The quality of bathing water at beaches in Ireland is continuing to improve, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

EPA director Dr Micheál Lehane said local authorities must remain vigilant to ensure public health was protected and continue to identify and fix sources of water pollution. 

The EPA's Bathing Water in Ireland 2019 report found that 95% - 140 out of 147 - of bathing waters assessed met or exceeded the minimum required, slightly up on 2018. 

Three new bathing waters were classified as excellent or good, while the water at five beaches was classified as poor. 

Merrion Strand in Dublin has been declassified after five years at poor status.

Three bathing waters, all in Dublin, were classified for the first time; Forty Foot Bathing Place and White Rock Beach, which were both classified as excellent and Sandycove Beach, which was classified as good. 

Two new bathing waters - Inchydoney East Beach in Cork and Cúas Crom in Kerry - were newly identified in 2019 and they will be monitored and classified later this year. 

The bathing water at Portrane (the Brook) Beach, Dublin; Ballyloughane Beach and Clifden Beach in Galway and Lilliput, Lough Ennell, Co Westmeath were all classified as poor, the same as in 2018. 

Dr Lehane described the declassification of Merrion Strand as "disappointing" and said action must be taken to make sure no other bathing water is declassified in the future.

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EPA Programme Manager Mary Gurrie said Ireland has many beautiful beaches and enjoying them can be good for our physical and mental well-being, which makes it essential to maintain good bathing water quality.

The EPA said that anyone using or swimming at beaches this year should follow the public health advice, the Government Roadmap to Reopening Society and Business, and any local information in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the Phase One of lifting of restrictions, beaches along with other outdoor amenities are open.

People can travel within 5km of their homes for exercise and must maintain 2m social distancing.