Health bosses ‘watching and waiting’ to see if Great North Run has affect on covid rates

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The return of fans to St James’ Park has not led to an outbreak of covid cases, health bosses have said as they remain hopeful that the Great North Run won’t lead to an outbreak.

“Admirable” measures to prevent a serious Covid outbreak at the Great North run have been praised, with hopes that a series of major events in Newcastle will not lead to an eruption of virus cases.

Health chiefs in the city are hopeful that the half marathon’s 40th anniversary event, in which 57,000 runners took part, won’t lead to a new spike in infections.

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The run followed a new route this year, with participants circling back to Newcastle rather than heading to the traditional finish line on the South Shields seafront, in order to avoid forcing people to pack onto crowded Metro trains after the end of the race.

City leaders heard on Wednesday that the start of the new Premier League season and fans returning to St James’ Park had not yet resulted in any significant outbreaks, with case numbers having risen slightly over recent weeks but remaining relatively stable, and bosses will have their fingers crossed that other mass events don’t either.

After the influx of visitors for the Great North Run and ahead of the This is Tomorrow festival, Newcastle’s public health director Prof Eugene Milne told the City Futures Board on Wednesday: “I think you can see in the relative flat-lining of the case number that we have not seen any [large outbreaks]. It does not mean that there have not been transmissions in those circumstances, it would be astonishing if there were not some.

“But we have not seen an impact of those. We are watching to see, as with schools, whether there was an effect from the Great North Run.

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“But I think that the mitigations around the Great North Run were pretty admirable. It is a shame that it could not go to South Shields, but I think it made perfect sense not to have Metros crowded full of people going to and from there when you would have had really high probabilities of transmission.”

As well as changing the route to avoid overcrowding, other Covid safety measures for the run included more staggered start times for different waves of runners and no mass warm-up being held.

Tom Warburton, Newcastle City Council’s director of city futures, added: “As far as I am aware, we have not seen Covid spikes directly as a result of events. Obviously the football has been back and we had the Great North Run last weekend, and This is Tomorrow is coming.

“As far as I am aware, there has not been a direct correlation as far as I have seen in the data.”

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