Variant spreading

Tattoo cancelled as further easing may be delayed

Tattoo performers will be disappointed (pic: Terry Murden)

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been cancelled for a second successive year amid growing anxiety around allowing spectators to return to outdoor events.

Organisers of the event, a centrepiece of the Edinburgh Festival, based their decision on the financial risks of organising it amid ongoing uncertainties.

It is the biggest single event casualty since restrictions were eased last month and coincides with the spread of the Indian variant strain of Covid-19.

It has been found in 40% of England and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been frantically playing down rising fears that the 21 June ‘freedom day’ could be scrapped. 

He stressed today that the roadmap out of lockdown is currently unchanged but is now saying the picture will become clearer in a ‘few days’. 


Analysis of samples from people infected with Covid has revealed that the Indian variant was present in 127 out of 314 local areas in England in the week to 8 May, compared to 71 the week before.

Travel restrictions have also been eased with tens of thousands of Britons heading to airports for ‘green list’ destinations such as Portugal.

Despite warnings from Number 10, dozens of flights also left UK airports for ‘amber list’ countries such as France, Spain and the United States amid lingering concern that travel is a major contributory factor in spreading the virus.

On a positive note, deaths involving Covid-19 among the over-60s have fallen by at least 98% since the second-wave peak, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Britain is gearing up for a busy summer of sport and other entertainment with crowds expected to return this weekend at football stadiums and racecourses. Up to 12,000 fans are expected to be at each of the four Euro matches at Hampden Park stadium in Glasgow next month, though no fans are allowed to attend this weekend’s Scottish Cup final at the same venue.

With many tourism and hospitality venues opening this week, there are plans for the Edinburgh Festivals to go ahead on a limited basis, mainly outdoors.

But the Tattoo, held annually at the Castlem, will not be held despite hopes as late as last weekend that a scaled back version could take place.

The organisers have now said the decision to cancel was made with “enormous regret and disappointment”. A full refund or a re-booking for 2022 has been offered to anyone who has bought tickets.

Chief executive, Buster Howes, said: “Despite the sense of optimism around the UK’s emergence from the pandemic and our huge enthusiasm to stage a performance this year, it is now clear that the financial risks we confront in delivering The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, at scale, on the Castle Esplanade in August are simply too great.

“Consequently, it is with enormous regret and disappointment that we announce the cancellation of the 2021 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.”

Comment: Desperate for a holiday… really? Why we need to control travel

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