DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has shut down public access to DAERA-owned forest and country parks as much as possible, to help saves lives.
The move comes following a surge in visitor numbers over recent days with many ignoring the social distancing advice and in light of the latest government advice. Car parks will be closed to all vehicles, playparks and on-site toilet facilities are now closed along with camping amenities, museums, mobile concessions and visitor centres.
“These unprecedented moves are to save lives. I realise this is a disappointing decision, especially to families with children out of school and others using the facilities for physical and mental health reasons.
“But we are not living in normal times, it is not business as usual. We are all in this together and we must do the right thing for each other,” the Minister said.
“Sadly, over the weekend we witnessed hundreds of people gathering at popular beaches and parks and not following all the medical advice on social distancing. The car parks on many of our sites were packed to capacity with day-trippers.
“There was also a huge rise in footfall, but instead of safe wide-open spaces for people to get out into the fresh air, we’ve seen people failing to keep themselves and each other safe from this virus.
“This can’t continue. So I am stopping public access to our parks, forests and nature reserves where possible. Our car parks will be closed to all vehicles and I’m also urging people not to visit on foot either – it’s just not worth the risk. I’m doing my bit to help save lives – please do yours and stay at home,” he added.
These arrangements will be kept under review.