SAGE says UK summer festival-goers have 1.7 times higher risk of catching Covid

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The UK’s festival season is expected to make a triumphant return in 2022 with live music, screaming crowds with zero pandemic restrictions— and a higher chance of catching Covid, Government scientists warn.    

In a report released today and submitted to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), experts said even outdoor festivals probably help spread the virus, after reviewing data from Britain and aboard.

The report said evidence suggested that attending outdoor unseated events was linked with a 1.7-fold increased risk of Covid transmission, adding it would be ‘sensible’ to have mitigation measures in place for such events.

But, the report, which was submitted to Government in December, does not include any information the highly transmissible Omicron Covid variant, meaning the 1.7 figure should be treated with caution.

The authors have called for a campaign advising festival attendees about how to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, such as avoiding mixing with vulnerable friends and family for 10 days after the event. 

SAGE experts also added that controversial vaccine passports could be reintroduced at festivals. This could help boost uptake in jab hesitant younger people, they said. 

SAGE has warned people who go to 'outdoor unseated events' had a 1.7 higher risk of getting Covid than people who didn't the (blue bar), other SAGE studies (the red bars) have found an increased of catching Covid from a variety of more common activities

SAGE has warned people who go to ‘outdoor unseated events’ had a 1.7 higher risk of getting Covid than people who didn’t the (blue bar), other SAGE studies (the red bars) have found an increased of catching Covid from a variety of more common activities

Authors of a new report have said it would be 'sensible'  to have a range of anti-Covid measures at festivals and how vaccine passports could encourage younger people to get fully jabbed

Authors of a new report have said it would be ‘sensible’  to have a range of anti-Covid measures at festivals and how vaccine passports could encourage younger people to get fully jabbed

The report was written by the Environmental Modelling Group Transmission Subgroup of SAGE.

Overall, they had medium confidence that attending festivals was associated with an increased risk of Covid transmission.

Who’s playing at Glastonbury this year? 

Billie Eilish has been announced as the headline act at Glastonbury this year and will play on the Friday. 

Following the 20-year-old will be Diana Ross, who will be leading the ‘legends’ slot on the Sunday. 

No other acts have been revealed for this year’s ‘Glasto’, taking place from June 22 to 26 – but the rumour mill suggests Aerosmith and Sir Paul McCartney could make an appearance. 

Aerosmith accidentally leaked an email last year which had their tour dates for the year, with Glastonbury Festival listed for June 25.

Meanwhile Sir Paul was set to play at last year’s event. 

Other big names are also touring the UK this summer – and many have a gap in the diary for the weekend of Glastonbury, fuelling the rumour mill, reports the Somerset County Gazette.  

Those who will be free to squeeze in a performance include Elton John, Pet Shop Boys (who were due to play in 2020), Celeste, The Weeknd, Sinead O’Connor, Fontaines DC, and Orbital, Deadmau5, Foals, Doves, Rag n Bone Man, Madness, Pearl Jam, The Orb, David Gray, Sam Fender, Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Rage Against The Machine, Guns n Roses, Michael Buble, Dionne Warwick and more. 

Organiser Emily Eavis teased there will be more news ‘soon’ in an Instagram post this week. 

‘We can’t wait to be back in June and will bring you festival news soon to kick off the build up,’ she said.  

But, they added the fact that by their very nature festivals had a number of known factors which aid Covid transmission, such a mixing with strangers and packed public transport to and from the venue. 

‘Festivals are large, highly social, often predominantly open air, events that bring people together for prolonged periods where physical distancing is difficult to maintain and where interacting closely with others (including strangers) is part of the attraction,’ they said.  

These risk factors could also be multiplied or diminished by prevalence of the virus in the community, they added.

While an analysis of NHS Track and Test data did suggest there was a higher Covid incidence among people who attended festivals compared to the general population, the SAGE scientists said this should be treated with caution.

They noted that on a population level, only a tiny fraction of people attend festivals and therefore the events are unlikely to make significant contribution to overall cases if other, more popular, venues like pubs and restaurants are open. 

However, they added that as festivals bring together large numbers of people from a wide geographical range it was still ‘sensible’ to have a range of measures to reduce the potential Covid spread.

Such measures could include encouraging wearing mask on public transport to and from the vent or asking festival goers to avoid mixing with vulnerable friends and family for 10 days after the event. 

One particular measure the report authors discussed was vaccine passports.

The authors noted that festivals ‘attract young adults with low personal risk of developing severe consequences of Covid’.

By requiring attendees to be vaccinated in order to attend, they suggested this could encourage Covid jab uptake in younger groups.

‘Given higher vaccine complacency in certain groups, such as youth who perceive lower risks of infection, this intervention could be an additional policy lever to increase vaccine uptake and population level immunity,’ they said. 

While the report said many festivals already benefited from ‘natural ventilation’ which helps reduce chances of Covid transmission, organisers should ensure good ventilation is maintained in all areas, such as bathroom facilities.    

However, It should be noted that since the report was submitted to Government in December ministers have unveiled plans for the UK to ‘live with Covid’  

Some of these, such as the lifting of working from guidance and wearing masks have already been introduced, while others like self isolation rules are due to be scrapped in March. 

Much like hospitality, the UK’s event sector took an absolute battering during the pandemic as events were either outright banned or heavily restricted at various stages over the past two years.   

The UK’s flagship festival Glastonbury lost more than £3.1million last year after it was cancelled for the second time in a row due to the pandemic.

But the much-loved festival is due to make a triumphant return this June with Billie Eilish as its headline act.

Images of crowds from Glastonbury in 2019, the last year the event went ahead as planned

Images of crowds from Glastonbury in 2019, the last year the event went ahead as planned

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