CONCERN is growing in Rathkeale as large numbers of the Traveller community are returning to the town from abroad.
The concern is heightened by the fact that adults and children are congregating in groups and not complying with the physical distancing guidelines.
“The town is swelling like it does at Christmas,” one resident has said who raised what he felt were the safety implications.
“From the safety perspective the risk is serious, both from the point of view of the countries they have returned from and the close proximity to each other in which they are living,” he said.
Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins is also concerned about the situation and has warned that a lock-down in Rathkeale is inevitable unless the situation improves.
“The community in Rathkeale is very concerned and fearful about the behaviour of some of the community, where adults and children are congregating and breaching the public health advice about practising social distancing. It is completely reckless behaviour and it is putting people’s lives at risk.
“The people who are disregarding the public health advice will force the lockdown of the entire community unless the situation improves,” he warned.
“If this persists, the government should use the new powers which were enacted last week to lock down parts of the town,” he continued.
“The gardai and public health need to be better resourced and supported,” Deputy Collins added. Normally, at Christmas time, he said when there was an influx of people into the town, a public health and policing plan were put in place.
“Social distancing is a must in these difficult and challenging times,” Supt Aileen Magner said.
“Gardai will continue to respond to reports of large numbers of members of the public congregating contrary to these guidelines.
There was, she added, an increased emphasis on high visibility policing throughout the Newcastle West Garda District.
A spokesman for the Rathkeale Community Council said in a statement that many of the Rathkeale Traveller community have returned to the town.
"With national concerns about health the Rathkeale Community Council applauds the Rathkeale Health Centre, the Rathkeale Medical Practice, Giltenane's Pharmacy and O'Sullivan's pharmacy for their extraordinary efforts to maintain services. All are serving customers and simply advise people to call before visiting."
He listed the following: The Rathkeale Health Centre is at (069) 64308. The Rathkeale Medical Practice is at (069) 64304. Giltenane's Pharmacy is at(069) 63437 and O'Sullivan's Pharmacy is at (069) 64145.
"The community council has also published a list of priority telephone numbers for the housebound and vulnerable at rathkeale.com/covid-19 and a printed list is being distributed by EuroSpar," he said.