GP warns of 'Latitude effect' as cases rise among young people

The children's area at Latitude was full of fun for all the family. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

A Suffolk doctor has warned that Latitude has caused a rise in Covid cases among young people - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A Suffolk GP has warned his area of the county is seeing an increase in young people testing positive for Covid-19 – many of which having been to Latitude Festival.

Mark Hainsworth, GP at the Bildeston Medical Practice, said his staff have dubbed the rise in cases among young people at his surgery as the "Latitude effect" – with the time taken to test positive since the festival last month fitting the expected timeframe.

Dr Mark Hainsworth of the Bildeston Health Centre 

Dr Mark Hainsworth of the Bildeston Health Centre - Credit: Archant

Dr Hainsworth said: "We have seen an increase in young people testing positive for the last four weeks, but we are seeing an increase again as of this week.

"We are a very small corner of Suffolk, but our patients do go to events like Latitude – we have seen around 10 to 15 people test positive this week who went to the festival.

"So far, the oldest case I'd spoken to is 25. They are not necessarily becoming unwell, but are testing positive."

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Guests at the festival at Henham Park, attended by 40,000 people and one of the government's pilot events, were required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative lateral flow test – with many young people relying on the latter due to not being contacted yet for their second vaccine dose.

Latitude festival 2021 is now underway with reveleers enjoying the sunshine. Picture: Sarah Lucy Br

40,000 attended this year's Latitude festival - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Dr Hainsworth added: "From what I saw on the television, there were people dancing and snogging – they relied on lateral flow tests, which unfortunately aren't very reliable.

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"Perhaps full vaccination should have been the sole criteria for the event. Ideally we want youngsters to be fully vaccinated as with most viruses, the chance of longer health complications are higher among young people.

"But as Boris Johnson has said, if we can't open up now in the summer – when can we?"

Senior staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust have dubbed the festival "the Covid fest", with its chief operating officer admitting the trust has "lost a lot of people" to self-isolation as a consequence of the festival.

Chris Cobb, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's chief operating officer, told a board meeting on Wednesday the workforce had been reduced "quite significantly" with a number of staff isolating as a result of attending Latitude. 

Mr Cobb said: "Quite a number of our staff went to Latitude Festival, the Covid fest, and we have lost a lot of people as a consequence of that and some very key people at the moment. Luckily that is very short lived for us.

Crowds packed the Obelisk arena to dance in the sun. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Fans enjoying the music at this year's Latitude - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"It's very variable on a daily basis. At the peak of last week, we had 185 people that we could identify were not in the building because of Covid related isolation."

The hospital has been treating between 15 to 20 Covid patients in recent weeks which was called a "significant step change" by the trust's CEO.

A spokeswoman for the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said the trust has not seen an increase in staff self-isolating.

Stuart Keeble

Suffolk director of public health, Stuart Keeble - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Speaking at the Local Outbreak Engagement Board last week, Suffolk director of public health, Stuart Keeble, said around 20 positive cases in the county had been attributed to the event.

He said between 300 and 400 Covid-19 cases among festival-goers would be consistent with levels of infection spread in the community.

He added the event was well organised and that the cases reported could be in line with rates seen in normal community transmission.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said it worked alongside partners including Public Health England to ensure the event ran safely – including twice daily information gathering on any public health incidents.

Organisers for Latitude Festival did not respond when contacted for comment.

A Government spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said: "The findings are still being looked at and researched and will be published in due course." 

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