Coronavirus: Gardaí to step up travel ban checks

Gardaí will launch a major crackdown ahead of the May bank holiday weekend to prevent people travelling to holiday homes, with one local authority to use drones at beaches to ensure compliance with social distancing.
Coronavirus: Gardaí to step up travel ban checks

- With reporting from Sarah Slater

Gardaí will launch a major crackdown ahead of the May bank holiday weekend to prevent people travelling to holiday homes, with one local authority to use drones at beaches to ensure compliance with social distancing.

Thousands of checkpoints are expected to be mounted by gardaí across the country in an effort to cut down on the spread of Covid-19.

However, it’s been claimed they do not have the powers to prevent people from the North travelling into the country.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said this will create difficulties for gardaí in border counties and especially in Donegal, which gets a significant amount of visitors from the North.

Ms Cunningham said the travel restrictions cannot be applied to people from the North or from any other states.

She said an all-island approach was needed to travel restrictions.

“We have two jurisdictions, but only one virus which knows no boundaries,” Ms Cunningham said.

The checkpoints are being established early this week to prevent a recurrence of the last bank holiday weekend, when many people left their homes several days before the holiday.

Garda sources said it appeared many had travelled by night and deliberately kept away from motorways and other major roads so they wouldn’t be stopped at checkpoints.

This time it’s expected that mobile checkpoints will also be mounted on minor roads, especially near areas which attract a lot of tourists.

The crackdown is likely to be similar to, but last longer than, Operation Fanacht, which was mounted by gardaí during the Easter holidays.

It involved more than 2,500 gardaí, who mounted thousands of checkpoints on the edge of cities, on motorways, and close to tourist hotspots.

A garda spokeswoman said details of the operation were likely to be made public in the next few days.

Gardaí are expected to operate an even tougher stance on the 2km travel limit after the country’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said he and the National Public Health Emergency Team were becoming increasingly concerned that more and more people were starting to flout travel restrictions and social distancing, which came into force with the introduction of the lockdown on March 27.

The areas most likely to see increased garda checkpoints will be in Mayo, Galway, West Cork, Wicklow, Kerry, Waterford, and Wexford.

As well as the gardaí, it is expected that local authorities will station staff near beaches and parks and beauty spots to deter people from breaching the travel limit, and to ensure locals observe correct social distancing.

Meanwhile, one local authority is to use ‘eyes in the sky’ to check on the movements of people.

Wexford County Council says it will deploy six drones — normally used to detect illegal dumping in remote areas — to ensure people are adhering to social distancing.

The move comes after the number of Covid-19 cases confirmed in Wexford rose by 93% in the week after the Easter bank holiday.

David Minogue, the council’s executive director of communications, said they are taking the measure to ensure that people adhere to the legal restrictions.

“The drones we use are fully licensed and used by trained operators and, so far, their use has been broadly welcomed.

“This is a public safety issue, and we have to ensure this is followed. An Garda Síochána will be carrying out strict enforcement in relation to parking and non-compliances in this regard, and anyone we find in breach of this will be referred to the gardaí.

“Wexford County Council very much regrets the necessity of these measures but [we] must act in the interest of public health due to gathering crowds and infringements of physical distancing requirements.

“The situation will be kept under review.”

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