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Scientist says crammed summer beaches did not cause any Covid-19 outbreaks

There is no data to suggest thousands of people crowding onto beaches last summer caused a Covid outbreak, MPs have been told.

Images of crammed coastlines - especially Margate's Main Sands - caused outrage as the country battled with the first few months of the pandemic.

Thousands of people on Margate beach in June. Picture: Frank Leppard Photography
Thousands of people on Margate beach in June. Picture: Frank Leppard Photography

Police and councils were forced to step in as they pleaded with sun-seekers to refrain from flocking to popular spots.

The packed crowds sparked an outcry over heightened disease transmission fears, but MPs sitting on the Science and Technology Committee were today told the beach-goers did not greatly escalate the virus' spread.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an expert in infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Over the summer we were treated to all this on the television news and pictures of crowded beaches and there was an outcry about this.

“There were no outbreaks linked to crowded beaches.

"There’s never been a Covid-19 outbreak linked to a beach ever anywhere in the world to the best of my knowledge.”

Professor Woolhouse speaking at the Science and Technology Comittee today

Advice has not changed and lockdown rules still apply. Residents must stay at home, save for essential travel.

Prof Woolhouse also suggested outdoor activities could have restarted faster in the first lockdown.

“I think we probably could have considered reopening schools much sooner in the first lockdown,” he said.

“The other thing, quite clearly, is outdoor activities. Again, there was evidence going back to March and April that the virus is not transmitted well outdoors.

“There’s been very, very little evidence that any transmission outdoors is happening in the UK.

“Those two things, I think, could have been relaxed sooner in the first lockdown.”

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