The 5km rule should be extended for activities like golf and sea-swimming, according to a Fine Gael senator.
The Government is due to announce its updated ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan later this evening – with the vast majority of restrictions to remain in place.
Schools and childcare will start to reopen from early March, with the rest of Level Five likely to remain in force until April 5th at the earliest.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fine Gael Senator Seán Kyne said people can swim and play golf while still observing social distance rules.
“Those are particular examples of outdoor activities that people can participate in on their own, or with another person in regard to golf and still maintain social distancing – so those are the reasons,” he said.
“I am sure there are others, like angling and other such pursuits, but I am coming at this from a mental health point of view.
“As we likely face another five to six or, as the Taoiseach said over the weekend, possibly nine weeks of lockdown, that is going to be very difficult for people.
“If there are groups that we can give respite to, give some hope to, I think that should be looked at.”
Senator Kyne said it is important to offer people hope wherever it can be done safely – and rejected claims that he was simply voicing support for middle class pursuits.
“The golfers I know in my locality are plumbers and carpenters and small builders,” he said.
“Yes, they are members of a golf club but they are not exclusive golf clubs. There are plenty of golf clubs around us and they have ordinary people; they have ordinary members and the reason I picked those two pursuits in my contribution is because they can maintain social distancing.
“It is not about opening restaurants or clubhouses or anything like that. It is about allowing people to go into the car park, change into their golfing shoes and play at an allocated time.”
He said anything that “can be done safely outdoors while allowing people to maintain social distancing,” should be considered.
“I don’t think anyone in the government or in NPHET has attributed COVID cases to golf or sea-swimming or that,” he said.
“They have attributed them to people congregating and I suppose those are the concerns they may have in certain cases but that is why certain activities outdoors that can be done on your own or with one other person in terms of golf, should be looked at.
“I think it makes perfect sense because it is about mental health, it is about getting out in the fresh air and doing things.”
He said he was not advocating for people to be permitted to travel long distances to go for a swim in the sea but insisted people who already live relatively close should be allowed in the water.
“We are talking about being realistic here and that is what it is about,” he said.
“It is about looking at those activities where you can give people a lift, let people clear their head and give them something to help them through this and I think it should be looked at.”
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