COVID: PHE debunks rumour of new 'festival variant' behind outbreak in British music event

Rumours that a new Delta variant strain developed during the Boardmasters festivals have been spreading like wildfire, but is there enough evidence to support this claim?

Festival variant
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Festival variant

Two weeks ago, over 50,000 party-lovers rushed to Cornwall to attend the five-day music and surf event, the Boardmasters festival. They were asked to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID results, and the organisers boasted that the venue was the ‘best ventilated in the country.’

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However, regardless of all the alleged safety precautions put in place, a huge outbreak of COVID was recorded as nearly 5,000 attendees got infected. This has given rise to claims that a brand new mutation of the Delta variant developed during the festival and is circulating in the region as a consequence.

Festival variant

The festival took place in Newquay, where an increasing number of young adults are now testing positive for COVID. According to the national morning paper the i, hospital staff in the region are referring to the strain as the ‘festival variant.’ Whether there is a brand-new virus circulating because of the festival is still not entirely known, but an unnamed senior public health official told the i:

It’s still the Delta variant, but they can say it came from the festival, hence why it is being called the ‘festival variant.’

Monitoring the situation

Officials from Public Health England (PHE) have spoken out about the rumours, saying that as of now there is no evidence to back the claims, but they are still monitoring the situation. Dr. Susan Hopkins, COVID Strategy Response Director, said:

There is no evidence to date that the surge in cases linked to festivals relates to a new variant or strain, but this will be continually monitored.
We are consistently reviewing all sequencing data to monitor and assess the emergence of new variants and do this for any surge in cases.

Being COVID-safe in festivals

COVID has brought with it a lot of uncertainty, but one thing we know for sure is that the virus is here to stay. And while you cannot stay at home forever, there are some precautions you must take when you’re planning to attend an event or festival.

Festival Safe suggests that you get tested for COVID regularly, especially if you are not fully inoculated. All venues should ideally be asking for either proof of vaccination or COVID-negative test results, so you should always check the event website to see their requirements beforehand.

If you happen to test positive before or during the festival, immediately isolate yourself for the full 10-day period and follow the proper protocol outlined by the government.

COVID: New mutation could be behind confusing PCR results in the UK COVID: New mutation could be behind confusing PCR results in the UK