Rise in virus in G7 area prompts concern over holiday hotspots

The government has denied the G7 summit is behind a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in Cornwall, a rise that is raising significant concern about extra tourism pressures on the region in the summer weeks.

Nicola Davis, Jessica Elgot, Aubrey Allegretti print edition today’s Guardian

Recent seven-day case rates have risen rapidly for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, increasing from 4.9 per 100,000 people on 3 June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on 16 June.

Outbreaks among students, as well as the impact of people travelling to and from Cornwall during half-term, are believed to have contributed to the rise in cases.

There have been significant outbreaks in Carbis Bay – the area where the G7 summit was held – as well as nearby St Ives and Newquay West where many delegates stayed during the summit.

Rates are currently high in Ponsanooth, Mabe Burnthouse and Constantine, where the uptick has been linked to an outbreak at the Penryn campus that is shared by Exeter and Falmouth universities.

Andrew George, the former Lib Dem MP for St Ives who is now a councillor in Cornwall, said the government must publish its risk assessment for the summit, a request he said had been denied.

“The correlation between G7 and the tsunami of Covid-19 case-load in St Ives/Carbis Bay and Falmouth is undeniable,” he told the Press Association.

“It ought to drive public bodies to at the very least maintain an open mind about the connection between the two. Those who were responsible for that decision and for the post-G7 summit Covid-19 case management and assessment should be held to account for their decisions and actions.”

A spokesman for Boris Johnson yesterday denied a link between the event and the rise in cases.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents. All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G7 work were also tested during their work on the summit,” he said. “We always said, following the move to step three, that we will see cases rising across the country. That is what we’re seeing playing out.”

Concerns have been raised that those indirectly linked to the G7 summit could be associated with the rise, with police, hospitality venues and a protest camp in St Ives all reporting cases of the virus.

Rowland Kao, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh who contributes to the Spi-M modelling subgroup of Sage, said Cornwall was not an outlier for vaccination uptake nor levels of the Delta variant, suggesting other factors were behind the rise in rates.

These, he said, may include low rates of infection in previous waves – meaning those not yet vaccinated are also unlikely to have natural protection – as well as seasonal working patterns and increased mixing among locals.

“Of course any risks would have been exacerbated by the large numbers of people arriving in Cornwall both for the G7 summit and for recreational purposes,” he said.

Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University, also said a mix of factors was likely to be at play. “Whilst the arrival of the G7 attendees may have had some impact upon the numbers we are now seeing [in Cornwall], cases are predominantly among 15- to 24-year-olds. These populations will mostly be unvaccinated, and there may well have been a fair amount of travelling to tourist sites over the recent half-term?’

The increase in Cornish cases is likely to raise questions about the effect on other holiday hotspots in the UK with the public now being advised to avoid international travel.

Officials believe that a vaccination drive targeting younger adults, ahead of the school holidays, is now possible with the four-week delay to the final easing of lockdown restrictions.