Gardaí moved to lock down two of the county’s most popular beaches at the weekend as the arrival of hordes of staycationers with the onset of the sun ramped up public health fears.
But much of the concern was over the proximity of people to one another exiting vehicles in tight, congested car parks and approach roads. For the most part the beachgoers basked responsibly in the sun with household groups maintaining a safe distance from others – as seen in the accompanying photograph of the throng on Ballybunion’s Ladies’ Beach.
The scene is distinguished by clear lines of demarcation between groups in an extraordinary demonstration of the degree to which the ‘new normal’ has come to govern every last aspect of social life.
The main concern in Ballybunion was over congestion leading to the Ladies’ Beach amid a slew of cars pouring in from the wider North Kerry region and beyond as the sun blazed. It’s a perennial issue in the hugely-popular suntrap resort, but necessitated extra policing this year in the pandemic.
However, two of the county’s other prime beaches had to be closed down outright by gardaí amid Covid concerns.
Gardaí, in conjunction with Kerry County Council, decided to shut down Inch Beach in West Kerry on Saturday in the face of the massive throng descending there with gardaí directing the traffic away from the bottleneck until it was cleared.
Despite being named as one of Europe’s top 25 beaches by TripAdvisor last week, Banna found itself similarly closed to holidaymakers and day-trippers on Sunday, again under a slew of traffic that prompted fears over the transmission in the car-parks and approach roads. But other than the public health implications of a sudden mass exodus onto the coast, it was a weekend marked by a great time all around, visitors and locals enjoying one of the greatest slices of coast anywhere in the world in temperatures that hovered around the 20C mark.
An icy chill was sparked among parents on Banna on Sunday however as the news spread of a missing three-year-old. The child’s panicked parents searched frantically for the missing child as an emergency rescue operation involving the Shannon Coastguard helicopter was launched.
Fears ratcheted up fast that the child might have been swept out to sea but every parents’ worst nightmare thankfully came to a happy end to massive relief across the beach as the child was located on land safe and sound.