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Concerns grow in St Ives over Covid cases linked to G7 summit

Concerns grow in St Ives over Covid cases linked to G7 summit
Police officers patrol along the route Joe Biden’s motorcade took through St Ives on Sunday. Photograph: Jon Super/AP

Concerns are growing that St Ives may face a spike in Covid cases as the G7 summit winds up with hospitality venues, police officers and a protest camp all reporting cases of the virus.

At least five venues in St Ives, the town closest to the main venue summit, Carbis Bay, have closed or are limiting their operations because of cases.

Two police officers have had positive tests and one protester at an Extinction Rebellion camp is also isolating.

Andrew George, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats in Cornwall on health, said he was concerned about the cases.

He said he did not believe the leaders were “vectors” for Covid. “But other people associated with G7 – security staff, police, media have been intermixing.”

Ahead of the event, George had called for the UK government to publish advice on the possibility of the summit leading to a Covid spike but said it had refused on security grounds. “We won’t know the full consequences of what has been going on possibly for a fortnight.”

Among the venues that have shut or restricted their business are the Pedn Olva hotel and the Lifeboat Inn. The Porthgwidden Beach Cafe said it had decided to close its doors “due to the uncertainty over local Covid-19 cases”.

The bar at the Western Hotel was closed and another harbourside hotel had a note pinned to its window saying: “Closed until further notice.” Staff at nearby venues said it too was closed because of Covid.

Sarah Green, a theatre director who also runs an online business training the NHS, said: “It’s getting really worrying.”

She said it was difficult to know how much the G7 was to blame as there were also many tourists in the town. “But there has been a massive influx of support workers into town from major cities,” she said.

There has also been a case at the Extinction Rebellion campsite. It said: “Prior to this gathering a full Covid-safe risk assessment had been performed by Extinction Rebellion. Full liaison with Devon and Cornwall police up to the level of gold commander was carried out. The main Extinction Rebellion campsite has been organised in a Covid-safe manner.

Concerns grow in St Ives over Covid cases linked to G7 summit
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators protest on the beach in St Ives during the G7 summit in Cornwall. Photograph: Tom Nicholson/Reuters

“An isolated suspected case of Covid was reported to us by an individual. Lateral flow tests were performed and were positive. This person subsequently left the site. Contact tracing has been performed and all identified contacts have had negative lateral flows and are now self-isolating.”

Meanwhile, an organiser of a food bank in St Ives said he expected life to get tougher for poorer local people because the focus on the town was likely to lead to house prices rising.

The Rev Chris Wallis said the food bank provided more than 100,000 meals for local people last year. “The G7 showcases Cornwall, but it will make the poverty worse,” he said. “House prices are already up because people are leaving the cities for the countryside. As more people move here it will be harder for local people to find homes.”

The property website Rightmove reported that searches for Carbis Bay doubled as the summit opened and last week a single parking space sold for £45,000.

Two of the St Ives food bank users are living in a caravan after their private landlord moved them out. Wallis said he also faces losing his home because his landlord believes he can get more rent for it.

It has not helped that the distribution centre for the food bank is at a chapel within the G7 ring of steel, which means that two weeks of food had to be issued to people before the summit began.

Wallis said: “It’s good they are meeting to discuss climate change and recovery from the pandemic, but holding the summit in Cornwall is probably going to make things worse here.”


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