Fears over new Delta 'subvariant' linked to music festival

·News Reporter
·3-min read

After the coronavirus pandemic shut down music festivals across the UK last year, hundreds of thousands of Brits are now revelling in their chance to let loose this summer as the nation continues to enjoy post-lockdown freedoms.

Yet there are fears the reintroduction of a raft of major events such as festivals are proving to be breeding grounds for the highly-infectious Delta variant.

Cornwall's Boardmasters festival earlier this month which was attended by more than 50,000 people is now linked to about 5,000 cases according to local authorities, with fears that number is set to rise further.

Festivalgoers in the UK are only permitted entry after either providing proof of a negative test, proof of double vaccination or proof of natural immunity.

Tens of thousands of revellers packed into the festival this year after the event's cancellation in 2020. Source: Facebook/ Boardmasters
Tens of thousands of revellers packed into the festival this year after the event's cancellation in 2020. Source: Facebook/ Boardmasters

And while 78 per cent of over 16s have received both doses in the UK, experts are concerned the continued spread of the virus will have devastating effects.

Even though the rates of hospitalisation are far lower than last year when the nation was unvaccinated, deaths are still rising.

Through August, daily cases have risen by roughly 10,000 infections and is likely to continue as schools return. 

Fears festival triggered new Delta strain

There are also concerns such high levels of transmission will lead to the emergence of variants of the virus which could prove to be more infectious and vaccine resistant.

An unidentified senior southwest health official told iNews it appeared a new variant had emerged from the Boardmasters festival dubbed the 'festival variant'.

Public Health England has since poured cold water on the claim and said the situation is under investigation.

The UK is routinely recording more than 30,000 cases a day. Source: Worldometer
The UK is routinely recording more than 30,000 cases a day. Source: Worldometer

Professor John Drury from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said music festivals were clear examples of events where social distancing quickly disappears.

"We can expect greater physical intimacy – touching, close interaction, hugging, sharing drinks etc – at a music festival than at other large events," he told iNews.

“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’. 

READING, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) General view of the crowd watching Becky Hill perform during Reading Festival 2021 at Richfield Avenue on August 28, 2021 in Reading, England.  (Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)
Festivalgoers have let loose across Britain this month. Source: Getty

"The problem is of course that 100 people a day are dying. We need to support new norms around safety at the festivals.”

Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told The New York Times rising deaths was the "price of freedom".

“We don’t seem to care that we have these really high infection rates," he said.

Camilla Kingdon, the president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, said younger Brits had been neglected in the vaccine rollout, calling the distribution of doses for younger age groups as "frankly shambolic".

In Australia, chief health officers from multiple states have warned of the increasing role children are playing in transmission in Delta outbreaks, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing last week the Pfizer vaccine will be made available to children as young as 12.

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