No Covid-19 outbreaks have been linked to crowded beaches, MPs told

  • Live report from ITV News political correspondent Libby Wiener

There has never been a Covid-19 outbreak linked to a crowded beach, MPs have heard.

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the Science and Technology Committee: “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.”

Alongside other government advisers, Professor Woolhouse joined the Science and Technology committee to explore methods of easing lockdown measures in England.

A major incident was declared in Bournemouth in June after 500,000 attended the beach. Credit: PA

He referred to widespread concern about a lack of social distancing on beaches during the summer last year. Local authorities warned of a rise in infections, including Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council. They declared a major incident after roughly 500,000 people flocked to Bournemouth's seafronts in June.

On the same day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the government had the power to close public areas, such as beaches, if people flouted Covid-19 restrictions.

Professor Woolhouse said that although he didn't know of any outbreaks linked to beaches, mass gatherings – like horse racing events – were an exception. He said they can accelerate the spread of Covid-19 as they do not involve social distancing and involve “pinch points” like travel and refreshment facilities.

“I think we do have to understand where the risks are so that we can do as much as possible safely,” he added.

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