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St Patrick's Festival to go ahead - despite fears

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Spectators watching the 2017 St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin

Spectators watching the 2017 St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin

Spectators watching the 2017 St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin

Dublin's St Patrick's Festival will go ahead - for now.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said last night that for now the centrepiece parade will go ahead despite the country's second confirmed case of coronavirus.

Official advice on mass gatherings will be issued later this week by an expert group in the Department of Health.

However, Dr Holohan said last night that until that advice is finalised, the parade is still on.

A spokesperson for the festival, which includes the city parade, told the Herald that organisers are monitoring the situation.

"We follow the advice and direction of relevant authorities in all matters of public safety," he said.

Talks with health officials are due to be held today.

Several delegations from abroad are expected to cancel due to a fear of flying at this time.

The fast-evolving spread of the virus in other countries may also be experienced here in the coming weeks.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is not advising "at this stage" that St Patrick's Day parades be cancelled.

Speaking earlier yesterday, before the second case was confirmed, he said there was only one confirmed case of the virus in the State "so we're not advising anyone to cancel any gatherings at this stage".

"But bear in mind that the St Patrick's Day festival is two weeks away and a lot can happen between now and then," he added.

However, a leading inter- national expert on viruses called yesterday for the St Patrick's Day parades to be cancelled because the virus is likely to be "spreading around".

John Oxford, emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London, said everyone in Italy thought everything was fine until there was an "explosion" of the virus.

Immense

St Patrick's Day parades attract huge numbers of visitors from abroad, Prof Oxford told the Today with Sean O'Rourke show on RTE radio yesterday.

If he was in the shoes of the Government, he would say: "I think we should postpone it.

"It's not the end of the world for one year, but just don't have it this year. After all, the Chinese postponed the Chinese new year, which is immense, and then tried to quarantine 60 million people.

"I would take advantage of the situation you're in - that you could prevent a big outbreak by taking these actions and I would go ahead and stop the parades."