Staging of Edinburgh festivals to be kept 'under constant review' in wake of coronavirus outbreak

Council leaders in Edinburgh have revealed the staging of major events will be kept "under constant review” as cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the UK.

Tens of thousands of revellers crowd onto the Royal Mile every day during the Fringe for free street theatre performances.
Tens of thousands of revellers crowd onto the Royal Mile every day during the Fringe for free street theatre performances.

Officials are “carefully assessing” the potential impact of the outbreak on events like the Fringe, the Tattoo and the International Festival, which attract a combined audience of more than four million people.

Huge crowds descend on the Royal Mile in August for free street theatre performances, while nearly 9000 people attend the Tattoo every night during its run.

The International Festival is due to launch its 2020 programme this month, while the deadline for this year’s Fringe is only weeks away. Tens of thousands of tickets have already been sold for this year’s Tattoo, while dozens of Fringe shows are also on sale.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the Scottish Government is currently "planning for the likelihood of a significant outbreak of coronavirus".

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    Ms Sturgeon said the country is currently in a 'containment' phase of the outbreak. If the outbreak reaches the 'delayed' stage, decisions would be made about whether large scale events could proceed, she added.

    The authorities in France and Italy have both ordered clampdowns on large public gatherings in the wake of the outbreak.

    A city council spokeswoman said: “We’re working very closely with Health Protection Scotland and NHS Lothian to ensure we’re as prepared as possible for the potential spread of COVID-19 in Edinburgh.

    "We and our partners are carefully assessing what the impact would be on planned events and will keep this under constant review as the situation develops.”

    Francesca Hegyi, executive director at the Edinburgh International Festival, said: “We take the coronavirus situation very seriously and we’re liaising closely with relevant authorities.

    "It’s important to note that the festival is five months away, so we’ll continue to work with official guidance.”

    A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: “There are no current changes to our planning and operations on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.

    "However, we’re taking guidance from the UK and Scottish Governments and will be closely monitoring the situation.

    "We will update participants and stakeholders in the event of any changes.”

    A spokeswoman for umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh, which promotes the city's biggest events around the world, said: “We’re working closely with Scottish Government and UK Government to ensure that the festivals are keeping up to date and acting in accordance with the latest guidelines.”