Hertfordshire's public health chief urges festival goers to be cautious over bank holiday weekend
Hertfordshire County Council will continue to support organisers to limit the spread of infection
Hertfordshire’s public health chief has urged festival goers to be cautious over the August bank holiday weekend.
The warning comes after local authorities in Cornwall identified 4,700 new cases that they believe may be associated with hosting the Boardmasters Festival earlier in August.
The Government’s coronavirus dashboard also shows that following Standon Calling, held at the end of July, the surrounding area saw spikes, including in parts of Hertford and Bishop’s Stortford – although at a noticeably lower level.
A number of festivals are due to be held in Hertfordshire over the bank holiday weekend, followed by the 25,000 capacity Slam Dunk Festival due to be held in Hatfield on Sunday, September 5.
Hertfordshire County Council’s Director of Public Health Professor Jim McManus said that it was inevitable that large events would result in spikes, but that events hosted within the county have managed to avoid the larger spikes seen elsewhere.
He added that festival goers should not just rely on the measures put in place by organisers – such as mandatory lateral flow tests – and continue to be as cautious as possible.
Hertfordshire County Council said it is willing to work with organisers of big events to put in place as many safety measures as possible.
Professor McManus said: “The first thing to say is that covid event safety advice is still continuing. What struck me about Standon Calling was, we planned for it to be safe as possible, but we knew that with the surging cases nothing on Earth would stop the virus from circulating at some point during an event, and we can’t have a completely covid safe public event – certainly not under the current government guidelines.
“What we can do is get it as low as possible, and the Standon Calling organisers worked really hard. The same thing for the Hatfield event, they are working really hard.
“I’ve seen the risk assessments, and the local council, county council and the organisers are working all hard together.”
Professor McManus said steps festival goers can take include wearing face masks when indoors and avoid mixing with too many people during an event, as well as getting both doses of the vaccine.
The health chief added: “What I would say is that the best thing is do not leave it to the organisers to keep you safe.
“They will do a really good job, most of our events in Hertfordshire have had a lot fewer infections associated with them from what we can tell than the events like the Euros which were far more drivers of infection.
“But if you are double vaccinated, and if you keep washing your hands, and if you at least wear a mask indoors if it’s crowded, and try not to mix with hundreds and hundreds of people, just trying to sensibly reduce your risk, that – plus what [the organisers] do – will help.
“We know that because people who’ve done it haven’t gotten infected, I think it’s a case of trying to be safe, and trying to be sensible.”
The council have said that a rise in gastrointestinal bugs and food poisoning over the summer has indicated that people may not be acting as cautiously as at other points during the pandemic.
Professor McManus said that while the council will continue to support organisers to limit the spread of infection, it’s down to everyone to manage the risk.
He added: “I think it’s just thinking sensibly about how you’re going to limit your risk. Know that nothing’s 100 per cent safe, but if you lower your risk the chances are, you will be much less likely to get infected than if you just let rip.
“We will continue giving advice to anyone who wants to organise an event in the county, that advice is free, it is there from the borough councils and from us, and we will do everything we can to help them.”