The St Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled due to the potential spread of the coronavirus.
The announcement was made after government officials held an emergency meeting to plan how best to tackle the disease.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “All St Patrick’s Day parades nationwide have been cancelled and further advice about mass public gatherings will be issued in the next few days.”
The decision to cancel the annual celebrations all across Ireland was not taken lightly and is a sign of the seriousness of the global outbreak of the coronavirus.
At the time of writing there have been 21 reported cases of the virus, with the global figure rising all the time and having gone past 110,000.
Several countries such as Italy have chosen to cancel major sporting events or play them behind closed doors to limit the spread of the disease.
Ireland’s Six Nations rugby match against Italy is one of several events that have been postponed.
The St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin is the biggest event in the Irish tourism calendar.
Each year more than half a million people travel from all around the world to attend the celebration.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was part of the emergency government meeting. He tweeted: “Informative meeting this afternoon with other party leaders and the Chief Medical Officer regarding coronavirus COVID19
“This virus is a very serious issue for the whole country, and everyone has their part to play in delaying its spread and helping to protect our communities.”
Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris said the country is taking all the recommended steps to control the spread and effect of the virus.
He said: “I know a lot of people are worried. Over 80% of us who will get this virus will get a mild illness, but for some of us we will get very sick.
“What we have to do as a government, and what we have to do as a society, is prepare, and particularly prepare to support vulnerable groups of older people and people with underlying health conditions.
“There’s things all of us can do as individuals in terms of trying to slow the spread of this virus because the best possible chance we have in terms of dealing with this virus is to slow its spread.
“That helps our health service, it helps our frontline stuff and it helps us all as individuals.
“There’s a moderate to high risk of this, according to the European experts, taking hold in a very serious way in Ireland (and) that would require a prioritisation of services.
“It would require for a period of time us focusing on the virus above and beyond other procedures in hospitals.”
Mr Harris added that the government is making plans to prepare itself for the worst case scenario.
He said: “It’s quite likely that if you got to a situation where this virus outbreaks in a serious way, that many elective procedures in private hospitals could yet be cancelled so they may have capacity.
“We will not be found wanting when it comes to providing any resources that are required and the Minister for Finance (Pascal Donohoe) has been clear in this.”