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The local council says this year's edition of the Cornish surf and music festival has helped to counter the mental health problems caused by the pandemic
By IQ on 24 Aug 2021
Surf and music festival, Boardmasters, returned to the Cornish town of Newquay this month for the first time since 2018.
Last year’s edition was called off due to coronavirus restrictions, while the 2019 event was cancelled due to severe weather warnings in the UK.
The festival’s return saw 50,000 attendees flock to Watergate Bay in Newquay between 11–15 August for performances from the likes of Gorillaz, Jorja Smith and Foals.
Despite subsequent reports that the festival may be linked to 4,700 Covid cases, Cornwall council’s portfolio holder for public health told a press briefing that cases were expected but that he was “reassured” they were not “translating into a serious life-threatening illness”.
The health official, Andy Virr, was also keen to emphasise the benefits of holding Boardmasters, adding: “Covid will have lots of impacts ongoing, and one of them is around loneliness and isolation and mental health problems.
“That festival brought a lot of joy to people. And, yes, there are some things we are having to deal with, but that was part of the judgement.”
“That festival brought a lot of joy. There are some things we are having to deal with, but that was part of the judgement.”
Recent data from the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) – which included Blossoms’ Liverpool show, the BRIT Awards ceremony, Download Festival and Latitude – shows that “mass events can be conducted safely”, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation.
Cornwall’s public health team said they won’t know the complete picture of the infections for another few days, though it is clear that about 800 of the positive cases are people who live in Cornwall.
“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,” say festival organisers.
“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.
“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.”
All attendees over 11 years old were required to prove their Covid-19 status through the NHS Covid app before entering. Face masks were not compulsory but were encouraged.
People who camped at the festival had to take a second NHS lateral flow test during the event and log their results in the app.
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