UK Music Fans Swarm Site of Reading Festival Amid Warnings of ‘Imminent Surge’ in COVID-19 Cases

The world’s oldest annual popular music festival still in existence – the Reading Festival at Little John’s Farm in Berkshire, England, dating back to 1055 – is returning this weekend.

Tens of thousands of people have been queuing through the turnstiles for over three hours to attend, despite warnings that events like music festivals and school-goers returning to classrooms soon will trigger a “significant surge” in

coronavirus infections

.

Kicking off on Saturday, the three-day event that coincides with the Leeds festival in Bramham Park, near Wetherby, as part of a two-site format adopted in 1999, is on schedule to accommodate over 90,000 people, in what is seen as the biggest event since the easing of coronavirus restrictions on July 19. Aerial photos shared on social media reveal thousands rushing to the Reading Festival site to stake claim to tent-sites in preparation for the Bank Holiday weekend.

​The event in Berkshire was cancelled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The stages of the two music festivals, which share the same bill, are to play host to Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher over the course of the three-day event. Crowds have also been incentivised by the weather forecast, as temperatures are set to hit 71F (21.6C) this weekend, according to the Met Office.

Festival organisers have been forced to deal with additional COVID-19 checks as fans hurry to pitch their tents. Ticket holders have to demonstrate proof of full vaccination, a negative NHS lateral flow test, or proof of natural immunity.

“We had to queue for three or four hours to get in yesterday and we had the early-bird passes. I think it will be worse for people today. It is absolutely packed already,” one music fan was quoted as saying by the UK media.

The festival was given the go-ahead amid concerns voiced by UK health officials who are currently investigating 4,700 cases of coronavirus believed to be linked to the Boardmasters festival, hosted in Cornwall nearly two weeks ago. Other reports indicate that over 1,000 people who attended Latitude Festival at Henham Park in Suffolk in July have tested positive for COVID-19.

Karen Rowland, lead councillor for culture, heritage and recreation at Reading Borough Council, was cited by the BBC as saying the event may be “one of the largest festivals in the country this year”. Rowland added:

“There has been a lot of work, but we’re not without the knowledge that there aren’t obviously some sort of risks. The best things we can do is to ensure we have mitigated it to the levels we are certainly required to and Reading Festival working closely with us is providing the safest festival we can.”

Ravindra Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, who is advising the UK Government, weighed in on the apprehensions that a surge in cases is inevitable amid summer festivals and return of schools and colleges.

​“Of course there is going to be an associated surge in cases, given that the young people in these events are largely going to be unvaccinated. That’s just something that is predictable and will happen, despite best efforts,” he said on BBC Radio Four’s World at One.

He added that the Delta version of the virus is far more infectious and “ramps up very quickly”.

The UK has recorded 38,281 new COVID cases and 140 more coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period,

according to

government data. This time last week, and 35,663 cases and 94 deaths were announced. As part of the nation’s

vaccination

drive, a total of 47,860,628 people have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 42,234,417 people are now double jabbed.