Leeds Festival likely to cause Covid spike in Northumberland, say health chiefs

Leeds Festival goers are likely to cause a spike in Covid infections in Northumberland, according to health chiefs.

Friday, 10th September 2021, 11:35 am
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 11:36 am

The return of the three-day music event was billed by organisers as a “liberation” for young people and a chance to avoid thinking about the coronavirus pandemic.

But the series of concerts, headlined by Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher, has been playing on the minds of bosses at Northumberland County Council, who predicted returning fans could already be having an impact on the county’s infection rate.

“It’s very variable [across the country, but] rates are significantly higher in the South West and Devon and Cornwall are now part of an enhanced response area,” said Liz Morgan, the local authority’s director of public health.

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The crowds at Leeds Festival 2021 (photo: Mark Bickerdike).

“Some of that has been precipitated by festivals, we know that at one festival in the South West nearly 5,000 cases were associated with the event.

“And it’s likely we’re already seeing cases associated with the Leeds Festival, so we can anticipate a spike in line with that.”

Northumberland recorded 1,101 positive Covid-19 cases between September 1 – 7, a rate of 340 per 100,000 people, its highest since July.

Leeds Festival and its sister event in Reading ran from August 26 – 28.

Speaking to the NME after the event, Leeds Festival Melvin Benn said he also expected a Covid spike off the back of the festival

He said: “We as festival promoters have been really clear that we want festivals to happen safely and Public Health England directors have been really happy for us to make festivals happen. They wanted us to test people, so we have.

“They will expect a spike and we will get a spike. Nothing about what’s happened has been a surprise. We’ve anticipated it all. I came into this festival this weekend feeling very confident that the results will be what the scientists expect them to.”

Benn also said he felt his events were safer than some of the alternatives for young people.

He added: “This weekend, come what may, all these kids would have been in parks, pub gardens, their mates’ gardens, they’d have been having barbecues, hanging around on street corners and partying one way or another to a greater or lesser degree, and guaranteed that they’d have been partying with people who they had no idea whether they had been tested covid clear or not.

“The one thing about this weekend is that they’re all here knowing that everyone they’re hanging around with has been tested covid clear. Arguably, they’re in an even safer position here.

“The government has said these young people can go out and behave as normal, so that’s what we’re doing. I didn’t do it half-heartedly. We intended to do it as safely and well as we could. I’m not even allowed onto my own festival without having a covid clear test every three days, and I’m double-jabbed. Every single member of the crew is doing it.”

Speaking late last month, Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology, University of Reading, claimed summer music festivals could have a similar impact on infections as the Euros football tournament.

He said: There is conflicting evidence as to the impact of mass events on community transmission of Covid-19.

“It seems that some recent music festivals and the European Football Championship were engines of spread and in the case of the football, we can assume that there was a lot of celebrating and commiserating done in close quarters in bars and pubs, not just at the stadium.

“It seems that the sort of inter-personal contact, typical in the mosh pit and crowd surfing, is probably more like what we would see in a pub showing the football than at Wimbledon Centre Court.

“Music festivals provide an opportunity to import the virus from around the country, as appears to have happened in Newquay with the Boardmasters Festival recently.

“But they also allow it to be spread further afield when everyone eventually goes home.”

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