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Coronavirus / South Mainland Up Helly Aa cancelled following health board advice

The burning of the galley - Photo: Mark BerryThe burning of the SMUHA galley back in 2013. Photo: Mark Berry

THE SOUTH Mainland Up Helly Aa has been cancelled following new advice on coronavirus from NHS Shetland.

The event was due to take place on Friday (13 March), but it has been postponed until the second Friday of March 2021.

This year’s guizer jarl Jamie Laurenson is expected to take on the role in 2021.

The committee said: “Following advice from NHS Shetland the South Mainland Up Helly Aa Committee & 2020 Jarl Jamie Laurenson have unanimously agreed to cancel this year’s festival due to take place this Friday, following community concern now the coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

“This year’s festival will now take place on the second Friday of March 2021, assuming the pandemic is under control at that time.

“If you have evening hall tickets please contact the relevant hall committee for refunds.

“Hop night hall ticket refunds will be organised by the SMUHA committee and details will be posted here. SMUHA committee members will contact all those involved in the preparation and organisation of the festival with further details.”

NHS Shetland said late on Wednesday that in the light of community concern and the rapidly changing picture it was now their view that the South Mainland Up Helly A and the Delting Up Helly Aa should be postponed.

Health board chairman Gary Robinson said the coronavirus outbreak has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, and that Scotland had reported the first community transmission of the virus.

A health board spokesperson said: “We are getting numerous enquiries about large public gatherings going ahead.

“At the minute the Scottish Government advice is that there is no requirement to cancel such events as the evidence base does not currently support this measure.

“However, we know that large social gatherings for particular occasions pose unnecessary risk and may dilute the actions that are required to halt the virus progression, e.g. hand hygiene and prolonged close contact.

“In light of the community’s concerns and the rapidly changing picture our view is now that the forthcoming Up Helly Aas in the South Mainland and Delting should be postponed.”

Both festival committees met tonight (Wednesday) to discuss the development.