London anti-racism demonstration cancelled as UK plans to ban mass gatherings over coronavirus fears
The country’s biggest anti-racism demonstration has been put on hold as government sources suggest the UK could ban large gatherings, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, Stand Up To Racism has called of its march and rally in London, which was due to take place on Saturday 21st March to mark UN Anti Racism Day.
Major sporting and cultural events across Britain have already been cancelled in response to the health crisis, with the number of confirmed cases of the virus in the UK rising to 798 yesterday (Friday 13) and the total number of people who have died as a result of the virus rising to 11.
However, the government estimates the true number of cases to be around 5,000 to 10,000 around the UK.
In an official statement, organisers of the demonstration said:
“Stand Up To Racism regrets to inform supporters that we have taken the decision to postpone the UN anti-racism day protests in London and Glasgow until later in the year in response to the coronavirus and its significant threat to public health.
“The events will not be taking place on Saturday 21 March. A new date will be announced in due course.
They added: “The developing crisis has been marked by the government’s failure to take serious action to protect people and its ongoing refusal to combat a growing mood of scapegoating and racism around the issue.”
The protest in the capital is part of an international co-ordinated effort held every year to denounce racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. British delegates were expected from cities across the UK following rallies that had been held across the country these last few months.
Free public coaches from Birmingham, which had been provided by trade union Unite, were cancelled a few days ago.
In the build up to the planned demonstration, a fundraising rally was held in Birmingham on Tuesday 3rd March.
Speaking at the event, Nahella Ashraf from Stand Up To Racism Manchester blamed the Prime Minister for contributing towards a national climate of fear:
“I know for a fact, seeing Boris Johnson get elected as the Prime Minister of this country after the shocking remarks, not that he just made recently but had his made over his entire career, and there are people in the Tory party and people in this country that think that it’s okay.
“He’s given the red light to people who previously would have been a bit scared, a bit fearful of saying some of the things that they say now, but actually they’re more confident; and he is responsible for some of that, let’s be very clear about this.
“And we do believe, and I don’t want to scare people more, but it could get worse. Racism hasn’t just come out of nowhere, we haven’t always had this level of racism, we’ve had an increase.”
The postponement of next weekend’s demonstration follows a pattern of national gatherings being shelved as the nation gets to grips with the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours after the government’s chief scientific advisor insisted it was not necessary to presently shut down big events, a government source said ministers were now drawing up plans to make this a priority, in order to ease pressure on emergency services.
The source told the BBC: “There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible. We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.”
It is believed an outright ban could be implemented as early as next weekend, echoing similar action taken in several neighbouring European countries.
Coronavirus in the UK
Nine days ago, a patient at the Royal Berkshire Hospital who tested positive for coronavirus was confirmed as the UK’s first Coronvirus related fatality. This came on the same day an individual in Birmingham tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the city’s first patient with the infection.
21 people have since died in the UK from the virus, with the UK government’s chief medical adviser suggesting people who show “even minor” signs of respiratory tract infections or a fever could soon be told to self-isolate in an effort to tackle the outbreak. The latest death yesterday was the first for Scotland.
As of Saturday (March 14), there have been 1,140 confirmed cases across the UK, an increase of 342 from Friday, according to NHS England. The number of deaths has almost doubled since yesterday, from 11 to 21.
Health officials have said they believe the actual number of people infected could be between 5,000 and 10,000.
The government is expected to announce that it is stepping up its coronavirus response, in order to delay its spread. This comes after initial plans to attempt to contain the spread. 29,764 people had been tested for the virus in the UK so far.
If you’re worried about coronavirus symptoms or have related concerns, please visit: https://gov.uk/coronavirus.