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Coronavirus: Belfast students urged to cancel St Patrick's Day house parties

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Holyland area of south Belfast yesterday

Holyland area of south Belfast yesterday

Holyland area of south Belfast yesterday

Students have been urged to cancel St Patrick's Day parties in the Holyland and wider south Belfast area to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Huge crowds of revelling students decked in green are an annual fixture in the Holyland, with house parties and street drinking often a source of friction with other residents.

Yesterday a joint statement from student leaders and the SDLP's South Belfast MP Claire Hanna called for restraint.

Ms Hanna said: "Cancelled St Patrick's Day celebrations should absolutely extend to the 'informal gathering' in the Holylands. Really important that people - especially those fit, well and with no caring responsibilities - approach this pandemic in terms of 'we' and not just 'I' as infections spread between young people can and will be transmitted to older or more vulnerable members of the family and community."

Queen's University Belfast Students' Union president Connor Veighey said staying away was the only safe option.

"It is absolutely crucial that we all take personal responsibility and play our part in containing this crisis," he said. "I am urging all of our members and everyone else who may be planning to visit the area to consider the risks and instead celebrate the day at home."

He added: "I am asking you to think about loved ones and those more vulnerable than you and take the necessary precautions in their interests at this time."

UUSU president Andrew McAnallen added: "Given the rapidly developing situation of Covid-19 and the risk that public gatherings poses to public health, I'm urging all our members to please stay at home and do not put yourself, friends or vulnerable, elderly family members at risk by gathering in groups.

"Collectively we all must do everything we can to contain the spread of coronavirus. Please celebrate St Patrick's Day responsibly."

Ray Farley, chair of the Belfast Holylands Regeneration Association, said he was hopeful the message would not fall on deaf ears.

"It's a very important issue, if not just for their own health," he said.

"When you do have lots of people moving from house to house it's going to create a danger of carrying infection into the area and of students infecting themselves.

"If there's 15-20 people in a house people are going to be very close together as well. The maths isn't hard to calculate and it's a very scary thing for elderly people to have to consider if it does happen in the area."

The PSNI and the NI Ambulance Service have already issued a plea for "common sense" as vital resources are stretched.

Superintendent Muir Clarke urged young people to think of the effect when they go home, especially if they have vulnerable relatives.

Belfast Telegraph