'Significant' increase in Covid-19 cases linked to young people socialising in Sunderland venues

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Public health chiefs say young people socialising is behind ‘significant’ rise in Covid-19 cases in Sunderland.

Track and trace have found ‘clusters’ of Covid-19 cases across Sunderland are linked to young people socialising in the hospitality industry as more than 130 cases of the virus were confirmed in the local authority in the three days to Monday, September 7.

And health chiefs are expecting the high daily number of confirmed cases to continue this week as public health teams work to stop the spread.

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At least 28 people have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a charity football match at Burnside Working Men’s Club on Sunday, August 30.

Gillian Gibson outside Burnside Working Men's Club after an event was linked to at least 28 cases of Covid-19Gillian Gibson outside Burnside Working Men's Club after an event was linked to at least 28 cases of Covid-19
Gillian Gibson outside Burnside Working Men's Club after an event was linked to at least 28 cases of Covid-19

But, although the majority of cases connected to the event are Sunderland residents, health bosses say clusters have been linked to various hospitality venues in the city.

A number of businesses including Mamma Italia, Salt House Kitchen and Ttonic have all announced temporary closures – for the full list click here.

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Gillian Gibson, Sunderland’s Director of Public Health, told the Echo: “There has been lots of little clusters [in Sunderland] - not a big outbreak. There are two, three or four cases that are maybe connected which we often see in terms of households.

Gillian Gibson and Amanda HealyGillian Gibson and Amanda Healy
Gillian Gibson and Amanda Healy

“But what we are seeing now is this is happening particularly in hospitality venues and particularly amongst younger people aged 19 to 29.”

So far, 60 of the 83 people who tested positive and were reported in the weekend’s figures have been contacted to build a picture of where those infected with the virus have been.

When asked if the increase could lead to a restrictions, Ms Gibson said that Sunderland is seeing people ‘socialising outside of the home’ as a bigger issue than different households visiting each other – which was banned by local lockdowns in the North West.

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Ms Gibson said new local restrictions could be needed if specific issues are recognised during inquiries - but added that such restrictions or a local lockdown are not being looked at right now.

Instead, the Public Health team is working alongside venues to address any issues.

Furthermore, the rise has not believed to have led to a rise in coronavirus-related hospital admissions in Sunderland.

“I don’t think we would necessarily expect [a rise] when we are seeing the majority of cases amongst young people,” said Ms Gibson.

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“My concern is that it will go from those younger people to their parents and grandparents and they are the people who are more likely to have severe illness and end up in hospital.”

Outbreak linked to charity fundraiser

Burnside Working Men’s Club is currently closed and is cooperating with Durham County Council.

The council’s Public Health Director Amanda Healy says they will be offering support to the club when it reopens and is not looking at any form of enforcement against the club.

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