Councils are under pressure to close remaining Christmas markets after scenes of overcrowding at the weekend.
A nurse in Sheffield who came out of retirement to help in the pandemic said she was urging the organisers of the Traxx Christmas market in the Chapeltown area of the city to cancel the event.
Speaking to the Sheffield Star, she said: “If you saw what I did, you wouldn’t even have considered this market, us supposedly being in tier 3. I beg you to cancel this market on the next two Saturdays. The organisers boasted of a 2,500 turnout, so how many of those spread Covid yesterday?”
Traxx, which has a licence from Sheffield city council to operate the market, said it had ensured the event was Covid-secure. A council spokeswoman said it had already cancelled a separate council-organised Christmas market, and the authority did not run the Traxx event.
Scenes of overcrowding at a Christmas market in Nottingham prompted widespread concern, including from Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. Nottingham city council shut the market less than a day after it opened and issued an apology to residents on Sunday.
It emerged that the council was warned against holding the market. Jo Cox-Brown, the director of the Nottingham-based consultancy Night Time Economy Solutions, wrote to the leader of the council last Monday on behalf of businesses in the city calling for the market to be cancelled.
She told the Guardian: “We were concerned it was a start of the busy Christmas period, so we knew that it was going to be busy just with shopping alone. And then with the Christmas market on top and being the only city in the region to be putting on something for free, with rides and food, it just shook all of our alarm bells.
“We had visions effectively of Covid soup, and that is exactly what happened with people just not wearing masks, people not socially distancing. And it was not being managed or controlled very well. Nottingham is in tier 3. We really shouldn’t be advertising for people to come into the city. And people were crossing tiers to come.”
Nottingham city council said: “Plans were in place to control access to help manage the number of people entering the site at any one time and to continually monitor this throughout Saturday. However, numbers were too large to implement these effectively. We’re sorry it has not worked out.”
Cox-Brown said: “I think if they were genuinely sorry about it, they would have cancelled the market on Saturday. We were the last to know this was going ahead. A city with the size and stature of Nottingham should be consulting regularly with its stakeholders and businesses so that we can prepare. Even the retailers said they felt really uncomfortable with the volume of footfall in the city.”
Most cities have cancelled their Christmas markets, including Manchester, Leicester, Leeds and Newcastle. A spokesman for Newcastle city council said the scene in Nottingham vindicated its decision to cancel its Christmas market weeks ago. “We could see it was going to be nigh impossible to do it in a Covid-secure way,” he said.