New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade canceled on coronavirus concern

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The centuries-old St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City has been canceled this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday, one of the most high-profile U.S. public events to be felled by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers plan to hold what would have been the 259th annual parade at a later date, Cuomo said in a statement.

The news came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a month-long ban on travel to the United States from European countries besides the United Kingdom and the National Basketball Association said it was suspending the rest of the season after a player tested positive.

The parade is usually held on March 17th, attracting millions of spectators who line up along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.

“While I know the parade organizers did not make this decision lightly, public health experts agree that one of the most effective ways to contain the spread of the virus is to limit large gatherings and close contacts, and I applaud the parade’s leadership for working cooperatively with us,” Cuomo’s statement said.

The new coronavirus emerged in China last year and causes a sometimes deadly respiratory illness called COVID-19, which has infected more than 1,200 people in the country and killed at least 37.

The custom of celebrating the Feast of St. Patrick with a parade originated in North America in the 18th century, historians says.

The parade in New York City dates back to 1762 and was convened by Irish members of the British Army posted to the colonies, according to organizers, making it one of the oldest such celebrations in the world.

Now, according to estimates by city officials, more than 2 million spectators, many dressed in green, some drinking Guinness, gather to watch military bands.

On Monday, Ireland canceled St. Patrick’s Day parades across the country as the new coronavirus continued to spread around the world.

St. Patrick’s Day had historically been a more sober celebration in Ireland, where the saint is feted as bringing Christianity to the country in the fifth century. But the custom of staging a parade had made its way back from the diaspora to the motherland by the early 20th century.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Christian Schmollinger and Lincoln Feast.)