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17th Jul 2020

Seasick tourists amongst reasons for keeping Skellig Michael closed this year

Sarah Finnan

Skellig Michael

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skellig Michael can be found off the coast of Kerry.

Famed for appearing in two of the Star Wars films, Skellig Michael is a popular destination with both international and domestic tourists. However, officials have made the decision to close the island to visitors for the remainder of this year, putting the decision down to concerns over health and safety in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Originally due to reopen on May 15th, a spokesperson for the Office of Public Works (OPW) confirmed that this would not be the case saying that it would not be feasible to maintain proper social distancing onsite.

Only accessible by boat, it has since been revealed that vomiting/seasick tourists and visitors out of breath from climbing the island’s many stairs were amongst some of the other reasons for deciding to keep the island closed until 2021. A number of internal emails revealed concerns over hygiene facilities and administering first aid should such a situation arise.

A statement released by the OPW reads:

“The character of the passenger journey to Skellig Michael is, in our view, highly challenging when considering COVID-19 risks. On a mobile, constantly-moving platform like a boat, there are multiple touch and clutch points which passengers will hold onto and of course they all need direct assistance to safely board the vessel and get off at the destination pier.

In these circumstances, prevention of virus transmission is extremely difficult and we have concluded that it is not feasible to guarantee passenger safety.”

The statement later added:

“Additionally, it is highly likely that Guides would frequently during the course of a visitor season have to assist and administer first aid to visitors who are unwell.

Clearly, in a situation like this where close physical proximity is a necessity, this could be a real problem where water and washing facilities are limited and we feel there is significant scope for difficulties in that regard.”

Staff have also said that maintaining a distance of two metres between people would be a near-impossible task given the winding nature of the entrance into the site. However, while landing tours are not available to Skellig Michael this year, tourists can still experience the magic by way of a cruise around the island.

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