Public banned from cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday due to covid

15 October 2020, 14:27 | Updated: 15 October 2020, 16:49

This year's Remembrance Sunday event will be a limited celebration
This year's Remembrance Sunday event will be a limited celebration. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The public has been told to stay away from this year's Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph due to Covid-19 fears.

A limited number of people, including veterans, royals and international leaders will still attend the service, which traditionally sees thousands of people line the streets of Whitehall to pay their respects to those who fought for the country.

This will mark the first time in the Cenotaph's 100 year history that the traditional 11am service will be closed to members of the public.

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Last year, the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Sussex, Duke of York, Earl of Wessex, Princess Royal and Duke of Kent all laid wreaths at the base of the Cenotaph, while the Queen looked on from a balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, flanked by the Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Cornwall.

They were among an estimated 10,000 people in attendance that day.

However, this year people have been told to mark the event from home.

Members of the Royal family will still attend this year's service
Members of the Royal family will still attend this year's service. Picture: PA

The announcement came as people living in the capital were told they would be moved up to the Tier 2 level of coronavirus restrictions, further limiting social gatherings in the city.

A statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the Remembrance service “is expected to go ahead with representatives of the royal family, the Government and the armed forces, and a small representation from the Commonwealth, other countries and territories, all laying wreaths at the Cenotaph”.

The annual march past the war memorial will also not take place this year, however some veterans will be invited to attend the service.

The service will be made Covid-secure by minimising attendance and ensuring strict social distancing measures are in place, according to the statement.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This Remembrance Sunday has a particular significance as it marks 100 years since the Cenotaph was installed.

“Whilst we will mark this occasion properly, it is with a heavy heart that I must ask people not to attend the ceremony at the Cenotaph this year in order to keep veterans and the public safe.

“We will ensure our plans for the day are a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and that our veterans are at the heart of the service – with the nation able to watch safely from home.”

The Government said any local events must comply with social distancing rules and restrictions on the numbers of people permitted to meet outside.

It said all gatherings involving more than six people “will need to be organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body”, and will require a risk assessment to be carried out to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus.

In Tier 3 regions, which have the most severe restrictions, Government regulations state those attending the Remembrance Sunday gathering should be limited to people there as part of their work, those providing voluntary services in connection with the event, members of the armed forces, veterans of the armed forces or their representatives or carers, and spectators who participate in the gathering alone or as a member of a qualifying group.

Bob Gamble, assistant director for commemorative events for the Royal British Legion, said: “The decision not to proceed with the annual march past the Cenotaph has been taken by the Government based on expert advice to protect the health and wellbeing of all those who would have been travelling to and participating in the event.

“Whilst it is deeply disappointing that the march will not be taking place this year, we can all still play a part in ensuring we mark the occasion appropriately and pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our armed forces on Remembrance Sunday.

“We are encouraging people across the country to participate in their own personal moment of remembrance, whether that be watching the service on television or pausing for the two-minute silence.”