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Coronavirus: Belfast St Patrick's Day events called off as Dublin cancels parade

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People enjoy recent Belfast parade

People enjoy recent Belfast parade

People enjoy recent Belfast parade

Belfast's St Patrick's Day parade has been cancelled as a precaution due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

The parade and concert had been due to attract thousands to the streets next Tuesday.

Belfast City Council confirmed the decision last night, just a few hours after Ireland's biggest parade in Dublin and another in Cork were also called off.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Daniel Baker said: "Our St Patrick's Day celebrations are always hugely anticipated and a great day out for people right across the city, so it's obviously very disappointing that this year's event will not go ahead as planned.

"The decision to postpone this year's event has been taken as a precaution given members' and the public's concern around coronavirus."

While Mr Baker used the word "postpone" in making the announcement, council later confirmed that there were no plans to reschedule the event to a future date.

More than 500,000 people are expected to travel to Ireland for St Patrick's Day parades and festivals.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that more than half of the population in the Republic could contract Covid-19, as the government unveiled a €430m financial aid package to tackle the crisis.

On Monday two more cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, bringing the total number to 21.

At a press briefing in Dublin on Monday on the spread of Covid-19, Mr Varadkar said: "What we have seen from other countries and what we have seen from what is available at the moment, is that we could easily have 50 or 60% of our population contracting Covid-19.

"For the vast majority of the population this will be a mild illness and may even by asymptomatic.

"However, there will be a significant part of the population who will require critical care. A percentage that we don't honestly know yet - it could be 1% or 3% - mortality.

"We just don't know that with any degree of certainty. It is not the kind of thing we have seen in a very long time."

Mr Varadkar said he thinks the health system "will cope as best as possible", but would struggle if the virus was to spread rapidly.

"This won't be an ordinary situation. If you consider the numbers of people who could become very ill, even if the health service was twice the size it is now, we will struggle," he said.

"Money that would have been set aside for a hard Brexit is being put aside for Covid-19."

Mr Varadkar added that the €430m will be allocated to provide additional staff and capacity in the health service to deal with the virus.

Belfast Telegraph