Of the 31 local authorities across Ireland, 13 have suspended the enforcement of parking charges during the Covid-19 crisis.
Of the 31 local authorities across Ireland, 13 have suspended the enforcement of parking charges.
As people try to limit their exposure to Covid-19, concern has been expressed about the use of parking payment machines, with some afraid that they could be possible transmitters of the disease. Each local authority has its own policy on this.
Those counties that have suspended the enforcement of charges are Cavan, Donegal, Mayo, Galway city and county, Waterford City and County, Laois, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Wexford and Cork City Council. However, Cork County Council continues to enforce parking payments.
Roscommon County Council meanwhile never had any to begin with; parking has always been free in the county’s public car parks.
When explaining why it decided to lift the charges, Cork City Council said it was to facilitate shoppers picking up groceries, people picking up prescriptions and also those attending the Mercy Hospital.
Just four of the councils that have scrapped the enforcement of charges explicitly said that parking was free. The rest, for example Mayo County Council, said that they have “not suspended parking charges” but “we will not be actively pursuing parking charges”.
Donegal County Council said that the “traffic wardens have been deemed to be non-essential workers and have been stood down…there is no enforcement of parking charges in effect in the county at present”.
Traffic wardens in some counties are still at work and deemed essential, in others they are not.
At the beginning of the crisis the HSE directed hospitals and healthcare facilities to end parking charges for staff.
Parking is also free for essential workers using public car parks. Councils have been instructed by the Department of Health to “relax on-street parking laws to meet the travel needs of essential workers”.
In Kildare, the council have not suspended charges but have decided to extend the grace periods by half an hour before buying the ticket and after it expires.
However, as one shopkeeper in Kildare explains, not a lot of people seem to know about that. He is concerned about the amount of people he sees using parking payment machines and the potential that may have to spread the virus.
He did not want to give his name, but explains: “I see traffic wardens on my street. Banks, pharmacies, the post office and supermarkets are all open, they’re all busy. And people have to continue to pay for parking. On one particular day I witnessed dozens after dozens of people using one particular machine.”
Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick is a consultant microbiologist in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and senior lecturer in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Dr Fitzpatrick agrees that Covid-19 can survive on a hard surface, such as a parking machine, and therefore could be a possible transmitter.
According to research, “the virus was viable for up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and two or three days on harder surfaces like plastic and stainless steel”.
However, she pointed out that provided somebody maintained the recommended hygiene standards, the risk of transmission should be relatively low. “It’s not going to jump off the surface. If you’re going to touch something, clean your hands,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.
Whilst some councils continue to enforce parking payments, many of them say that they are doing so with minimal enforcement.
Instead their focus is on illegal, obstructive parking.
Also people are being advised to, if possible in their area, pay by contactless or via online or SMS methods.