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Remembrance Sunday commemorations will go ahead despite national lockdown, says PM

Victoria Bell
·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London in 2019. (PA)

Remembrance Sunday events in England will go ahead despite the second coronavirus national lockdown, Downing Street said.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said guidance will be given to councils but that events would be allowed as long as social distancing was maintained.

There will be a national service at the Cenotaph in London that will be broadcast on TV.

“We are certainly not cancelling Remembrance Sunday events but we must be mindful of the risks such events pose, especially to veterans who are often elderly,” the spokesman said.

“What we are saying to local authorities in England is that they may organise remembrance services but they should be outside and social distance should be maintained.

“We will be updating the guidance shortly.”

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
Former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson attending the National Service of Remembrance in 2019. (PA)

The spokesman added: “It’s important that the country can continue to come together to remember the sacrifice of those who have died in the service of their country, and we will ensure that Remembrance Sunday is appropriately commemorated while protecting public health.”

The National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London is held on the closest Sunday to 11 November and marks the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two world wars and later conflicts.

Read more: Britain remembers as Royal Family leads nation on Remembrance Sunday

The service is attended by senior members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, and members of the government who pay their respects in the traditional wreath-laying service.

The annual march past the Cenotaph will not take place, but some veterans will be invited to attend the service, which will be made COVID-secure by minimising attendance and ensuring strict social distancing measures are in place.

Queen Elizabeth II and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L to R) attend the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial at The Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
The Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge at the ceremony in 2019. (PA)
Soldiers are seen during the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial at The Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Soldiers at the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial event at The Cenotaph in Whitehall in 2019. (PA)

In a statement released in October, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport urged the public to stay at home and remember the fallen for the national moment of silence at 11am as the service is broadcast nationwide.

The march past the Cenotaph on Whitehall normally consists of 10,000 military veterans and bereaved family members.

Read more: A third of young Britons refuse to wear a poppy for Remembrance Sunday

The British Legion said of its cancellation: “Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of the risks posed, the annual Remembrance Sunday March Past the Cenotaph will not take place this year.

A man wearing a protective face mask waits in a bus stop in East Ham, east London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture date: Tuesday April 28, 2020.
Boris Johnson has confirmed that England will return to a full national lockdown from Thursday. (PA)

“We recognise this will be deeply disappointing for all who were due to take part and it is not a step that has been taken lightly.

“This decision has been taken by the government based on expert advice to protect the health and well-being of those who would have been travelling to and participating in the event.”

On Saturday, Boris Johnson confirmed that England would return to a full national lockdown from Thursday.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to close, curbs on travel will be imposed, households will be banned from mixing inside homes and church services will be cancelled.

The prime minister said the rules will be reviewed on 2 December.

Watch: The importance of the Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations