Coronavirus: 4,650 new cases confirmed with 643 patients in hospital and 118 in ICU

Christmas parties and events cancelled as Covid cases soar

The Department of Health has reported 4,650 new cases of Covid-19. The number of patients being treated in hospital was 643 as of 8am on Thursday, it said, with 118 in ICU.

The latest figures came as it was confirmed that visits to Santa Claus and bookings for Christmas parties are among events that have been cancelled as a result of the general increase in Covid-19 numbers and warnings that the public should cut back their social contacts.

Santa in his Magical Garden at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) was due to take place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham from November 26th to December 23rd.

Event organiser Brian McDermott said he had sold half the 30,000 tickets available for the event and had expected the rest to sell out between now and Christmas.

Mr McDermott said the decision was not made on foot of Government restrictions, but “because it was the right thing to do”.

He said: “It’s very hard with rising numbers to take on the public health risk and the risk to our staff and everybody else.

“Our customers are disappointed, but they think we made the right decision. We are going to do it next year.”

All customers have been given refund. The event was to provide short-term employment for 60 construction workers, 30-40 staff on a daily basis and 15 performers.

Mr McDermott said many corporate clients at his other business Fuel are putting their corporate parties online and they are still taking bookings. Fuel will be hosting approximately 60,000 people online over December and retaining 62 staff over that period.

Event organiser Shea McNeilis said he had to cancel €250,000 of business on Tuesday following the Government announcement that people should restrict their movements.

These include Dublin City Council and a lot of corporate clients.

“From a corporate side, you have big corporate companies who are nervous because they realise there is an insurance perspective to this. It’s the optics of it as well as everything else,” he said.

Mr McNeilis said the impression had been given by the Government that the recent spike in numbers was down to events such as gatherings at nightclubs.

“We had a lot of bookings for Christmas. We hired a lot of temporary and permanent staff so we could take on all this new business,” he said.

“It has just been pulled from under us. It’s infuriating. We have been portrayed as the bold boys and we have to be put back in line.”

Mistletown Dublin, which was due to take place in the Fruit and Veg market near Mary Street from December 4th, has been cancelled for the second time in a row.

Organisers Artisan Events Ltd said it was forced to cancel the event because of “continuing uncertainty around Covid-19 and the attendant financial risks”.

Noel Anderson of Lemon & Duke in Dublin city centre said between 30 and 40 Christmas parties have cancelled on him in recent weeks.

“All the big stuff is cancelled. Some of the small stuff is still coming in. Of course there are going to be cancellations. The Government messaging is to cut back on socialisation. They are successfully scaring the life out of people. What is the plan? How are we going to live with Covid?”

Darren Moore, the manager of The Church restaurant and bar in Dublin, said there been a lot of cancellations despite the venue reducing its capacity from 1,000 to 450 people to meet the Covid-19 guidelines.

“We are expecting more cancellations over the next couple of weeks,” he said. Many companies are wary of being in breach of the Covid-19 rules or organising a so-called “superspreader” event.

“The bookings between 100 and 150 – they are all cancelling. We are being left with the smaller bookings from individuals.”

‘Very hard decision’

The Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath has cancelled its Christmas party nights on December 3rd, 4th, 11th, 17th and 18th. On its Facebook page hotel management said it had been a "very hard decision", but Christmas parties were "no longer a viable option".

The gastro bar Paris Texas in Kilkenny city won the Irish pub of the year award in 2019. Its owner Pat Crotty said there have been a lot of inquiries about Christmas parties since October 22nd, but both he and his customers are adopting a wait-and-see approach.

“We had bookings for the whole of Christmas last year, but it all went up in smoke,” he said. “There is no great avalanche of people thinking that it will be sweetness and light. We are being a bit more circumspect and our customers are too.”

Proprietor Fergus Murphy of Murph’s Gastro in Butlersbridge outside Cavan town said his bookings are full for Christmas. “We are very busy not with big tables, but with small ones,” he said.

“But if the numbers get any higher and we get new restrictions, that could put a huge dampener on things.”

Junction Productions, an event management company, usually organises 50 corporate parties in December. Its managing director Mark Staunton said they have had a "lot of inquiries, but nothing is firmed up".

There has already been five cancellations and there have been a few “wait-and-sees” and he is not hopeful about them.

“I think the fear is out there. Everybody is just being ultracautious and when the are corporate, they have to be seen to be cautious. Some of those with younger work forces will go ahead but I’m not hopeful. It’s going to be a lean Christmas again this year I’m afraid. We are definitely feeling it now. The virtual stuff is still there so all is not lost.

“I’m in the business a long time. A lot of people will leave the business now.”

Chambers Ireland head of policy Shane Conneely said caution is spreading across the network of chambers of commerce across the country, leading to a delay in a return to the office and wariness over Christmas parties.

“We won’t be having a Christmas party ourselves, the mood across the network has weakened over the last couple of weeks because many are seeing problems after Christmas,” he said.

“Those who were optimistic about continued reopening are less optimistic now. There are members that are holding events between now and Christmas and they are finding the appetite for attending them is diminishing.

“The general sense is that people are putting the brakes on returning to the office. The pace of reopening has slowed down.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times