'This hasn't gone away'

THE Antrim Guardian understands that the council is set to invest in new measures to ensure that the borough’s outdoor beauty spots can be enjoyed safely - after local amenities were swamped with visitors over recent weekends.

Among the improvements will be signage reminding people to continue to social distance whilst outside and to wear face coverings while in close proximity to people from outside their households.

It is also understood that temporary paint will be applied to footways, encouraging people to ‘keep left’ in a one way system to help people avoid one another on busy paths.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council was not available for an official comment at time of going to press this week, but a source has indicated that the moves are already well underway - after an exceptionally busy few weekends in the borough.

Despite a biting wind on Saturday and Sunday, thousands of people flocked to the Antrim Lough Shore Park, Castle Gardens and Mill Race Trail.

Concerned locals have claimed that the successful vaccination schedule seems to have instilled a lack of caution among many members of the public - as well as large crowds battling for space on narrow paths, many people have been observed stopping for chats with no masks being worn.

With huge investment in improvements to council facilities, including take-away catering and parking, mixed with a growing sense of restlessness among communities who have felt ‘locked in’ all winter, civic leaders will be keen to strike a balance between safety and the survival of the local economy, fitness, wellbeing and outdoor exercise.

One concerned resident, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted the the Antrim Guardian to say: “My family and I intended to walk from the Castle Gardens round to the Lough Shore on Sunday but we abandoned the idea as soon as we got to the Deerpark Bridge, as it felt completely unsafe.

“There were hundreds of people on the path following the river, fighting for space with nowhere to go, family groups were stopping for chats, nobody was wearing masks, and other people were having to walk through the middle of them.

“Social distancing was non-existent.

“It’s totally understandable, when everything has been shut for months, that the only thing that people can do is go for a walk, but Covid hasn’t gone away, vaccinations can only do so much and everyone should still be wearing a mask and keeping their distance.”

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