Cumbria Covid spike ‘not caused by horse fair’

A spike in Covid cases in Cumbria is not being linked to Appleby Horse Fair, health officials have said.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 3:45 pm

The Eden area of the county, including Appleby, has seen a large increase in coronavirus cases, leaping from 133.9 per 100,000 of population in the week to August 12, to 411.1 cases per 100,000 people in the week to August 19.

It is the fourth biggest week-on-week jump in England, with the top three all in south-west England, according to Public Health England data, analysed by the PA news agency.

The famous Appleby Horse Fair, a centuries-old annual gathering of gypsies and travellers that attracts tens of thousands of visitors, was held over three days from August 12 to 15.

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Travellers gather at this year's Appleby Horse Fair

But the county’s health bosses have said neither the fair nor increased summer tourism is to blame for the spike in Covid cases because the virus was still circulating before both boosted visitor numbers.

Colin Cox, director of public health at Cumbria County Council, said: “The first thing to say is, a lot of people have made the assumption this has something to do with the Appleby Horse Fair, between the 12th and 15th of August.

“We’re not seeing that – when I look at the data, actually, case rates in and around Appleby are lower and, on the contact tracing, following up people who have tested positive, we are not seeing a lot of people who have been to Appleby.

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Mr Cox said tourism also cannot explain the spike because the South Lakes area, very popular with visitors, has got the lowest rate in Cumbria.

He said the key point is for visitors to take a test before travelling and for tourists and residents to remain vigilant and continue to take precautions.

“When you have an area with a small population like Eden, it doesn’t take many cases, to make the case rates look high,” he said.

“So you can see, quite often, spikes in Eden that look dramatic, but come down to a relatively small number of cases.

“Actually, overall, we are not seeing much of an impact in tourism that we can point it towards.

“We are not particularly putting this on tourism. It was circulating before the tourist season.

“Take a test before you travel as a courtesy to the area you are travelling to.

“I think we are hoping that it is a small number of outbreaks, coming under control.

“The key thing for people who are here visiting, or residents, is Covid is still out there.

“And we can still take precautions, wear a face mask in public places, think about social distancing.”

The next weekly Covid-19 situation report for Cumbria is published on Thursday and available at https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/publichealth/covid19outbreakcontrol.aspIt is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you. For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription here and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.