US St Patrick's Day parades postponed

Chicago has cancelled its St Patrick's Day parade due to the coronavirus

The New York City St Patrick's Day Parade has been postponed for the first time in its 258-year history because of coronavirus concerns, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced.

The postponement of the March 17 parade adds to the roster of events and holidays upended around the world by the spreading infection. Chicago, Boston and even the Irish capital of Dublin have cancelled St Patrick's Day parades.

The New York parade honouring Irish heritage dates back longer than the United States and draws tens of thousands of marchers and throngs of spectators to Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said while the risk of transmission might be lower in an outdoor gathering, health experts had urged him to call it off.

"While I know the parade organisers 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 co-operatively with us," Cuomo said on Wednesday.

The governor's statement did not say when this year's parade will take place, if at all. But Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted late in the night that he promises the parade would go on, "whether it's in the heat of summer or on a clear fall day".

The coronavirus has spurred quarantines, lockdowns and other measures in spots around the globe. And it has sunk annual events from Lunar New Year festivities in China to the South by Southwest music, film and tech festival in Austin, Texas.

The New York City metropolitan area has been home to one of the largest outbreaks in the US, with many cases linked to one community in the suburb of New Rochelle.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she could not risk the kind of gathering that scientists warn could hasten the further spread of COVID-19.

The mayor of Savannah, Georgia, later announced that city's 196-year-old St Patrick's Day parade, scheduled for Tuesday, and a weekend festival had been called off as well.

Chicago's parade had been scheduled for Saturday, before St Patrick's Day on Tuesday.

"We all know what the St. Patrick's Day celebrations mean to the city of Chicago," Pritzker said. "Because of what we've seen nationally, and across the world, of the increased risk of large gatherings, this was the right call."

Indeed, it was deemed the right call in cities from Boston and Philadelphia to Denver, Dallas, San Francisco and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The cities of Dublin - the one in Ohio and the one in Ireland - also pulled the plugs on their parades.