Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council may have to take drastic measures, including closing public play parks, to help stop the spread of Covid-19 within the borough.
The possibility was raised by Councillor Liam Mackle during the council’s monthly meeting in January and followed a presentation from the Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Shane Devlin.
During the presentation, Mr Devlin informed councillors the borough is now the epicentre of Northern Ireland’s battle with Covid-19 and told of the enormous pressure the spread of the virus within the area is placing on the Trust.
Having listened to what Mr Devlin had to say, Councillor Mackle said his thoughts are with “all the staff having to deal with this situation for the guts of a year” and suggested the council may be required to takes steps to limit the opportunities for people to gather.
“Thinking about what we can do as a council to reduce the spread of the virus, we probably need to look at minimising the opportunities for people to gather,” said Councillor Mackle.
“Maybe we will need to think about closing down play parks and things like that to limit the amount of opportunity people have to gather in our public spaces to help prevent the virus from spreading further,”
This suggestion was picked up by Councillor Julie Flaherty, who sent her “heartfelt wishes and thanks” to Southern Trust staff and called for a return to the collective spirit on show at the initial outbreak of this pandemic.
“We all live here, work here and have made this borough our home,” said Councillor Flaherty.
“People do enjoy our outdoor spaces but perhaps that is something we do need to look at.
“We made a collective decision at the outset that we would work together to put the health message out there.
“We can all see the numbers. The health message needs reinforced and we need to come together, as a chamber, to do it.”
Meanwhile, when asked by Alderman Gareth Wilson what more could be done to combat the spread of misinformation and “combat the Covid deniers”, Mr Devlin asked people to challenge those not wearing masks.
“People are dying, that is a fact,” said Mr Devlin. “They are dying because we are not able to convince people to wear a mask, wash their hands and maintain a social distance.
“I would have a simple ask of everyone, if you, as an individual, see someone not wearing a mask, make them aware of their responsibility.
“We all have a responsibility to say ‘excuse me, where is your mask’. If you see someone or a group of people, jump out of car not wearing masks, challenge them.
“We all have a responsibility to do something to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 within the borough.”
“The message is simple but it needs to be reinforced. Wash your hands, wear a mask and respect social distancing.”