True danger of crowded beaches explained by health expert

Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation Covid-19 special envoy, said it is “touch and go” that local virus outbreaks can be controlled as lockdown measures are eased across Europe – and has explained th true dangers of crowded beaches.

His comments come after police and councils declared an emergency due to the number of people flocking onto beaches on the south coast.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I’m pretty confident that most European countries are going to do well.

“We’ve seen for example in Poland, Germany, Spain, a really effective response to these kinds of resurgences but it is touch and go.

“I really think that Chris Whitty’s (England’s chief medical officer) point that ‘the virus is still in general circulation’ is important.

“So let’s hope that we are able to prevent these small clusters and little outbreaks from becoming overwhelming as we had earlier this year.”

Dr Nabarro said he was not “really concerned” by images of crowds on beaches, but feared what was going on “out of sight”.

He told the Today programme: “I don’t personally get really concerned when I see people outside in the open, because as you have just said, transmission is less likely to occur there.

“But it’s what happens out of sight that I’m more worried about. People going to the toilet and being in a queue and perhaps there being transmission there.

“Or particularly the person who is cleaning the toilet being exposed to lots of folk with disease, people getting on the public transport and exposing bus drivers and the like.

“That’s where I get nervous because I actually feel this vast amount of movement that’s going on – that is absolutely essential for people to come out and enjoy themselves again – does come at a risk.

“And I just ask everybody, don’t just think of yourself. Think of the other person who you might be exposing to the virus because sometimes they don’t have a choice.”

When asked about crowds gathering on beaches or in celebration of Liverpool’s Premier League win, Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast: “I think we have to recognise that some time ago now, well over a month we said that in outdoor environments the risk of transmission was lower so we said that it was OK for people to go to the beach provided that they observed social distancing.

“Generally, people have done that.”

He suggested the weather had a role and things could change as temperatures cool off.

The minister added: “We just have to recognise yesterday was the hottest day of the year, incredibly hot, a lot of people had the same idea, they all went to the beach, and yes of course those scenes at Bournemouth are a matter for concern.

“The British weather being what it is maybe that will be short lived and people will return to the type of social distancing they’ve actually demonstrated quite well.”

Dr Nabarro said there was “a real reluctance among some British people” to cooperate with contact tracers.

Speaking to the Today programme, he said: “When I saw the early figures I thought ‘this is a great start but there’s more to be done’. Then I’ve seen actually the numbers have stayed pretty static for the last three weeks.

“And if I was in charge of the contact-tracing system I would be really asking myself why is it proving so hard to find all those who have got the disease and to get to their contacts?

“It does appear there is still a real reluctance among some British people to be open about their contacts and perhaps they feel it’s an intrusion into their privacy.

“And I say here and now when you’re trying to get rid of this virus contact tracing is absolutely critical. It’s the only way to do it. And we have that information now from all over the world.

“So if you’re in any doubt please do cooperate on this contact-tracing issue because it is key to getting down to the low levels that we need for life to recover and people to go about their lives as they wish to.”

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