Which Way Now Crew members Kathlyn Stokes and Brenda Cronin, Ireland's only two female bike marshals, who are both based in Clonmel
A dedicated team of Co. Tipperary motorbikers are playing a vital role in the delivery of PPE to hospitals as well as medicines and food to people self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
The Which Way Now Crew (WWNC) of bikers have been busy travelling the roads of Tipperary and Munster with their special deliveries since the coronavirus crisis first engulfed the country two months ago.
The WWNC comprises between 60 and 70 motorcyclists based out of Phelan's Halfway Bar at Rathronan, Clonmel, who have for many years been involved in local charity fundraisers and providing support at charitable and community events.
A smaller sub-group of 11 of these bikers also form the South East branch of the bike marshals group who are trained and insured to act as marshals at charity events and also provide bike marshal training.
Since the Covid-19 virus swept the country, the WWNC bikers and bike marshals have never been busier.
WWNC member and bike marshal Andrew Stokes from Powerstown, Clonmel says they are part of the Facebook group network of more than 2000 bikers across the country set up by Mervyn Colton of the Irish Photo Rally motorcycling group that is sourcing and delivering PPE, baby monitors and two way radios to hospitals and nursing homes.
Andrew was amazed at the response of his fellow WWNC members to this appeal.
“Within hours of the original call out for PPE, we had baby monitors, gloves, radios, aprons, masks etc all ready to go to the medics. They are a fantastic group of people.”
The WWNC bikers make regular deliveries of face shields, face masks, gloves and aprons to front line medics and healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing, homes, GP practices and pharmacies.
They have been involved with the Benchspace initiative in Cork delivering face shields made around the region to processing hubs at Collins Barracks in Cork and the University of Limerick where they are checked, disinfected and re-packaged and then distributed by the bikers to hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities that need them around Munster.
Andrew reports the Benchspace initiative finished printing face shields last weekend as a company is now able to supply the face shield frames to the two processing hubs and the HSE demand for these shields has been met. About 50,000 face shields were produced through the initiative within about 50 days. Final collections of face shields from centres and individuals that have been making them are taking place this week.
Face shields made at Central Technical Institute schools in Clonmel and Tipperary Co. Council's libraries are among those the WWNC bikers have ferried to where they are needed, explains Andrew who himself made face shields for the Benchspace initiative using the 3 D printer at his pallet making business.
Cotton face masks sewn by Co. Tipperary's Socks for Soldiers team of seamstresses (featured on The Nationalist two weeks ago) are also among the WWNC members' PPE deliveries to frontline healthcare workers.
And the bikers help this group out by delivering supplies of fabrics and seweing machines to the volunteer seamstresses. Two WWNC members and bike marshals Warren Beatty and Brenda Cronin are founder members of Socks for Soldiers
Meanwhile, the WWNC bikers have been helping hospitals and nursing homes source and get baby monitors and two-way radios throughout the crisis.
Andrew explains having a baby monitor or two-way radio in wards and rooms allows medical and healthcare staff to communicate with patients for simple requests like a cup of tea or water but reduces the number of physical trips they have to make to the patient. This in turn reduces the risk of spreading infection.
The WWNC's members have also been delivering medicines and groceries to elderly and medically vulnerable people self-isolating during the pandemic. They are working with Clonmel's Community Garda Unit in providing this service.
Andrew says the WWNC's bikers have been literally “screaming to get out” on the road to do their bit to end the pandemic. The delivery and collection jobs are divided out among them and they limit the number of deliveries each volunteer does to ensure the workload is shared around evenly.
He hopes their efforts have contributed in some small way to “flattening the curve” and slowing down the spread of the Covid-19 virus.