Covid: Public told to avoid Cenotaph Remembrance service due to infection fears

Credit: PA

People wanting to pay their respects at this year's Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph have been urged to stay over Covid fears.

Amid rising infection rates in London - with the capital moving into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions - only a limited number of people will be permitted at the service.

Rather than the thousands who usually line the streets through Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday, the service will be limited to armed forces veterans, members of the royal family, and international leaders.

It will be the first time in the Cenotaph’s 100-year history that the traditional 11am service will be closed off to members of the public.

Those who would like to have attended are instead being told to mark the event from home.

This year's service will be significantly scaled back compared to previous occasions. Credit: PA

A statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the 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".

Though some veterans will be invited to attend the service, the annual march past the memorial will not take place.

Organisers insist what remains of the ceremony will be made "Covid-secure" by minimising attendance and ensuring strict social distancing measures are in place.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

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."

Last year's service. Credit: PA

Local Remembrance events too will be hampered by the pandemic, with the government issuing reminders of social distancing rules and restrictions on the numbers of people permitted to meet outside,.

It warned 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 also require a risk assessment to be carried out.

In regions with the strictest Tier 3 lockdown measures, 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.

The royals attending Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph last year. Credit: PA

Bob Gamble, assistant director for commemorative events for the Royal British Legion, said the changes were "deeply disappointing".

He added: "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."

Veterans march past during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2019 Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

At 2019's service 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.

The Queen looked on from a balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, flanked by the Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Cornwall.

The royals were among an estimated 10,000 people in attendance last year.