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Coronavirus cancels St Patrick’s Day parades

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ABSENT Colourful scenes like this one from last year's St Patrick's Day parade will be absent from Westport's street on Tuesday next, March 17, due to the cancellation of the parade. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Council holding daily review

Anton McNulty

THE three largest St Patrick’s Day parades in Mayo have all been cancelled as communities across the county prepare themselves for the threat of the coronavirus coming closer to home.
The organising committees of the St Patrick’s Day parades in Castlebar, Ballina and Westport all confirmed yesterday (Monday) afternoon that they were cancelling this year’s events due to public health concerns over the coronavirus. Parades in other towns across the county are also expected to be cancelled after the government decided to cancel all St Patrick’s Day parades on the advice of health officials.
So far, 24 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland with a female from the west of Ireland one of the latest cases to be confirmed by the HSE yesterday evening. The location of the female was not disclosed but the HSE stated that it is associated with close contact with a confirmed case. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated yesterday that 50 or 60 percent of the population could contract the virus.
Dermott Langan of the Westport St Patrick’s Day parade organising committee said that they had no choice but to cancel the event.
“We were guided by the government’s decision and we made a call on it to cancel this year’s parade,” he told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday). “We had been monitoring the situation over the last 48 hours … it is disappointing for the community who have put so much work into it but the right call was made in the circumstances. You cannot be putting people in danger and we had to act responsibly.”

Crisis
The ongoing coronavirus crisis was raised at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council where the message for the public was to keep calm and not to panic. Chief Executive, Peter Hynes told the councillors that the council will be guided by the best advice from the Department of Health and the HSE who he said have acted in an exemplary fashion.
“We will be keeping an ongoing eye on the situation and keep it under daily review in consultation with the other stakeholders, principally the HSE and gardaí and will be following meticulously all the advice given by the national authorities.
“The challenge for all of us is a challenge of balance and it is important that anything we do as a local authority is not to turn a challenging situation into a panic situation and exacerbate the situation. We will make sure that anything that develops is communicated to elected members,” Mr Hynes said.
The Chief Executive added the council were getting prepared for a number of scenarios which might arise and contingency plans would be in place for essential services like water and sewerage services, roads and housing.
The councillors were largely all singing from the same hymn sheet as Mr Hynes when it came to dealing with the crisis.
“We should not be talking this into a more serious problem. We have a very small number of cases and a very small number in the west of Ireland. Please don’t be mouthing off crazy stuff to people,” was the advice of Ballinrobe-based councillor Michael Burke.
He added that small businesses could not afford for people to stop going about their daily business.

‘Petrified’
“There are small businesses I know who are petrified regarding what will happen over the next week or two. I encourage people to go out about their normal life like they do every single day. We seen over the weekend crazy figures [on the amount of potential cases]... there may well be but that is like saying you might win the lotto.”
He was supported by Fianna Fáil councillor Damien Ryan who said people should exercise vigilance without getting into a panic.
“We should exercise caution and vigilance and take precautions necessary but as an island nation we have a lot of positives going for us. As a population we are a lot more dispersed than other countries where this has become a massive epidemic so we shouldn’t be playing it up. We should exercise vigilance and caution and exercise maximum advice and nothing else at this stage and manage the situation going forward.”
Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara felt the situation was not being taken seriously at government level saying that they cancelled the rugby but allowed thousands to travel to the Cheltenham festival.
Meanwhile, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association suspended all public events in an an effort to mitigate the possible exposure to the general public.
“It is hugely important that all of us take on board the advice of the expert group put in place to deal with the effects of Covid-19, even where there may be a short term financial loss adhering to that advice, we must all do our best,” said the association’s President Colm O’Donnell.