Sussex residents urged not to travel to bonfire event due to covid concerns

Sussex residents are being encouraged not to travel to a bonfire event next week as covid cases increase.

Saturday, 30th October 2021, 11:41 am
Updated Saturday, 30th October 2021, 11:46 am

Organisers from Lewes Bonfire Night, which is set to take place on Friday, November 5, have raised concerns around rising covid cases in the county.

A spokesperson from the event said, “Last year’s cancellation due to covid restrictions and the fact November 5 falls on a Friday could make it more popular this year.

“Measures, including changes to train services and road closures, are being brought in to help the event pass safely by managing the number of people attending.”

Lewes Bonfire 2019. Photo by Jon Rigby SUS-190611-082421001

Emergency services, local authorities and transport operators have been planning for the event for months, according to the spokesperson.

Darrell Gale, director of public health for East Sussex County Council, said, “Cases have risen significantly in East Sussex over the last few weeks, demonstrating that coronavirus remains a serious health risk.

“We know that bonfires usually bring people together, but these celebrations unfortunately could mean a peak in cases afterwards, which will naturally impact on the NHS.

“We urge everyone to wear face coverings both inside and outside for events, and socially distance as much as possible – especially in homes and pubs.

“It is still possible to catch and spread covid, even if you are fully vaccinated. You should stay cautious to help protect yourself and others.

“If you are local and plan to attend, we recommend you take a lateral flow test beforehand and stay home if it is positive. This should be followed up by a PCR test.

“You should also check in via NHS Test and Trace wherever possible.”

Organisers said there are serious concerns around overcrowding in the town’s narrow streets.

Jo Dunk, senior specialist advisor for regulatory services at Lewes District Council, said, “We work closely with other organisations and with crowd control experts to identify where there may be problems with overcrowding.

“We will have stewards working on the night, giving people advice on where they should avoid and we ask that anyone who chooses to attend follows this guidance to help keep people safer.”

The spokesperson said since 2010, 896 injuries have been reported at the event with many of these being people hurt on the procession route and by bangers or other fireworks.

Nigel Cusack, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service group manager, said, “Fireworks are by their very nature able to cause serious injuries, as well as pose a fire risk.

“Crowded spaces make it harder for us to reach emergencies which is why we would like people from outside of Lewes to attend events nearer them to reduce the number of people in the town.”

Chief superintendent Howard Hodges, from Sussex Police, said, “Unfortunately, every year the event is held we make arrests. In 2019 this included arrests on suspicion of assaulting police, carrying weapons and possession of drugs. This is clearly not acceptable.

“Our officers will be supporting other emergency services and Lewes District Council on the night to put public safety first.”