Health bosses insist tourism is not to blame for surge in coronavirus cases

Health bosses in Northumberland have not seen any "convincing evidence" to suggest tourism is to blame for a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

By James Harrison
Monday, 28th June 2021, 8:13 pm
Covid-19 cases are rising in Northumberland, but health chiefs say tourists are not to blame.
Covid-19 cases are rising in Northumberland, but health chiefs say tourists are not to blame.

The rate of positive infections in the county has surged to a weekly average of more than 212 per 100,000, according to the latest figures, the highest since January.

But rather than blaming an influx of visitors attracted by good weather, experts believe young people already in the region may be more likely culprits.

“I’m not sure anywhere in the country has seen much of a link between tourism and an increase in cases,” said Northumberland County Council’s director of public health, Liz Morgan

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“We do get the odd case notified to us from other local authorities, where they live, but I don’t think tourism is the driver for this – I think a lot of it is about young people socialising and the impact of half term.

“We are seeing an increasing number of outbreaks in schools or associated with schools, [but] we think actually that’s more about what young people are doing outside school.”

While infection rates in Northumberland have risen to levels not seen since the New Year, figures for hospital admissions and deaths are yet to follow suit.

Morgan added she was yet to see “any convincing evidence” to suggest tourism had significantly contributed to rising cases, pointing to low infection rates in the South West last summer.

However, Covid infection levels in Cornwall rose above the England average for the first time since the start of the pandemic last week, which some have blamed on the international G7 summit.

Official guidance has emphasised the decreased risk associated with outdoor activities, which is one of the main attractions for visitors to Northumberland.

And, according to Morgan, those travelling to the county for extended trips will often ‘stick in their own groups’, further limiting transmission.

Richard Hay, head of planning and operations at Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Two things we absolutely have in abundance in Northumberland are space and fresh air.

“So from a ‘Hands, Face, Space’ point of view, we’re really well placed to make the most of that guidance and still enjoy our county in a safe way.”