Councillor John Leahy wants the gyms to reopen, for mental health
There has been a determined and compliant response to the Covid Level 5 restrictions amongst the people of Offaly, with most people focussed on doing what they can to get the daily case numbers down.
Local councillors told the Tribune that they have been very impressed with people's can-do attitude and resilience.
"What I am experiencing on the ground," commented Cllr Peter Ormond, "is that people are generally being very compliant with the new Level 5 restrictions. The people of South Offaly are very conscious of adhering to the letter of the recommendations in the hope that the case numbers will have significantly dropped by the beginning of December."
Councillor Ormond said it has been particularly heartening over recent days to see the case numbers in Offaly go down and down, until being near the bottom of the county list.
As during the first Lockdown in March and April, he added, the people of the region are "looking out for one another, especially for the elderly, the isolated, the vulnerable. We are compassionate and we know the importance of keeping an eye on the weaker members of our communities."
He pointed out that this Lockdown is a bit different to the Spring version because the economy hasn't been shut down as completely and the schools are still open. The big factories are still open. Agriculture is still going. Hearing this however won't be consolation for those who have lost their jobs because of this latest Lockdown.
"It's been good to see sections of the economy like the construction industry still being allowed to proceed. But my heart really goes out to the hospitality and retail sector. 2019 has been an annus horribilis for them. It's been basically a write-off. It's been very hard on the pubs, many of which have been shut for much of the year. It's been hard on their regular customers. When I talk to members of the hospitality and retail sector they are understanding and accepting of the new restrictions, but they are also disappointed. They feel singled out. They are worried about their mortgages and their rents. So, they are not happy but they are understanding of the situation.
"Christmas of course is always a key date for most retailers. We are all hoping that we will be able to move from Level 5 to Level 3 or 2 for Christmas. Some retailers are telling me they have preordered stock for the Christmas season and are worried they won't be able to sell that stock. Another question in people's minds is will their relatives, their loved ones, be able to fly home for Christmas?"
He added that one positive news story from this very difficult period is the Meals on Wheels service in South Offaly, which is operated by Offaly Local Development Company and a number of local community groups. "Meals on Wheels is a fantastic service and it has been very successful in South Offaly during Covid-19."
Cllr Ormond said he is hopeful. "People are making a tremendous effort. I am hopeful that we will be back to Level 2 or 3 for Christmas. "You could see the huge effort, the big commitment to the restrictions, which people were making during the long weekend last weekend. It's normally very busy but it was very quiet this time around. People were adhering to the regulations. They were just exercising and shopping. They were staying home. People are saying to me, let's give it our best shot for the six weeks.