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Editor's Viewpoint

St Patrick's partiers need to rethink



Students in the Holyland area of south Belfast on St Patrick’s Day

Students in the Holyland area of south Belfast on St Patrick’s Day

Students in the Holyland area of south Belfast on St Patrick’s Day

There can be few corners of the globe where a glass isn't raised in honour of St Patrick on March 17. The official parades in New York, Dublin and Belfast are legendary; more Mardi Gras than feast day.

This year, coronavirus has forced the cancellation of the Belfast event in line with the Executive's advice on large gatherings.

The loyal orders sensibly called off their demonstrations last summer for the same reasons.

Which makes it all the more shocking, as we report today, that illicit St Patrick's Day parties are being organised in Belfast two months ahead of the date.

One, entitled 'St Patrick's Party Nite', is being held in a well-known pub in the city centre and has attracted interest from numerous would-be revellers online.

Dr Alan Stout, Northern Ireland chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee, has condemned the planned gatherings as highly dangerous.

You do have to ask yourself where the organisers of these events have been for the past year.

Even small gatherings in private homes are restricted as a key plank in the Executive's Covid-19 strategy - never mind the tanked-up free-for-alls being touted on social media.

The fact is, there is a direct line linking illegal parties with hospital intensive care units where Covid sufferers fight for every breath.

Yes, the all-important 'R' rate has been brought under control and now sits at between 0.7 and 0.9.

And yes, in 97% of care homes, residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, while in 72%, a second dose has been administered.

But police are still issuing almost 300 fixed-penalty notices a week for Covid-19 breaches.

The rise in the number of infections was blamed on the relatively modest relaxation of the regulations over Christmas.

Health Minister Robin Swann admitted in an interview with this newspaper that that was a mistake.

The last thing we need is a surge in cases in early April.

The organisers of these St Patrick's Day parties need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Belfast Telegraph