Coronavirus: Decision to cancel St Patrick’s Day parades ‘disappointing’

Dublin organisers welcome move as being in the ‘best interests of public health’

 St Patrick’s Day parade cancelled in Dublin, shop window on Henry Street beside image of O’Connell St, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

St Patrick’s Day parade cancelled in Dublin, shop window on Henry Street beside image of O’Connell St, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Tourism and business groups have said the decision to cancel the upcoming St Patrick’s Day parades in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus was “disappointing but understandable.”

The organisers of the main Dublin parade welcomed the decision “in the best interests of public health.”

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), who represent the domestic industry, said while public health comes first, the economic fallout from the coronavirus for the sector would be stark.

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, ITIC chief executive, said the coronavirus, officially known as Covid-19, was “having a real and material impact on the Irish tourism industry.”

The decision to cancel St Patrick’s Day parades in Dublin and across the country next week was “disappointing but understandable,” the group said.

Hotels, tour operators, restaurants and attractions were reporting large numbers of people cancelling or deferring bookings, at a time when the tourism season traditionally begins to pick up, he said.

Mr O’Mara Walsh said the Government needed to put in place several emergency measures to support the tourism and hospitality sector.

“This should include Vat payment deferrals for the first half of the year, a reduction in the Vat rate for business back to 9 per cent, interest free loans to businesses under significant cashflow pressures, and a waiving of local authority rates,” he said.

To date 21 people in the Republic have tested positive for the disease, with health officials expecting the number of cases to increase significantly in the coming weeks.

The response in other European countries, such as France and Germany, has been to similarly restrict or cancel large public gatherings and sporting events.

The decision to cancel the main Dublin parade on Monday was taken by a Cabinet sub-committee set up to respond to the coronavirus.

Responding to the decision, St Patrick’s Festival Parade organisers said it supported the decision “in the best interests of public health.”

In a statement, the organisers said the main parade and several other events such as a planned “festival village” to be set up in Merrion Square, would be cancelled.

However, over 100 “small to medium scale events” planned for next week would still take place, these would include talks, exhibitions, music and theatre events.

In a statement, Dublin Chamber of Commerce said the decision to cancel the main Dublin parade was a “huge disappointment to businesses” in the region.

“The seriousness of the current situation regarding the coronavirus and the advice of health experts has to be respected,” the business group said.

“Dublin Chamber is calling on all businesses to continue to share HSE updates and advice with their employees and to put contingency plans in place where possible,” the statement said.

Decisions to cancel parades in Cork and Waterford were made on Monday by each city council. Other cities and towns which have cancelled parades include Kilkenny, Sligo, Greystones, and Ennis.

Fingal County Council announced seven smaller parades, in areas including Swords, Malahide, and Blanchardstown, were also cancelled.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has warned Irish people against non-essential travel to parts of northern Italy, including Milan and Venice, due to a large outbreak of cases in the region.

Aer Lingus has suspended bookings on flights to Milan until the middle of May, having previously scaled back the number of flights the airline was running to northern Italy in recent weeks.

On Monday Ryanair announced further cuts to its flight schedules to and from northern Italy up until 8 April, with affected passengers to be informed of cancellations.