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Countries around the world are assessing Covid-19's impact on St Patrick's Day celebrations

In some countries, St Patrick’s Day events have already been cancelled.

Japan always has a major St Patrick's Day celebration.
Japan always has a major St Patrick's Day celebration.
Image: Shutterstock/Aduldej

AS THE GOVERNMENT considers whether Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day parade should go ahead, other countries around the world are facing similar dilemmas about the fate of their 17 March celebrations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. 

A decision on the upcoming St Patrick’s Day parade in the capital is expected in the coming weeks, with public health officials monitoring the spread of the virus across mainland Europe. 

But in Hong Kong, a decision has already been taken. The annual St Patrick’s Society Ball, which usually sees between 300-400 people gather to celebrate all things Irish, has been cancelled. 

Stephen Browne, a native of Glasnevin in Dublin and a member of the society committee, said that the organisation – which was founded in 1931 – really had no choice but to cancel the event. 

“It’s deeply unfortunate, but we have to be practical,” he said. “We’re taking it on the chin and understand the situation and will plan for a bigger event for the 90th anniversary.”

In Hong Kong, the first death from coronavirus was recorded in early February as the semi-autonomous city closed all but two land crossings with the Chinese mainland.

“All of the hotels here are obviously hurting, but the hotel has been very understanding. Everyone realises it’s out of everybody’s control,” Browne said. 

Describing Hong Kong as “half the size of Leitrim but double the population of Ireland”, he said that the city is taking Covid-19 seriously but some of “the panic has gone out of the air”. 

“Three weeks ago, everybody was staying inside. It was like a ghost town. Everyone was worried there would be a huge outbreak,” he says. 

“You wear a mask to the office or a bar, but when you get there you take your mask off.”

Italy

In Italy, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases, St Patrick’s Day events seem to be going ahead. 

Eleven towns, mostly in the north of the country, are in lockdown.

In Rome, which has a significant Irish population, St Patrick’s Day celebrations are still set to take place. 

The Irish Club of Rome, which organises events for Irish people in the city, is planning a €60 gala dinner with traditional music and dancing. 

A spokesperson for the society said: “At present, the Irish Club of Rome has taken no decision to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Gala Dinner. We are monitoring the advice from Italian authorities.”

In embassies around the world, St Patrick’s Day is an opportunity for Irish diplomatic staff to promote the country. 

The Irish Embassy in Rome and Culture Ireland, for instance, have also jointly organised a full programme of events at the “San Patrizio Livorno Festival” between 17-19 March. 

The spread of Covid-19, however, raises questions about whether these annual events will go ahead. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment on whether some embassies would be cancelling events. 

Japan

In Japan, five deaths so far have been attributed to the virus. Typically known for some of the largest and most extravagant St Patrick’s Day parades in Asia, Tokyo sees around 30,000 people gather for its annual celebration. 

The Ireland-Japan Chamber of Commerce, which organises the “I Love Ireland” festival alongside the Irish Embassy, confirmed that the fate of this year’s event is up in the air. 

“We are currently discussing about this matter in light of the health and safety of all our event participants and patrons,” a spokesperson said, with an announcement on the festival expected before the end of February. 

st-patricks-celebrations London's plans for St Patrick's Day are still going ahead, organisers say. Source: David Parry/PA Archive/PA Images

London

The UK government has been stepping up preparations to cope with coronavirus in recent days – as things stand 15 people have so far been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Despite fears about the novel coronavirus, organisers say the St Patrick’s Day events will be held as planned in London, where the day has always been celebrated by the city’s Irish community and in recent years has attracted thousand of people to the streets. 

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Over 50,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival during the course of three days, with a parade led by Dublin camogie player Laura Twomey on 15 March and events centred around Trafalgar Square. 

The parade is expected to travel along the city from Hyde Park Corner, through Piccadilly and along to Whitehall.

A spokesperson for the Greater London Authority said that it was following the advice from Public Health England “and as such, the festival will continue as planned”. 

Laura Sheehan, a spokesperson for the London Irish Centre – which is organising several events over the course of the weekend before 17 March – also said that “as things currently stand, all events that the centre is involved in will be taking place”. 

With reporting from Press Association

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