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Celebrating and commemorating in York safely

Published Tuesday, 13 October 2020

York residents are being invited to celebrate and commemorate key moments in the Autumn calendar safely, in order to protect the health of the people and places we love.

Following the announcement that York has been added to the ‘medium’ level on the Government’s three-tiered public health restriction system, and with Covid-19 infection rates in the city rising above the national average, York could still be moved into the tier 2 of the restriction system by the Government. Therefore, this year’s city-wide celebrations will see York celebrate differently to follow public health guidelines and protect each other.

To  give clarity about which events are safe to go ahead, new criteria has been developed to support the Public Health recommendations, with the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) making decisions on mitigation or restriction measures required for public events and activities to take place.

By working closely with partners to explore different options that would ensure the safety of residents, the Council, Public Health, businesses and the Safety Advisory Group are keen that as much of city life continues as possible, with safety measures in place.

Following the latest public health guidelines, events that draw significant numbers of people to a single location and at set times will unfortunately not be permitted to take place, in order to curb the spread of the virus and ultimately, protect local residents. However, events that are outdoors, spread across a larger area and encourage people to visit at different times, rather than for set performances, are more likely to be supported by the Safety Advisory Group.

What this means for city wide celebrations
•   Light and Dark – the Light and Dark experience and Indie York’s Magical Medieval Trails will go ahead as planned during October half term, as this experience has been designed to encourage family groups to move safely around the city.
•   Halloween – Trick or treating guidance will be available from the government and we will share it when published. For now, you should plan events within households or bubbles only.
•   Bonfire Night – SAG have confirmed the event planned for Elvington Air Field will go ahead, as it is a drive through event only. Residents are advised to keep to the rule of six and maintain a safe distance if outside.
•   Hanukkah – central government will be providing advice, for now you should plan events within the rule of six, or with households or bubbles only. Consider outdoor celebrations where you can.
•   Diwali - central government will be providing advice, for now you should plan events within the rule of six, or with households or bubbles only. Consider outdoor celebrations where you can.
•   Remembrance Day – to avoid people gathering for prolonged periods of time, the parades, including in the city centre, will not take place. Partners, including civic leaders, are working closely together to deliver an appropriate remembrance service, in partnership with York Minster. This will include an online service and reflection with everyone invited to take part. More information will follow soon.
•  Christmas Market / St Nicholas Fair – following other cities (such as Lincoln, Bath and Leeds) and new public health guidance, the Christmas Market will not go ahead. As we look after each other and continue to keep the people we love safe, this Christmas, all York residents will be invited to a special Christmas experience, with more information to follow. This will include new pop up spaces, York’s Christmas lights (which are currently being installed) and opportunities to support a range of local businesses, including small and independent traders.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, businesses across York have innovated and adapted to remain safe and welcoming for residents and visitors, but the threat of Coronavirus remains, so we all need to continue to work together to protect our health, our economy and our city. We will continue to work with partners to shine a light on our incredible independent retailers, hospitality businesses and attractions who have played their role in keeping our city safe.

To continue to keep the city a safe place to visit, the Council and partners are introducing more city hosts, along with more safety signage and extension of café licenses, in order to include sustainable heating options for outdoor seating.
Councillor Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said:
“This is an important time for our city.  Despite our collective efforts, York is now reflecting what we’ve seen across the country, and despite the efforts of local residents and businesses, the rate of infection in our city has now exceeded the national average.

“In order to protect our city, its many incredible businesses and the livelihoods of our friends, neighbours and families, we must slow the spread of this virus. We must do all we can to protect the people we love. .

“Although many of our city-wide celebrations and commemorations will be different this year, the city will still be a welcoming, safe and festive space for people to enjoy. Changing the way we celebrate is one of the many challenges this year has presented us, but it is also a way in which we can maintain the health and safety of others.

“Just like we have done throughout the year, I know that our communities and businesses will come together and support each other throughout these winter months. We must protect those we love and celebrate key moments safely.”
Sharon Stoltz, Director of Public Health at City of York Council said: 
“York is currently experiencing increasing rates of transmission – with more hospital admissions, more calls to NHS 111 and more positive test results. Reversing the increasing rates of infection and stopping the spread is of vital importance to our city and country. 

“By sharing the criteria which informs our approach, we are encouraging residents to think differently about how they celebrate key moments in our Autumn calendar.  If the cases in York reduces considerably, we will of course revisit how we can celebrate events in the city.

“You are very unlikely to catch the virus in restaurants and shops, and more likely to catch it through social interaction in uncontrolled premises, like homes or during events where lots of people gather. Protecting our loved ones, their health and their livelihoods, is of paramount importance and we are asking the city to join us in helping do all we can to keep the people we love safe by celebrating safely. 

“We all have a role in stopping that spread. To protect those we love, and keep open the places we value, we must remember, hands, face, space.”
Sean Bullick, Managing Director of Make It York said:
“It is with great sadness that we’ve had to take the decision to cancel the 2020 Christmas market. This decision has not been taken lightly and we’ve been working hard alongside partners, the Council and the Safety Advisory Group to consider all possible options and look at ways to run a safe event.  We know how important this event is for the city, however, our number one priority continues to be the health and wellbeing of our residents, visitors, traders and the city as a whole. 

“We understand the impact this will have on local traders, retailers and other hospitality businesses across the city and we will be working hard to support them over the next few months and promote the unique festive offering that the city has. Plans are underway for a virtual Christmas market which will celebrate the outstanding diversity of local traders, retailers and businesses across the city and allow people to experience a taste of what York has to offer from the comfort of their own home. 

“We are also developing plans for ways to promote York as a warm and welcoming place for residents to explore and enjoy over the festive season, working alongside partners across the city to implement this activity, with more information soon to follow.”
Andrew Lowson, Executive Director, York Business Improvement District, said:
“There is still so much to enjoy in the city - the BID have started to install the 15km of lights which transform our beautiful city over the festive period, and our local businesses are making preparations to offer a quality festive experience in a safe and controlled environment. We hope that people will continue to support local businesses and soak up the unique atmosphere found in York at Christmas time.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to help?
We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of Coronavirus by:
•    Washing our hands regularly
•    Wearing a face covering in busy public spaces
•    Staying 2m away from people outside your household wherever possible
•    Self-isolate and ask for a test if you have symptoms

How can I celebrate safely?
When arranging your own celebrations, consider how to keep your family and guests safe:
•    Remember the rule of six
•    Meet one other household or support bubbles only
•    Only meet outside
•    If you do need to meet indoors, keep the area ventilated with windows open, provide hand sanitizer and tissues, and sit apart
What is the current data for York?
Provisional rate for the last 7 days of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in York as at 10 October is 206.06.
•    The latest “validated” data as at 6 October:
          York 7 day rate: 227.7
          Regional average: 248.2
          National average: 143.2
Residents can share today's public data update on Twitter and Facebook