PEOPLE planning on joining Leicester’s Diwali Day celebrations are being asked to take a quick COVID-19 test before attending the event on Thursday (4 November) – and to take another test before returning to their workplace or school.
With COVID rates rising in Leicester, the city’s director of public health is urging people to take extra care at events like Diwali Day and Bonfire Night to reduce the risk of the virus being passed on.
The city council has changed the format for this year’s Diwali Day event to encourage people to spread out around the Belgrave Road site, but Professor Ivan Browne is reminding people that there are steps that they can take, to help keep themselves and their community safe.
“While the risk of transmission at an outdoor event is much lower than in an indoor space, the virus can easily be passed on when people are close together,” he said.
“That’s why we’re asking people to take a quick lateral flow test before attending Diwali Day or Bonfire Night events, just to make sure they’re not carrying the virus without realising it.
“We’re also asking people – from primary school age upwards – to test themselves again, before returning to their school or workplace.
“To further reduce the risk of transmission, we’re also asking anyone with any cold or flu-like symptoms to stay at home and not mix with others – even if they’ve had a negative rapid COVID test.
“Wearing a face covering whenever you’re in a crowded space – whether that’s indoors or outdoors – is a really good idea, and don’t forget that regular hand-washing is an important part of your COVID-19 defences.
“Visiting friends and families in their homes is a traditional part of Diwali Day, but please remember that the virus thrives indoors. If you are inviting people in to your home, keep the windows open and encourage visitors to wear a face covering – even if everyone is fully vaccinated.
“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to make sure that you’re fully vaccinated against COVI9-19, so please get your jabs, if you haven’t already done so.
“It’s especially important for people over 50, or those with health conditions that make them more vulnerable, to get the booster jab as soon as they are eligible. This will make sure they are fully protected throughout the winter period when it is much easier for the virus to spread.
“With infection rates on the rise again in Leicester – as we’d expect in the run-up to winter – it’s important that we all do what we can to reduce transmission. And if we follow these simple guidelines, Diwali Day should be a great, and safe, family celebration
“I’d like to thank everyone who has had their vaccinations and is helping us to reduce the transmission of the virus in Leicester – and I’d also like to wish you all a very happy Diwali.”
After 2020’s virtual celebrations, the city council is taking the festivities back on to the streets of Belgrave this year, but with a new approach that will reduce the need for people to congregate in one place at the same time.
In a change to previous years, the stage usually sited near the Belgrave roundabout will be replaced with a giant screen. A second giant screen is close to Belgrave Road’s junction with Wand Street, with a third screen installed on Cossington Street recreation ground.
Each of the three screens will show a brand new pre-recorded, cultural programme that will run three times throughout the evening – starting at 5.30pm on Thursday (4 November).
Recorded at Leicester’s Curve theatre, the programme will include new performances from artists including tabla player Hari Trivedi, Nupur Arts, the Centre for Indian Classical Dance, and the Shiamak UK dancers, working in partnership with Aakash Odedra.
There will also be music from other local artists.
Cossington Street recreation ground will host a Diwali Village, featuring food stalls and funfair rides from 3pm-9pm, as well as a beautiful Fire Garden, lighting up the night sky with hundreds of real candles and a dramatic flaming centrepiece.
There will also be street entertainers, including fire performers and a large elephant puppet, while the spectacular Wheel of Light on Belgrave Road will take visitors for a spin until Sunday (7 November) and a magical laser-light rainbow will illuminate the skies above Belgrave until Friday (5 November).
Shops and restaurants along the Golden Mile will be ready to welcome visitors too – and this year there will be an added incentive for shoppers.
Until Sunday (7 November), a bumper package of £2,000-worth of prizes is up for grabs in a competition that’s part of a campaign to help the businesses in Belgrave bounce back from the pandemic.
Supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Diwali Big Shop campaign will promote the attractions of the Golden Mile during the Diwali celebrations – and give shoppers the chance to win some great prizes.
Deputy city mayor for culture Cllr Piara Singh Clair said: “We were determined to do all we could to bring the Diwali celebrations back to the streets of Leicester this year, while making public safety our priority, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to do so.
“The new format of the event, using the three giant screens, means that people won’t need to congregate in the same space at the same time – and by running the programme three times, we hope we can encourage people to join the celebrations at different times throughout the evening, without missing out on any of the fun.
“Although Diwali is back on the streets of Leicester, things are not back to normal and COVID-19 has not gone away. I would urge everyone to listen to our director of public health and take the steps he recommends to help keep us safe.
“Let’s celebrate safely – and let’s have a very happy Diwali!”
Diwali Day festivities on Thursday 4 November will start with the closure of Belgrave Road at 5pm, followed by the showing of the cultural programme on the big screens at 5.30pm, 6.30pm and 7.30pm.
Leicester's Diwali celebrations are generously supported by the University of Leicester.
Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: "We’re hugely proud to sponsor this year's Diwali celebrations as we mark the University’s Centenary year.
“The diversity of culture in our city has been a part of the University’s story from the very beginning and, knowing the importance of the vast Diwali celebrations to the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, this is another opportunity for us to give thanks to the people who have supported our institution in its first 100 years.
“We look forward to joining the festivities at what promises to once again be an auspicious occasion.”
More information about Diwali Day in Leicester can be found here
The history of Leicester’s Diwali celebrations is outlined on the city council’s Story of Leicester website.