The level of traffic on some of Ireland’s most scenic routes has halved since Covid-19 lockdown measures were introduced but is still higher than traffic volumes seen on Christmas Day.
That’s according to official traffic data collected by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, which monitors traffic flows on roads throughout the country.
As the country prepares for an Easter weekend like no other, doctors, patients, and government ministers are urging people to stay at home and abide by restrictions aimed at bringing the Covid-19 outbreak under control.
The appeals follow reports of individuals and groups flouting the restrictions on movement and continuing to travel beyond the two-kilometre limit from their home to visit scenic areas.
An analysis of popular routes around the country shows that traffic volumes have halved since lockdown measures were introduced but remain, for the most part, higher than traffic seen on Christmas Day last.
The Irish Examiner analysed data from traffic counters in counties Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Meath, Galway, Clare and Donegal to gauge changes in traffic flow since Fri, Mar 27.
In Wexford, where there were anecdotal reports of people flocking to the coast or to holiday homes, traffic volumes were twice that seen last Christmas Day on the N25 southwest of Rosslare harbour.
Before the lockdown, typical daily traffic flow on this stretch of road was more than 5,000 movements. While traffic levels fell off after Mar 27 (3,097 movements on Mar 30) they remained higher than levels seen on Christmas Day (1,474 movements) — one of the quietest days on our roads.
Similar trends were evident on other scenic routes. On the N22 Killarney Northern Ring Road the volume of traffic was down significantly since the lockdown measures (from 19,163 on Mon, March 2 to 7,037 on Mon, Apr 6) but remained higher than that observed on Christmas Day (5,256).
In Galway, the N59 between Recess and Clifden also looked busier this week than on Christmas Day. On Mon, Apr 6 there were 1,002 traffic movements on this stretch of road compared to 616 last Christmas Day. Before the lockdown, around 1,800 traffic movements per day were recorded on this road.
By contrast, traffic on one stretch of road in Meath fell below levels seen last Christmas Day. The R132 south of Julianstown had less traffic on Monday last (9,239 movements) than on Christmas Day last (10,688). Up to 20,000 traffic movements were recorded per day on this stretch of road in Dec.
The figures come as Gardai were this week given new powers to arrest and fine people caught flouting the Covid-19 restrictions on movement and travel.
Travel is only permitted for essential work, to attend medical appointments, to shop for essential food, medicines or household supplies, or to provide vital care for family members.
The new Garda powers mean that anyone caught flouting the rules can face a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison.
Meanwhile, there were reports of British-registered vehicles arriving into the country to go to holiday homes this week.
Dr Gabriel Scally, a former regional director of public health in England, said, if true, the movement of people from the Britain needs to stop because of the lack of community Covid-19 testing there.
The author of the report into the CervicalCheck controversy told RTÉ radio on Thursday that there cannot be any lifting of restrictions in either the North or the South of Ireland unless both are done simultaneously.