Beaches and parks close in bid to contain virus

Beaches and parks close in bid to contain virus

25 March 2020

THE continued increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland has led to the closure of Tyrella beach and Delamont Country Park outside Killyleagh.

The move — sanctioned by Newry, Mourne and Down Council on Monday evening — came a week after the local authority placed all its buildings across the district in lockdown.

Public toilets have been closed as have play parks, with only the local authority’s refuse collection service and the district’s three household recycling centres in Downpatrick, Castlewellan and Ballynahinch remaining open.

The Downshire Civic Centre headquarters in Downpatrick, the Down Arts Centre, Down County Museum, Down Leisure Centre and all other leisure and community centres across the entire district are closed.

However, limited public access is allowed to the civic centre in order for people to submit planning and building control applications, register births, deaths and marriages.

Staff who work at the various council facilities which have been placed in lockdown will remain in place and continue to be paid, with politicians warning that the closure could potentially last for many months.

Monday’s decision to close Tyrella beach and Delamont Country Park came after various tourist areas across the district were swarming with people last Sunday, despite government advice to people not to congregate in large numbers. If people did go out, they were advised to keep two metres apart.

Council officials say the latest closures are part of the organisation’s ongoing coronavirus response and that the decision will be reviewed on an ongoing basis in line with Public Health Agency (PHA) guidance. 

Last week, council officials had decided to keep Tyrella beach and Delamont Country Park open and had agreed to waive the entrance fee to both facilities. But there was a dramatic U-turn on Monday when these two popular facilities also went into lockdown.

Across the district a range of community events have been cancelled with last Sunday’s horse race meeting at Downpatrick taking place behind closed doors, with spectators locked out.

The local authority want people to obey self-distancing requirements with its decision to close Tyrella beach and Delamont Country Park further evidence of its concern about people spreading the virus.

It is clear that both facilities have now been placed in the “high risk” category alongside the district’s leisure and community centres. Local politicians say that their key priority is to protect the public and staff.

The closure of Tyrella and Delamont comes after Sunday’s sunshine brought people out in their hundreds to various locations across the district, despite government advice not to engage in mass gatherings.beach

Anyone in Newcastle town centre last Sunday could have been forgiven for thinking that it was Easter, while nearby Murlough beach was crammed with visitors.

It was a similar scene in Ballyhornan and along other parts of the Lecale coastline, including Kilclief and Killard.

Rowallane councillor Kathryn Owens said she fully supported the decision to close Tyrella beach and Delamont Country Park.

She said: “I totally support this decision. It may not be popular, but sometimes we need to take the tough decisions. 

“Unfortunately, after the droves of people went to local parks and forests on Sunday, it appears people still aren’t taking the coronavirus issue seriously and are clearly flouting PHA guidelines.”

Cllr Owens added: “This is not a decision that Newry, Mourne and Down Council wanted to take as we had hoped that common sense may have prevailed. It was a decision we were forced to take and we must do all we can to stop the spread of this disease.”