British music festivals gear up for rock despite high COVID-19 cases By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Festival goers in the Arcadia Night Zone during the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, UK, June 28, 2019. REUTERS / Henry Nicholls

by Paul Sandle

LONDON, Aug 27 (Reuters) – This weekend, tens of thousands of people will flock to late summer music festivals across the UK, provided with a negative COVID test or a vaccination test, in an effort to stop the increase in infections.

Reading and Leeds, two twin events that are a post-test rite of passage for teens, will be two of the biggest since the government lifted restrictions in July following a swift rollout of the vaccine. Reading had a capacity of 105,000 people in 2019.

Since Monday is a public holiday in England, other large gatherings are organized across the country, such as the Creamfields event, with 70,000 people, in the North West of England. However, the traditional Notting Hill Carnival in London has been canceled again.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden stated earlier this month that the success of the British Grand Prix and Wimbledon tennis tournament last month demonstrated that massive events could be held safely, but caution was required. in crowded places.

However, many health experts remain concerned that people may lose their inhibitions from emotion, leading to a spike in cases.

Euro 2020 football matches and a surf festival in Cornwall have already sparked major outbreaks in one of the countries hardest hit by the virus.

The Cornwall Council has said 4,700 cases could be related to the Boardmasters festival, which drew some 50,000 people to the small seaside town of Newquay this month.

Meradin Peachey, public health director for the Reading area in west London, said a spike was concerning given that older teens were offered the vaccine just this month.

“Sixteen and seventeen year olds are the main groups that are going to be there and they are not yet protected,” he told BBC News. “We are trying to ask people to show a lateral flow test before approaching the gates.”

Infections in the UK have started to rise again, with some 34,000 cases and about 100 deaths a day in the last week. But hospital admissions remain well below previous peaks in the pandemic.


Scientists believe that the trigger points for the spread of the virus are public transportation and carpooling to get to events, as outdoor gatherings, even with large numbers of people, can be relatively risk-free.

Simon Clarke, associate professor of cell microbiology at the University of Reading, said that mixing at festivals is a risk when the infection rate is about 25 times higher than a year ago due to the delta variant.

“I think there is a greater ability for people to have more intimacy with each other, up close and personal, than in regulation seats that you see somewhere like the Grand Prix,” he said, referring to the Formula 1 race.

With the music industry desperate to tour again, festival organizers say the need for a negative test or a vaccine will prevent cases from escalating.

At the Reading and Leeds festivals, headed by British rapper Stormzy, there will be temporary vaccination centers, but no person under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be inoculated, health organizers said.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Kate Holton; Edited by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, translated by Michael Susin)