The Boardmasters Festival in the UK saw 53,000 attendees smashed together in Cornwall.
Update: A statement from Dr. Susan Hopkins says:
“There is no evidence to date that the surge in cases linked to festivals relates to a new variant or strain, but this will be continually 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.”
Original story follows below.
Now health experts fear a new strain of the Delta variant may have emerged. There was a sharp rise in new coronavirus infections among younger people. The Public Health England (PHE) is now investigating whether a new Delta strain may have emerged from the Boardmasters Festival two weeks ago.
PHE officials working on the pandemic response say infections among younger people have been identified as coming directly from the festival in Newquay. Newquay now has the highest rate of infection in England, at 2,000 infections per 100,000 people.
“It was traced because they can identify where it came from by genetic changes in the code,” a PHE official says. “It’s still the Delta variant, but they can say it came from the festival, which is why they’re calling it the ‘festival variant.'”
Eight of the top ten most infectious areas in England are in the southwest peninsula. The figures also show around half of all new infections in the country are among those under 30 – the highest rate of infection is among the 10-19 age bracket.
The Cornwall Council has linked almost 5,000 COVID infections to the Boardmasters festival two weeks ago.
Health officials in the country are sounding the alarm on large gatherings. Music festivals like those in Reading, Leeds, and Edinburgh offer greater opportunities for the virus to spread than any other outdoor event type. “Different mass events have been found to be associated with very different rates of infection,” says Professor John Drury, a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviors.
That’s because the crowd culture at music festivals and football games is vastly different. “We can expect greater physical intimacy – touching, close interaction, hugging, sharing drinks – at a music festival than at other large events,” Drury says.
Traveling back and forth to the festivals may also give the virus more opportunities to spread. “If that mass gathering is for several days, like a music festival, then there’s also going to be a lot more contact between people,” says Dr. Zubaida Haque.
Many of the attendees of the Boardmasters Festival were between 16-29. “Very few who attended were double vaccinated,” says Jayne Kirkham, a Cornwall councilor. “I don’t know any who went that did not get COVID.”