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*Photograph: John Mangan

Ahead of the anticipated arrival of large numbers of people to our beaches this May Bank Holiday Weekend, pleas have been issued for the public to remain vigilant in the suppression of COVID-19.

New outbreaks of COVID-19 associated with social gatherings are being managed by the Department of Public Health Mid-West, a spokesperson has confirmed. These include outbreaks in families and extended families, multi-household clusters, workplaces, schools, and community outbreaks.

Director of Public Health Mid-West, Dr Mai Mannix stated, “The latest easing of restrictions to allow for more outdoor activities has come as a welcome relief to many people who have made so many sacrifices over the past 15 months. However, this means it is even more vital that we follow Public Health guidelines, as an increase in social and outdoor activity increases our exposure to possible infection.

“While infection levels are significantly lower than they were at the peak of the third wave, daily cases should ideally be in low single figures in each county, as we had seen for a short period in April. Social gatherings, including birthday parties and organised indoor gatherings, have contributed to a rise in new cases across the Mid-West. Unfortunately, these type of events have led to a disruption in workplaces, school settings, and people’s lives in general,” Dr Mannix added.

Efforts to suppress the virus need to be maintained, Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling commented. “We have cause for cautious optimism as we look to the future. This is a reflection on the truly commendable commitment that the people of Clare have shown. I understand that many people feel fatigued. The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has advised that adherence with public health advice, combined with the vaccination programme, is key to exiting this pandemic in the coming months. That prospect gives us huge motivation to move forward”.

He continued, “As we look ahead to the May bank holiday weekend, I am reminding everyone once again to be mindful of the Covid-19 public health advice and to avoid risky behaviours. We can only maintain a positive trajectory if we continue doing what we have been doing well. Above all, we do not want to jeopardise our health, wellbeing and future progress”.

Clare County Council has confirmed that it will provide significant additional resources in the areas of public toilet facilities, litter and traffic management.

Toilet facilities, including baby changing facilities, will be operational this weekend and throughout the summer season at Spanish Point, White Strand, Fanore, Lahinch, Kilkee and Cappa. Additional toilet facilities will be provided, where deemed necessary, at these and other popular visitor locations during the summer months. These facilities will be maintained regularly each day.

Additional public bins are being provided at coastal locations and will be emptied a number of times per day by local authority staff. Clare County Council is requesting individuals and groups to ensure all empty packaging or picnic waste is taken home or alternatively deposited in the public bins.

Community Officers and Beach Ambassadors will be deployed at busy coastal locations to assist with traffic management, maintaining public amenities and litter management, and to respond to any requests for assistance or queries from tourists and locals alike.

The public is advised that lifeguards are not on duty at Blue Flag beach locations during May. The public should use caution and avoid swimming in non-designated bathing areas. Lifeguard services will commence during the June Bank Holiday Weekend. Water safety advice is available from www.watersafety.ie.

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