Coronavirus, Salthill, and social distancing

As the lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic enters its fifth week, trying to abide by social distancing can become more difficult for people to abide by.

The promenade in Salthill has had its access heavily restricted by the local authorities in an attempt to promote social distancing, with steel barriers being placed on the roadside last week to deter visitors parking at the promenade.

However, even with restrictions remaining in place, a number of people took time to go to the promenade.

Almost as if nothing has changed…

If it were not common knowledge that society was in the middle of a pandemic, it could easily be mistaken for a typical Sunday afternoon.

A mild spring day with the sun beaming from above; families relaxing on the beach; and cyclists, as well as joggers casually going for their daily exercise. Strangely, nothing felt out of place, despite the unprecedented circumstances. Even the Creamery, a prominent café on the promenade, remained open selling ice cream.

However, that does not mean that social distancing was not being adhered to. Looking around the promenade, people were as far as possible, trying to keep to themselves.

One of the most literal examples of social distancing came from spotting a man being about 300 metres out from the shore, on a paddle board with no one or nothing near him. The tranquillity is a contrast to the mass disruption that Covid-19 has caused around the world.

A man out on his paddle board off of Salthill Promenade.

A difference of opinion…

With the average number of daily cases reducing in the last week, there felt like there was an optimism that life may start returning to normal from May 5.

Anne-Marie Lydon, from Cuan Glás, Galway, who was out for a jog, agreed that while the measures have had an impact at containing the virus, acknowledged that the longer the lockdown goes on, the more restless that people might become:

“I think that things have improved a bit, with the amount of cases slowing up. There are more people out and about than usual lately, and that worries me a little. I had my last jog on Monday, and there looks like there’s more people out.”

Ms Lydon, who has reduced her jogging from three times a week to two, put the increased numbers at the promenade as of late down to complacency:

“People need to realise that if we don’t keep this up, that it could be months before things get back to some sort of normality. I don’t like the lockdown as much the next person, but it’s there for good reason.”

However, not all are as cautiously optimistic about the pandemic. Ryan McGrath, who was out walking with his children, is uncertain about how if, not when life will return to normal:

“I’ve been off work for almost four weeks now. I work in a DIY shop, and there looks like there’s no sign of me going back to work. It could be months before I go back. As for the children going back to school, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least September before they went back.”

In for the long haul…

Five weeks into lockdown, the atmosphere around Salthill, while it may be calm, has an undercurrent of nervousness. While there are those who are optimistic, albeit cautiously, that Ireland has turned a corner in its fight against Covid-19, there are sceptics who think we are in this for the long haul.

Even if lockdown restrictions are lifted in any way on May 5, it is clear that the spectre of the coronavirus will disrupt how we live our lives for a long time to come.

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