Residents on Galway’s offshore islands are braced for ongoing economic turmoil as a result of the Covid-19 crisis – but there’s a sense of relief that an early lockdown has thus far prevented the virus from reaching islanders.
At a time when ferries full of tourists would normally be making several daily trips to the Aran Islands and Inishbofin, restrictions on travel introduced in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak are set to continue until at least August 10.
Chair of the Inis Oírr Co-op, Enda Ó Conghaile said while there would unquestionably be significant financial implications for the islands as this crisis moves to the next stage, there would always be another tourist season and it was crucial at the moment that islanders’ health and wellbeing was the priority.
The Aran Islands and Bofin sought to get ahead of the virus in early March, ahead of the introduction of the national lockdown, by asking that visitors stay away and that travel to and from the islands be restricted.
That decision had paid dividends, said Mr Conghaile, with no known cases on Inis Oírr or in any of the island communities.
“Everyone is suffering [financially] but it’d be significantly worse if we had an outbreak of coronavirus. An outbreak of the virus on any of the islands would be very serious because of the situation on the islands with vulnerable members of the community,” he continued, adding that accessing medical treatment is a different challenge for those living off the mainland.
There was widespread support for shutting off the islands to tourists among residents, and while the initial closure was due for review on March 29, it has continued and will continue for months to come.
Residents had also limited their travel to mainland for the past couple of months, said Mr Conghaile, with most journeys being made for medical reasons.
“The cargo boat is operating as best it can and we can keep the Co-op running with most of the stuff it needs,” he said.
Much like everyone at the moment, islanders were taking a ‘wait and see approach’ and following the medical advice nationally.
“We have to wait and see what happens in June. We’re following the guidelines and the medical advice and we’re glad that we don’t have any cases of the virus yet.
“There will undoubtedly be major problems down the line in terms of finance, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Mr Conghaile.
Pubs to remain closed and restrictions on gatherings unchanged
Pubs and nightclubs will not be allowed to open next week, while restrictions will remain in place on indoor and outdoor gatherings, as the Government decided to postpone Phase 4 of the Roadmap to Recovery for a second time.
It will also become compulsory to wear face coverings in shops and shopping centres from next Monday.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin made the announcement this evening, adding that the current situation will be reviewed again in three week’s time.
Asked if pubs would reopen at all this year, the Taoiseach said that due to the way the virus spreads, the Government “cannot give any guarantee right now2.
“International evidence shows very clearly that pubs and nightclubs reopening too early leads directly and inextricably to an increase in community transmission.
“I want [publicans] to know that I have enormous sympathy for their plight. The virus is taking away their ability to earn a living. It is stopping them from providing a key service in the heart of many communities.
“We have to heed our Chief Medical Officer and NPHET [the National Public Health Emergency Team] advice and we have to keep the pressure on this virus.
“I know this will come as a bitter disappointment to many people; the Cabinet has agreed to continue with the current public health measures that are in place. Pubs, bars, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos will remain closed.
“The current restrictions on numbers attending indoor and outdoor gatherings will remain unchanged [50 people indoors and 200 outdoors].
“We will review the evidence again in three weeks’ time.
“This virus has not changed. It remains as virulent as ever and it is constantly on the search for new people to infect. It remains completely indiscriminate in its cruelty. But as dangerous as it is, we have shown we can beat it. Each one of us has the power to suppress it,” the Taoiseach said.
At a press conference tonight, Mr Martin also said that pubs which are currently trading (with food) will have to close at 11pm.
The Government has also announced that five locations – Malta, Cyprus, San Marino, Monaco and Gibraltar – have been removed from the so-called ‘Green List’.
Influx of visitors heightens Covid fears
Local health chiefs are planning for the worst case scenario of a second surge of Coronavirus brought on by domestic tourism – as ‘staycationers’ from parts of the country where the virus is more prevalent carry it into the west.
There has been just one new confirmed case of Covid-19 in Galway in the past week, and just a handful of new cases in the past several weeks.
But the authorities fear tourists from parts of the country more affected by the virus will result in an increase here during August and September.
There are also concerns that there are not enough beds in the public health system to cope with a resurgence of Covid-19 alongside regular winter hospital admissions.
Tony Canavan, CEO of Saolta, which manages public hospitals in the West, at the HSE West Regional Health Forum this week, said health workers are anxious that the deadly virus will spread to the West, as the reopening of society continues.
“There are concerns among those working in the health system associated with Government plans to reopen society and the economy, even though we know that is absolutely necessary and important for the well-being of the population as a whole.
“But the concerns we have relate to the greater movement of people whether it’s going to and from work, or going about their business, whether it’s attending the shops or entertainment events and so on, and that greater movement of people creates an environment where the risk of the spread of Covid-19 is increased.
“We’re particularly concerned in the West and North West, that there would be a level of movement of people associated with tourism at this time of year,” said Mr Canavan.
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Chanelle McCoy unveils her clinically proven cannabinoid cure
The usage of CBD food supplements to treat a whole raft of illnesses and conditions in recent years has given rise to concern that many of the products currently on the market are being sold to consumers without any clinical trials to verify their safety.
It was the rise in demand for these products that first caught the attention of well-known Loughrea business woman Chanelle McCoy who this week, together with her business partner and fellow Galwegian Caroline Glynn, launched the first CBD product on the Irish market that has been clinically proven to be safe – Pureis.
Chanelle, whose family business Chanelle Pharma in Loughrea has a proven track record in the medical world, stepped back from that venture five years ago to focus on her own Chanelle McCoy Health.
“My family business in Chanelle Pharma in Loughrea and so I’ve worked there for about 18 years. When I joined the business, it was a veterinary business and my father and I co-founded the medical side of the business. Then I was lucky to have the opportunity to lead that medical business over the last 18 years with a great team and with Caroline working with me,” says Chanelle of the beginning of her working relationship with Caroline.
“We bought the medical business into 96 countries around the world and we got over 2,500 product licences granted across those 96 countries. We would be looking at products in terms of what to put into the R&D pipeline and I started looking at CBD back in 2015, probably inspired a bit by Vera Twomey and the inability for moms like her to access good quality CBD products for kids like Ava,” she says, explaining that Cork woman Vera Twomey’s plight to secure cannabidiol treatment for her daughter’s epilepsy was a real eye-opener.
Read the full feature in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also add the paper to your online grocery delivery; you can purchase a digital edition here, or you can have it delivered at no extra charge by An Post; full details are on this website.