality one step closer,” the council says.
Mountaineering Ireland, the umbrella body for walking and climbing groups, has also appealed to people to avoid travelling for their exercise and to stay at home and away from upland walking and climbing routes.
“By doing this, we will all play our part in fighting against this national and global emergency, and hopefully support the work of the health services,” Mountaineering Ireland chief executive officer Murrough McDonagh has said.
Earlier this week, Kerry Mountain Rescue had asked people to forego their enjoyment of the uplands and warned of restrictions on rescue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wicklow Uplands Council said that during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, Irish people “understood the challenges and heeded the call to avoid the hills”
“Since measures to combat the spread of the Covid-19/Coronavirus were first announced, and with schools, educational centres and many businesses now closed, the uplands have seen unprecedented numbers of visitors arrive on a daily basis,” it said.
Both organisations and the Leave No Trace network had issued guidelines on physical distancing, appropriate parking, litter disposal and dog control, but upland areas reached what the council describes as “breaking point” last weekend.
Wicklow County Council, the Office of Public Works and the National Parks and Wildlife Service decided to close all car parks and facilities in the Glendalough valley until further notice, while shops in the village of Laragh also closed due to the volumes of people visiting.
Shortly afterwards, An Garda Síochána closed sections of the Sally Gap road near Luggala estate for a number of hours.
Wicklow Uplands Council co-ordinator Brian Dunne urged people to act responsibly and stay at home.
“Travelling to the uplands for recreational and pleasure activities is considered unnecessary and irresponsible. It is contrary to government measures and exposes local communities to the risk of spreading the virus,” he said.