Boris Johnson’s government has called for local councils to “discourage” the British public from participating in Remembrance Sunday events due to take place this weekend because of the risks posed to social gatherings by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the government’s guidelines, “members of the public are legally permitted to stop and watch the event as spectators.” However it adds that, “event organisers should take reasonable steps to discourage the public from attending events, and be mindful of the risk that such events pose, especially to veterans who are often elderly.”
Remembrance Sunday is held as a day across the UK to commemorate British and Commonwealth service personnel who contributed to both the first and second world war efforts.
The government warning says that local authorities in England are able to hold events at a “public war memorial or cenotaph” as long as they are outdoors and numbers are kept to small levels.
The move is however likely to stir the frustration of some, who see the COVID-19 restrictions as infringing upon long-held traditional public holidays.
The government has already been the subject of criticism overs its decision to ban World War Two veterans from attending indoor memorial events due to their old age and the increased risk factor thus posed to them by COVID-19.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has called for “sensible exceptions” to be made to the government’s ruling. The former religious leader expressed concern that Remembrance Sunday, due to be held on November 8, may be the last chance that many of these old-aged veterans have to honour their friends killed during the war.
“Even at this late hour, the Government should make sensible exceptions to allow veterans, some of whom may not see another Remembrance Sunday, to attend a service in small numbers in a Covid-secure church…surely we can find ways to honour those who have given so much to their country,” Carey is quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
The development comes hot on the heels of a similar government decision last week that members of the British Royal Family and the Armed Forces are to be prohibited from singing the national anthem when congregating at Westminster on Armistice Day, due to be held on November 11. Reportedly, government rules on COVID-19 will mean that singing at the events, other than by a socially distanced choir, will not be allowed “because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol or droplets.”