INCREASED traffic on roads across Clare has been reported by Gardaí, but general compliance levels with Level 5 restrictions are said to be relatively good.
As the country comes to the end of a third straight month at the highest lockdown level, Superintendent John Galvin said that while movement beyond 5km is increasing, a lot of it is down to the return to school, as well as the distances that Clare people normally travel for essential work reasons. “We are certainly seeing a rise in the number of people on the roads at the moment,” the Kilrush-based superintendent said. “A certain level of that is down to the reopening of schools and overall people’s compliance is quite good. If you think about someone living in Kilrush and working in Ennis, if they’re an essential worker, they have to travel well beyond the 5km.”
Superintendent Galvin said that fears over large-scale house parties around St Patrick’s Day weren’t realised. “Overall, it was more like a Christmas Day and we remarked on how quiet St Patrick’s Day was,” he said. “There are people who are still having gatherings at home and we have been dealing with them under the regulations, but there isn’t a huge issue.”
Rolling Garda checkpoints are continuing under Level 5, with dynamic patrols said to be the more effective option. “If we had a static checkpoint in Inagh for example,” Superintendent Galvin said, “anyone trying to get to Lahinch would just use another route. As it stands now, you can expect to meet us anywhere and we’re prepared for an increase in people trying to get to destinations all along the coast as the weather improves. Our role remains to engage with people and to encourage them to stick to the guidelines.”
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show a slight weekly increase in the number of people in Clare limiting their movements to a 10km radius of their homes. Despite that, the data show people in Clare are significantly more likely to travel than the national average.
Figures for the week ending March 12 showed an increase of two percent, taking the number of people in Clare staying local up to 57.9 percent. The national average, by comparison, is 65.7%.
The figures are explained, to some degree, by the rural nature of this county and the concentration of services in urban areas.
Nationally, the data to March 12 show an increase in the numbers of people staying local. Despite that, there is evidence to show that more people in Clare, and nationally, stayed local last month and that people generally are travelling increasingly longer distances, well beyond the government’s 5km restriction.
The Stay Local Indicator (SLI) is based on statistical analysis of anonymised, aggregated, mobile phone activity records. The data sharing is allowed only in the context of the response to Covid-19.
“Propensity to stay within 10km of residence tends to differ by county, as movement is impacted by local circumstances and conditions, such as access to services and levels of urbanisation,” the CSO said. “For example, Dublin, with a high level of urbanisation, consistently shows the highest percentage of persons staying local, while Carlow and Mayo, with relatively lower level.”
Anticipation is building that the 5km travel restriction could be eased when a decision about the next phase of restrictions is announced on Monday week, April 5.