St. Patrick's Day revellers appear to be heeding COVID advice, police say

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TORONTO — Canadians urged to be extra restrained if celebrating St. Patrick's Day in light of the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be heeding the advice.

There were no immediate reports Wednesday of revellers defying pandemic restrictions, even in places where bars were allowed to open.

In the university area in London, Ont., people lined up outside bars but police said they were encouraged by everything they had seen.

"It appears Londoners are celebrating responsibly and we haven't responded to anything significant at this point," Const. Sandasha Bough said Wednesday afternoon.

In a tweet posted on social media, a bookstore in downtown London said it had decided to close early because of nearby would-be celebrants. The post featured a photograph of people lined up on the sidewalk waiting to enter a nearby establishment.

"We just closed our shop for the day because of the super spreader event happening down the block," the Brown and Dickson post read.

Vanessa Brown, co-owner of the store, said she saw a crowd outside in "various states" of masking on Wednesday morning and decided to close as a precaution.

"I don't understand the mentality of going out to a St. Patrick's Day party of any variety during the plague," Brown said. "The bars shouldn't be open today at all. They are going to infect one another and we are going to have another outbreak."

Brown and her husband, co-owner Jason Dickson, who said some bars in the area were even offering beer sales, said the patrons would likely head to house parties after drinking at the bars and such gatherings have caused outbreaks previously.

"We don't want to sound like teetotallers," said co-owner Jason Dickson. "We see a whole lot of people lining up to drink at 11 o'clock in the morning, and add a pandemic to that, and we were just exceptionally pissed off to see it, so we closed."

Police, however, said while there were indeed lineups, officers were only monitoring the situation. Information on any fines, Bough said, would be provided Thursday.

Ottawa police also said they had no reports of any problems.

Health officials had warned about the dangers of St. Patrick's Day festivities with COVID-19 still spreading.

Earlier public holidays have led to spikes in infections and authorities opted for a mix of heightened restrictions, threats of fines, and pleas for people to behave responsibly.

Toronto police said they would be doing checks for drinking and driving.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press