FEARS are rising that a new strain of Covid has emerged in revellers who partied at a festival in Cornwall.
Health chiefs fear a new sub-strain of the super-infectious Delta mutation may have emerged at Boardmasters festival in CornwallCredit: Rex
Some 53,000 people attended the event, 10 per cent of whom later tested positive for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Cornwall has become the UK’s coronavirus hotspot, with Government officials urging people to keep their masks on and socially distance.
And there are concerns of a spike in cases after 500,000 people attended festivals around the country at the weekend, with Reading and Leeds, Creamfields in Cheshire and Victorious in Portsmouth all taking place.
Public Health England is understood to be investigating a possible new strain after Boardmasters took place a fortnight ago, i reports.
A senior official in the south-west said many of the infections among young people in the region are directly linked to the festival.
“It was traced because they can identify where it came from by genetic changes in the code,” the source said.
And hospital staff in Devon and Cornwall are already referring to the strain as the “festival variant”, although it’s believed to be a new type of Delta, rather than an entirely new mutation.
“It’s still the Delta variant but they can say it came from the festival, hence why it is being called the ‘festival variant’,” added the official.
The south-west is home to eight of the top 10 worst-hit areas in England.
Figures also show that around half of all infections in England are among those under 30. Those aged 10 to 19 are suffering the highest rate of cases.
Public Health England say there’s not yet evidence of a new strain linked to Boardmasters.
However, the organisation’s Covid Strategic Response Director Dr Susan Hopkins said the situation is being “constantly monitored”.
“We are consistently reviewing all sequencing data to monitor and assess the emergence of new variants and do this for any surge in cases,” she said.
It comes as:
And a senior Government scientist has warned that festivals are likely more dangerous than other public gatherings, including football matches.
Professor John Drury, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) – a sub-committee of SAGE – said more must be done.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Drury said: “Different mass events have been found to be associated with very different rates of infection, and one factor explaining this is the crowd culture.
“The [Government’s] Events Research Programme noted that fan behaviour at the Euros was very different than at Wimbledon, for example.
“And we can expect greater physical intimacy– touching, close interaction, hugging, sharing drinks – at a music festival than at other large events.
“One of the key reasons that some people are engaging less with these basic protective behaviours is that the Government has basically said ‘it’s safe now, it’s fine, you’re not going to die’.
“The problem is of course that 100 people a day are dying. We need to support new norms around safety at the festivals.”
‘HUGGING’ FUELS BOOM
Of the 312 local areas in England, 199 – 64 per cent – have seen a week-on-week rise in rates and 113 – 36 per cent – have seen a fall.
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly continue to have the highest rate, with 4,705 new cases in the seven days to August 23, the equivalent of 817.5 per 100,000 people.
By comparison, the Maldives – which is on the UK’s travel red list – has 151 cases per 100,000.
West Devon has the second highest rate, up from 358.0 to 696.5, with 391 new cases.
Sedgemoor in Somerset has the third highest rate, up slightly from 652.1 to 688.6, with 850 new cases.
It’s thought a boom in staycations in the south-west is to blame for the surge.
Cornwall has just one major hospital, in Truro, which is now on the NHS’ highest alert level after being overwhelmed with both Covid and non-Covid patients.
Some 53,000 people attended the festival in Cornwall – and around 10 per cent of revellers later tested positive for coronavirusCredit: Getty
Meanwhile, 500,000 people attended big events around the country at the weekend, with Reading and Leeds festivals on, as well as Victorious in PortsmouthCredit: Hyde News & Pictures
Meanwhile, the south-west has seen a huge staycation boom as Brits decide to holiday in the UKCredit: Apex