I’ve been teaching my daughter how to ride a bike on Dublin’s plague ridden streets. It was like a Japanese obstacle course. We spent the day trying to avoid elderly folk with walking sticks, joggers coming at us like ferrets and armies of young people with masks neatly packed under their chins.
Why pick such a busy street to learn to ride a bike on you ask?Well because they are less packed than parks and like everyone else, we are operating within the parameters of 5km from our home.
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in the countryside, most public places in urban centres regularly resemble sardine cans, filled with people trying to escape other people. It’s no one’s fault, we just want to enjoy the sunny spell and longer stretch in the evenings.
But with March looming and schools set to re-open, why not let children and parents spread their wings? Home visits are still banned, restaurants and hotels are still closed, so most people won’t travel where there are no loos or facilities. It makes sense to allow travel within our own counties. That way we contain the virus, but let people visit the mountains or the sea after months of local incarceration.
The same goes for people in rural areas. The five-day moving average of cases in Kerry, Kilkenny and Roscommon is down to single digits, with just two cases in Kerry. Do they have to follow 5km restrictions too? As long as inter-county travel is monitored, then surely the good people of Cahirciveen should be able to visit Valencia Island for the day.
I chatted to a friend in Germany, where retail, hospitality and schools are closed but people can go for a drive. If you live in Munich, you can take a little trip to the lakes and mountains for some welcome respite. With hotels, ski resorts and restaurants closed, people won’t make themselves too comfortable.
When I asked my southern France based friend about travel restrictions, he was en route to the mountains for some winter walks and sledding with his children. “You can go anywhere you want, but we have a six o’clock curfew.” I’d happily take that.
In Italy, the opening of ski lifts has been delayed to March 5th. But articles suggest they will be safe to run with just 30 percent capacity and mandatory mask wearing. A contact in Lombardy informed me that the highest level of restrictions have been lifted and now people can travel within the stunning region.
Most people won’t be flocking to its capital Milan, rather opting for Alpine trails or walks along Lake Como.
Europe’s wayward child Switzerland has opened ski resorts all winter, with Health Minister Alain Berset, deciding that ski resorts were more important than opening non essential shops. “You ski in nature,” he said.
Despite the fact that the virus and its pesky mutations are ensuring that Europe’s favourite pastime is muted, people are enjoying more outdoor freedoms than we are.
I have no interest in standing attending a GAA match or going to the pub. Like most parents, I just want my child to run free without bumping into people.
Before lockdowns, we went hiking every weekend, oftentimes in the pouring rain. We met no one. Then the mountains were closed. Last week, when the sun came out with hopes of spring, our local playground resembled a Turkish bazaar in terms of footfall, but with more mud.
Walking around busy streets is stressful with children. Some people are afraid, prompting them to get rude and tetchy. I’m loathe to telling my daughter to stop or avoid people, taking away any kind of freedoms that a young child should enjoy. “Don’t go there. Come back. no wait,” etc. I fear the consequences of constantly telling her what to do, when she’s not doing anything wrong. It goes against every parenting instinct I have.
Our children must play freely, so when the schools reopen safely, we should also be able to roam within our countries. If the government chooses to constrain us within the 5km for too long, people will start making their own rules, which could have worse consequences.