Limerick people with holiday homes in West Clare or North Kerry are being advised they are off limits this Easter and that they could be ordered to return home if stopped by gardai.
There has been anecdotal evidence in recent days that a significant number of people have travelled to coastal villages such as Kilkee, Lahinch and Ballybunion ahead of what one would normally be one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Local residents and businesses have appealed to people from Limerick and elsewhere to stay away during the current crisis as they fear there could be outbreaks of Covid-19 due to the increased number of visitors.
“We've seen over the last number of weekends a number of people come up to their holiday homes and quietly slip in, but these aren't normal times. We're asking them to stay away to us keep our village safe and to keep our people safe from the coronavirus,” said Lahinch hotelier Michael Vaughan.
The Government, which introduced restrictions on movement on March 28 says this weekend cannot be a normal bank holiday weekend and that people should stay at home and not travel to their holiday homes or beauty spots.
The Minister for Health signed regulations on Tuesday night which will give gardai legal powers to enforce the regulations.
Your efforts are helping our country but now is not the time to be complacent. We need you to stick with the public health advice -challenging as it is -to help save lives & flatten the curve. We never thought it would be easy but it will be worth it #Covid19 #coronavirus— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) April 7, 2020
At a media briefing in Cellbridge, this Wednesday afternoon, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris warned gardai will be out in force between now and Easter Sunday enforcing the restrictions on all but essential travel.
As part of Operation Fanacht, there will be an extensive network of checkpoints established in Limerick and right across the country.
The operation will involve thousands of checkpoints every day with over 2,500 Gardaí involved in checkpoints or high visibility patrolling at any one time.
Commissioner Harris says those travelling to holiday homes or beauty spots will be turned back if they are stopped at a checkpoint while those who have already travelled to holiday homes may be advised to remain there until the restrictions are eased.
Deputy Commissioner John Twomey added: "There has been very good compliance with the travel restrictions and we want to thank the public for this. However, it is vital that this continues over the coming days and over the weekend. This will save lives. In particular, we would ask people who are thinking of travelling to parks, natural beauty spots or holiday homes outside of the 2km limit not to do so. We are sending them a clear message that if they are stopped at a checkpoint they will be turned back.”
The operation will also see gardaí conduct high visibility patrols at major tourist locations, parks and natural beauty spots to ensure compliance with travel restrictions.
*Audio of Commisioner Drew Harris, courtesy of Newstalk