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Surrey Vaisakhi parade cancelled to stop coronavirus spread

Coronavirus: Growing list of cancelled or postponed events
A growing list of events in Metro Vancouver have been cancelled because of COVID-19 fears. Catherine Urquhart reports.

The Surrey Vaisakhi Parade, the largest parade of its kind outside of India, has been cancelled as a precaution to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, organizers of the event, which was scheduled for April 25, said they made the “difficult decision” to cancel the event on Thursday after consultations with health authorities.

“We wanted to avoid all risk to public safety and health,” said lead organizer Moninder Singh.

“It was very though, there is a lot of emotional, religious and cultural attachment to this event. We have tens of thousands of people who come from out of town, that was also one of the considerations we were giving.”

READ MORE: Premier John Horgan meets with B.C. faith leaders over coronavirus concerns

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The event, which includes a parade along with free food handed out by hundreds of businesses and families, has drawn crowds of more than 500,000 people to the Newton area.

Singh said if anything significant changes in terms of information about the virus or its transmission, organizers could look at trying to resurrect the event, but that it is fully cancelled for now.

“There’s a lot of disappointment. I think there’s a sigh of relief from another portion,” he said.

“The close proximity of which people are in that event, half a million people in a few blocks, makes it very difficult. Twenty-five, 30 per cent of that population is the elderly who are highly susceptible.”

COVID-19 outbreak declared pandemic by World Health Organization
COVID-19 outbreak declared pandemic by World Health Organization

READ MORE: What’s cancelled amid the novel coronavirus pandemic? Here’s a full list

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Singh said pulling the plug early means that while some people may have already spent tens of thousands of dollars preparing for the event, the majority of investments in the parade had not yet been made.

“There will be, I know, some financial burdens on some families, on some businesses and vendors and that’s very unfortunate, but just considering what’s happening right now we had to make the call now, rather than wait even further and then it would have probably been even worse.

Global News has requested an update from the organizers of the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade on the status of that event, the second largest in the region.

Vaisakhi celebrates the creation of the Khalsa in 1699, and is considered among the most significant days on the Sikh calendar.