Donegal islands among few areas to remain coronavirus-free

Arranmore Island has remained coronavirus-free so far.
Seamus McKinney

TWO islands off Co Donegal are among a select group of places in the world which have managed to remain coronavirus-free.

Tory and Arranmore, along with other offshore islands along the Irish coast, have so far managed to keep the virus at bay.

They are among a small number of regions – for the greater part island nations in the Pacific Ocean – which have not yet recorded any confirmed cases.

Three miles off Burtonport, Arranmore is home to just under 500 people.

Around 140 people live on Tory which, at nine miles off the coast, is Ireland’s most remote island.

Last year Arranmore took the unusual step of issuing an open letter to the US and Australia inviting people to relocate to ensure the island’s viability.

However, for the time being islanders are happy with their isolation.

Arranmore and Tory appealed to visitors not to travel until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

While contact with the islands has remained open, only essential travel has been allowed.

With older populations on both islands, residents have gone to great lengths to ensure their neighbours are shielded from the virus.

Last month the Irish Coast Guard was called in when a yacht unexpectedly berthed at Tory.

On its way from Greencastle to Bunbeg, it missed the tide and had no option but to seek shelter until morning.

The four-person-crew assured the Coast Guard they had disinfected all equipment and would remain on board overnight.

Nóirín Uí Mhaoldomhnaigh of Arranmore Co-operative told The Irish News that, despite their clean bill of health so far, islanders are strictly observing Irish government guidelines on social distancing and essential travel.

“Things are pretty good at the minute in that we are getting supplies like groceries and fuel. But everyone is being very careful. We have an aging population and we are protecting everyone here,” she said.

Ms Uí Mhaoldomhnaigh said the community was particularly determined to protect any residents with underlying health conditions.

While the Arranmore ferry is still running, it is only being accessed for essential travel.

“We had a power cut there last week so the ESB workers had to come in but there are no visitors coming to the island. The pubs are closed and even our holiday village, which was fully booked, we had to contact people can cancel.

“We’ll be delighted to see visitors return, but not until the time’s right,” she said.

Ms Uí Mhaoldomhnaigh added that islanders would be surprised they are among a select group that have kept the virus at bay so far.

“I suppose, like all islands, it’s easier if you’re remote,” she said.

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