People branded ‘selfish’ over lack of social distancing in mountains

Bray-Greystones cliff walk is latest amenity to close after Glendalough car parks were shut down

A senior mountaineer has criticised thousands of people who flocked to public places ignoring health advice on social distancing as “selfish and irresponsible”.

The comments by Paul Kellagher, President of Mountaineering Ireland, follows the closure of all Glendalough car-parks and facilities by Wicklow County Council, due to large numbers turning up to the scenic and historic parks, and other areas countrywide.

Gardaí have also closed all car parks across the Slieve Bloom mountains after crowds of visitors caused concern for the lack of social distancing.

In addition, Wicklow County Council said on Monday it had closed the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones until further notice, along with all playgrounds and the public toilets at Bray seafront.


Mr Kellagher said: “In normal circumstances, Mountaineering Ireland would be delighted to see lots of people getting outdoors and enjoying the beauty and majesty of the hills and mountains.

“These are anything but normal times. We are on the count down to a major health emergency.

“The ignoring of Public Health advice on social distancing is selfish and irresponsible.You may think that you are socially isolating while on the hills. You are not. Many of the cars lined along roads into the mountains will have driven there from distant places.

“Along the way, you may have stopped for fuel or refreshments. When you arrive on the hills, you may have opened a gate or climbed over a stile. While walking, you may have brushed past people on a path. At the top, you may have posed for photos with your friends. In short, you may have had multiple potential contacts with a virus that can live on some surfaces for 72 hours.”

Mr Kellagher also pointed out that hillwalkers were placing Mountain Rescue volunteers and hospital staff and GPs at risk due to hillwalkers who do not adhere to public health warnings.

“If you have an accident while on the hills, the selfless Mountain Rescue volunteers will still turn out to help you. But they can’t socially distance themselves if they have to carry you on a stretcher.

“So you are placing them at added risk. Treating your injuries will impose increased strain on health services that are likely to be stretched beyond breaking point in the next few weeks.

“Unfortunately, more people are going to die of coronavirus in the near future. Some of them may be your friends, relatives and neighbours. Is your trip to the hills worth the risk of spreading the virus?,” he asked.

Meanwhile, gardaí have closed the car parks in the Slieve Bloom mountains because of concerns over social distancing.

The car parks were closed on Sunday as hundreds of people tried to take advantage of the warm weather to hike in one of the most pictureseque places in the midlands.

On its Facebook page Garda Síochána Laois Offaly stated that too many cars were trying to access the beauty spots and were created traffic congestion on small rural roads.

Gardai posted: “We are going through an exceptional event and with all the advice being given out about social distancing we are seeing far to many people parking closely, alighting from cars and chatting without any thought of the health advice given.

“Our members are continuing to offer community support to older and vulnerable people in Laois and Offaly along with other statutory and voluntary groups.

“However all of this work has to parked up to manage traffic, close car parks and ensure people leave these locations safely.

“We would love to see you all again in Laois and Offaly when we get through the current situation but for now please stay away for today.”

Slieve Bloom, the local tourist entity which co-ordinates visitor activities in the area, said some of the mountains have been “overrun with walkers in the last couple of weeks”.

It urged walkers to stick to safe well-trodden paths and avoid risking themselves by attempting more difficult walks which could lead to accidents which would distract health staff from coping with the coronavirus.

“Understandably we all need to get out in the fresh air in these difficult times and the Slieve Blooms have lots of great walks. As you can see from previous posts a very serious incident occured today in Glenbarrow where people ignored parking signs,” the company stated.

“If the parking area is full when you arrive it means there are a lot of people walking and it will be difficult to maintain social distancing. Please go elsewhere.

“Do not block up the road or forest entrances. In an emergency as happened today it is vital that entrances are kept clear. There are many more great walks in Laois and Offaly. Look up routes on Laois or Offaly Tourism web sites for details. Look up for details of all the walks in the Slieve Blooms.”

On Sunday Wicklow County Council closed the car parks at Glendalough national park for the same reason.