The Office of Public Works has confirmed that world heritage site Sceilg Mhichíl (Skellig Michael) will remain closed to visitors for the rest of the year.

The decision was taken in the interests of safety for both staff and visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The OPW carried out a review following the original decision to close the site in May and in light of the phased reopening of the country, including tourism sites.

But it announced today that having consulted with a number of parties both inside the OPW's Heritage Service and externally, it would not be feasible to open the site for the remainder of the scheduled visitor season.

It said the "risks involved in both the boat voyage and the visitor experience on the island itself cannot be addressed sufficiently to guarantee the safety of both visitors and OPW staff."

OPW Heritage Commissioner John McMahon said plans will not begin on reopening the site in 2021 "when we will hopefully be able to accommodate visitors at the site again."

The island lies 12km off the Kerry coast and is only accessible boat, with vessels limited to 12 people each and making one trip per day only during the season.

Because of the size of the boats and the narrow paths on the island, social distancing measures would be extremely difficult to maintain.

The narrow traffic routes for people going to the monastery would also make it extremely difficult to pass at a two metre gap also in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

The visitor season on the island normally finishes at the end of September and weather and sea conditions make it generally inaccessible after that.

The site has become a huge international attraction after it was used as a location for the Star Wars movies in recent years.

OPW workmen will remain on the island to carry out essential maintenance and other works on the island and its monuments.

The Skellig Experience Centre, located in Portmagee, remains open and local boat sightseeing trips are also running.