Bonfire night celebrations are set to be a muted affair for many again this year, with some council-run displays in England cancelled amid concerns about rising rates of coronavirus infections.
Local authorities that have decided not to stage firework displays say public health is a key consideration, as checking the Covid status of those attending would be extremely difficult.
Manchester’s eight council-run pyrotechnic displays, which regularly attract more then 100,000 spectators, are among the latest to be cancelled. The city’s council said that events would be impossible to manage, as asking all attendees to prove that they were either fully vaccinated or had tested negative was not logistically viable.
The guidance to local authorities is that while Covid status checks are not a legal requirement,it is recommended that people attending large-scale events provide details.
Among the other displays cancelled were events in Leeds and Nottingham , again because compliance with the guidance would require significant staffing and infrastructure, organisers said.
In a statement, Manchester city council said it had “reluctantly” cancelled its authority-run event. “The decision is based on current government advice that large-scale outdoor events with close-density crowds should require attendees to prove their Covid status, either that they have been vaccinated or that they have tested negative,” it said.
“This would require significant extra infrastructure and security to be in place and would make the events unworkable, especially with attendees all arriving and leaving within a concentrated time period.
“There is also a distinct possibility, as Covid-19 infection rates continue to rise locally and nationally, that these sort of Covid-19 passport arrangements could become mandatory.”
Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly.”
Many people would be disappointed, especially given last year’s cancellations, he said. “But the health of Manchester people, and the logistical considerations around that, has to come first. Concerns around high Covid infection rates, especially among children and young people who would traditionally make up the bulk of the attendance for this sort of event, also have to be factored in.”
The popular bonfire night and fireworks display at Nottingham’s Forest recreation ground, which usually attracts 40,000 people and is organised in partnership with Mellors Group Events, has been called off, with safety cited as a reason given the static nature of the crowd, where people are packed together and less able to observe social distancing.
Councillor Eunice Campbell-Clark, portfolio holder for leisure and culture at Nottingham city council, said: “We’re really disappointed to have to announce the cancellation of the bonfire night celebrations, which we know are valued by so many in the city.
“Public safety is the overriding factor in our decision-making, and when all options were considered, it was felt – like many other towns and cities across the country – that reluctantly we could not ensure a safe event with such large visitor numbers.
“Bonfire night brings together a large, and often static, crowd in an open environment, which is difficult to control and manage. We can’t regulate numbers attending and it would be extremely challenging to implement Covid-safe measures.”
The organisers of the Brockham bonfire in Surrey one of the largest November 5 events in the south-east, announced its cancellation with regret earlier this month, citing Covid safety.
In Leeds, six public events have now been cancelled. The city council said the decisions followed guidance from the government to ensure people attending large outdoor events prove they are at a lower risk of carrying and transmitting Covid-19, and to limit the numbers attending.
Two weeks ago it was announced that London’s riverside New Year’s Eve fireworks display had been cancelled for a second year because of “uncertainties caused by Covid”. Normally about 100,000 people pack the streets around Victoria Embankment to see the pyrotechnics.