Covid: Cornwall’s case spike is 'perfect storm' of visitors and lack of social distancing

Festival goers during the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Cornwall, where almost 5,000 coronavirus cases have emerged that are suspected to be linked to the festival earlier this month.
Festival goers during the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Cornwall, where almost 5,000 coronavirus cases have emerged that are suspected to be linked to the festival earlier this month.

The south-western county has seen a rise in cases in recent weeks after the visitors flocked there for their summer holidays.

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A “perfect storm” of a huge influx of visitors and a lack of social distancing in Cornwall has led to a spike in cases of coronavirus, business owners have said.

The south-western county has seen a rise in cases in recent weeks after the visitors flocked there for their summer holidays.

Figures show that both Devon and Cornwall have 500 cases or more per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 18.

A week before, the figure was 300 or less per 100,000 people.

Festival goers attending the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Cornwall, where almost 5,000 coronavirus cases have emerged that are suspected to be linked to the festival earlier this month.
Festival goers attending the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Cornwall, where almost 5,000 coronavirus cases have emerged that are suspected to be linked to the festival earlier this month.

On Monday, health officials said they were investigating 4,700 cases of coronavirus which are suspected to be linked to the Boardmasters festival, which took place nearly two weeks ago.

The cases are spread across the country but around 800 are living in Cornwall, a council official confirmed.

Mayor of Newquay Louis Gardner, who is also the Conservative councillor for Newquay Central & Pentire and owns a deli in the town, said he has been speaking to other businesses this week and they believe the rise in cases is due to a number of different issues.

“We’re seeing a spike in Cornwall because we’ve got the highest number of visitors we’ve ever had,” he said.

Festival goers watching Dizzee Rascal during the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Cornwall.
Festival goers watching Dizzee Rascal during the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Cornwall.

“Our accommodation is at 100% capacity, our hospitality venues are full, there’s no social distance in place, but I think those factors all added in all together are having an effect. It’s a perfect storm.”

He added: “I’d like to see more venues in town insisting on vaccination status, certainly all of the nightclubs, or insisting on negative lateral flow tests. There’s no reason why that can’t be done.

“I do speak to people who are concerned about the rise in the number of cases, but we don’t have huge numbers in hospital. What we’re saying to people is, if you come to Newquay, you have to be respectable to the people who live here.

“Don’t come down here thinking that you’re on holiday and it’s not gonna affect you because it absolutely is. You’ve got a higher chance of getting Covid by coming here than you have by staying at home.”

Veryan Palmer, director at the family-owned Headland Hotel in Newquay, said seven of her staff out of 211 in total are currently isolating after going to Boardmasters and testing positive.

She added the independent business has a strict isolation policy and testing procedures in place for staff, which so far has proved successful in remaining largely open throughout this year.

Ms Palmer said: “We’re very, very busy. We’ve got a lot of people who are missing going abroad and so have discovered Cornwall for the first time.

“The county is very busy at the moment and lots of businesses are closed because their staff are off isolating and recruitment for the hospitality.

“We’ve got a lot of space in our hotel so they can social distance within our grounds. I don’t think there’s necessarily any increased risk. We’re quite ruthless with our staff – if someone has tested positive, we make it mandatory for the staff that were around them to be off.”