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Dublin: 19 °C Thursday 13 August, 2020
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Covid-19: Decision on St Patrick's Festival expected this week, says Tourism Ireland chief

Niall Gibbons said that coronavirus was a major threat to Irish tourism.

St Patrick's Day in Dublin in 2019.
St Patrick's Day in Dublin in 2019.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A DECISION ON whether or not to postpone or cancel the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin in response to the Covid-19 outbreak is set to be taken by the end of this week, according to the Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons. 

Speaking on the BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics show this morning, Gibbons said that a decision on the St Patrick’s Festival is expected later this week. 

Organisers of the Dublin St Patrick’s Festival said on Thursday that it is waiting on a risk assessment report before making any decisions on potentially postponing or cancelling the event. 

The organisers said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is carrying out its own independent risk assessment and that they will receive their findings in the next week. 

Gibbons said that “it will be reporting back and meeting with ministers this week, so I expect we’ll hear towards the middle or end of this week as to where we go”. 

Gibbons said that Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross, alongside Minister of State Brendan Griffin, would be informed of the decision this week. 

On the impact of Covid-19 on tourism more broadly in Ireland, Gibbons said: “Our concern has moved from serious to very serious.”

All events in the Chinese market, he said, have been “stood down”. 

But, he said, ”we will bounce back from this in time”.

After Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin was cancelled, there has been significant concern that the Covid-19 outbreak could also led to a scaling back or cancellation of St Patrick’s Day events in the city.

Yesterday, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Ireland, following on from a case in Northern Ireland. 

Gibbons also said that Tourism Ireland had postponed some of its European publicity campaigns about St Patrick’s Day in response to the spread of coronavirus. 

Around the world, St Patrick’s Day events are being threatened by the virus. 

Worldwide, about 87,000 people have been infected and nearly 3,000 people killed since the virus was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

China reported a fresh spike in infections today, with 573 new cases – the highest figure in a week after a dip. All but three of them were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. 

The virus has spread to more than 60 countries around the globe, prompting the World Health Organisation to raise its risk assessment to its highest level. According to the most extensive study done so far, the novel coronavirus was benign in 80.9% of cases, “serious” in 13.8% and “critical” in 4.7%.

The remaining 0.6% was not specified.

Part of the reason Covid-19 has been declared a public health emergency is due to the speed at which it has spread compared to other coronaviruses (like Sars and Mers) and the fact that there’s a lot about the disease we still don’t know – including how exactly it’s being transmitted.

When contacted by TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for St Patrick’s Festival declined to comment beyond the statement issued on Thursday

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