No spike in Covid-19 cases following North Yorkshire VE Day anniversary celebrations, says police chief

There was no sudden spike in North Yorkshire’s coronavirus cases following last month’s VE Day anniversary celebrations, a police chief has said.

And health officials are now keeping a “close eye” on any surge of fresh infections following the recent Black Lives Matter protests held in Richmond, Harrogate, York, and Scarborough.

Experts had expressed concerns that socialising on the anniversary of VE Day on 8 May could have resulted in an influx of Covid-19 cases – with residents throwing street parties whilst the government’s stay at home message remained in place.

But Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police’s assistant chief constable, told a virtual meeting the celebrations did not lead to a rise in transmissions.

“We know that there was a concern from the VE Day celebrations that maybe two weeks after we might start to see a spike in cases – North Yorkshire hasn’t seen that,” he said.

A hospital in Somerset was forced to stop taking new patients due to “a high number” of coronavirus cases following VE Day, a doctor claimed at the time.

Weston General Hospital, in Weston-super-Mare, announced that it could not take any more admissions around two weeks after the celebrations.

In Warrington, dozens of villagers who were filmed dancing down the street while holding a rope at two-metre intervals on VE Day were met with sharp criticism.

It was just one of a series of incidents which appeared to conflict with the government’s coronavirus guidance.

Now, the focus revolves around the anti-racism protests which have been held this month following the death of George Floyd in police custody in America on 25 May.

It comes as England now has the loosest lockdown in the UK, with no restrictions on going outside. But the rules – officially known as regulations – don’t explicitly say anything about protests.

However, public gatherings are still restricted to no more than six people.

Assistant chief constable Mike Walker said: “There are obvious concerns that those people coming together may spread the virus as well, so we are keeping a really close eye on that from a Local Resilience Forum point of view.

“If we see a particular issue in a particular location with people presenting to the hospital we can really focus on it. Because that’s when the potential local lockdowns will have to be implemented.”

Health officials are currently drawing up plans to suppress regional outbreaks of coronavirus in North Yorkshire.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, the county council’s director of public health, suggested restrictions could be introduced in areas with “flare-ups” as part of an emergency system being put in place.