Almost 5,000 coronavirus cases have been linked to this year’s Boardmasters Festival, it has been reported.
According to health officials (via The Guardian), 4,700 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 confirmed they had attended the Cornish festival, which took place from August 11-15 and was attended by about 50,000 people, or had connections to it. About three-quarters of those who tested positive are aged 16-21 and about 800 live in the county.
The Newquay-based festival, which featured performances from Foals, Gorillaz, Kano, Jorja Smith, Blossoms, Sam Fender, Lianne La Havas and more, required all ticket-holders aged 11 and over to demonstrate their coronavirus status through the NHS COVID app before being permitted entry.
Festival-goers who camped at the festival were asked to take a second NHS lateral flow test during the event and log their results in the app. Face masks were not compulsory but were encouraged.
Cornwall council thought about cancelling the Newquay festival, but decided it could go ahead, insisting its staff had worked closely with the organisers to make the event as safe as possible.
Coronavirus infections across the South West have increased but are rising in particular in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, with 717 cases per 100,000 of the population being infected in the seven days up to and including August 19 – four days after the close of Boardmasters.
Cornwall council’s public health team is now urging all residents and visitors to the county to make testing a priority.
“COVID cases have been rising steadily across Cornwall over recent weeks – particularly in our tourist hotspots,” said Rachel Wigglesworth, the director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
“Big events and mass gatherings like Boardmasters are now permitted and our public health team worked closely with the organisers over many weeks to ensure the event was as COVID-safe as possible.
“Our advice to residents, visitors and anyone who attended Boardmasters also remains the same – if you have COVID symptoms then isolate immediately and book a PCR test. If you have no symptoms, please continue to test twice a week with rapid lateral flow tests, which are available for free from pharmacies or can be delivered to your home.”
A spokesperson for Boardmasters said: “Since the government allowed live events to return, we have worked closely with Cornwall Council’s public health team, putting in place risk management measures above and beyond national guidelines. These included use of the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry, which was introduced during the Government Events Research Programme earlier this year and is being recommended as best-practice at other large events.
“The system detected over 450 people who would otherwise have been at risk of passing on the virus and as a result did not attend our Watergate Bay site or left the festival early. We are grateful to them and everyone else who took the extra steps this year.”
They continued: “No event is able to eliminate risk entirely and the latest Test & Trace data includes reported infections among the 76,000 people who visited the festival or related activities at Fistral Beach, in Newquay and the wider area during the week of Boardmasters.
“We will continue to work with our public health partners to understand the extent to which attendance at the festival has contributed to the figures. We look forward to sharing our experience with our local authority partners and other large events so we can all continue to provide much needed economic benefit to our communities and entertainment to our loyal audiences.”
In a four-star review of this year’s Boardmasters, NME said: “This year’s festival – like many finally going ahead – oozes togetherness and inspires a genuine camaraderie amongst the legions of music fans who walk in as strangers, but leave as friends (or at the very least, newly followed social media acquaintances). It’s a kinship helped along by the festival’s sense of community; on-site, you’ll find everything from pubs and tea rooms to a wellbeing haven and fairground.
“And on the music side of things, the variety at Boardmasters seems endless, too, with rock bands, rappers, singer-songwriters, pop stars, indie bands, DJs, and so much more; if you can’t find something you like here, it’s probably fair to say you might need to update your Spotify playlist.”