Public health head warns Cop26 could spark fresh wave of Covid

Thousands of delegates are expected to stay with local people in Glasgow

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Cop26 could set off a new wave of Covid-19 infections in Scotland, a public health expert has warned.

Professor Linda Bauld, chairwoman of public health at Edinburgh University, said it will be “risky” to hold the climate change summit in Glasgow, which is expected to draw up to 30,000 people.

Due to a lack of accommodation, many guests at the UN climate change conference will stay in the homes of people living in and around the city.

The last time world leaders gathered in the UK was at the G7 meeting in Cornwall in June. That month saw a rise in Covid cases in the area, but the UK government denied the gathering was to blame.

Prof Bauld said any surge in infections after Cop26 could spread outside the city and across central Scotland.

“Yes, I am worried about a Glaswegian spike, and I’m not worried just about Glasgow. The central belt is interconnected,” she said.

“And we’re seeing declines here but we may not be able to hang on to those gains.

“We’re trying to open up and everything’s trying to operate more normally.

“Everybody’s delighted to be able to go to the cinema or a concert or have more people in their homes.

“This is hard-won progress thanks to vaccines and other things.

“But having huge mass events at the moment, I think it is risky.”

Earlier this month, the Scottish government introduced rules making vaccine certificates mandatory at mass events.

The rule applies to nightclubs, indoor seated events with more than 500 attendees, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people, and any event with more than 10,000 in attendance.

Delegates at Cop26 will be exempt from the measures but will have to show a negative result from a lateral flow test each day to gain entry.

Covid figures released by the Scottish government on Thursday showed there were 29 deaths and 2,639 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours.

On Wednesday, there were a total of 908 people in Scottish hospitals, down 10 in 24 hours. Fifty of those who had tested positive for Covid were in intensive care.

“Covid-19 continues to be closely monitored by all relevant agencies and we are working with the UK Government, Public Health Scotland and our partners in Glasgow to achieve our priority of a safe and secure Cop26,” a spokeswoman for the Scottish government told The National.

“As part of the code of conduct, delegates will be asked to adhere to enhanced Covid measures in the Cop26 Blue Zone, such as one-metre physical distancing and the wearing of face masks unless seated.

“All other national and local restrictions will continue to apply outside the Blue Zone.”

Queen Elizabeth II and senior members of the royal family will attend the summit, Buckingham Palace announced this week.

One of the principal aims of Cop26, which will run from October 31 to November 12, is to accelerate the ways and means of achieving the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 9:11 AM