Camping Holiday

Camp Covid? Sea of tents at Reading Festival as thousands prepare to party over Bank Holiday weekend

These aerial photos show a sea of tents at Reading Festival today as thousands of fans prepare to party over the sun-baked Bank Holiday weekend amid fears the event will cause a surge in coronavirus infections.

Although not a single note had been played, tens of thousands of people queued for over three hours and crammed onto the banks of the River Thames to attend the event in Berkshire, which was cancelled last year. 

With more than 90,000 people scheduled to arrive, the festival will be the biggest since the easing of Covid restrictions on July 19.

Technicians could be seen making final preparation on the event’s giant stages, which are set to play host to Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher over the course of the three-day event. 

The mercury is set to hit 71F (21.6C) this weekend with a mixture of sunny and cloudy conditions forecast, according to the Met Office.

Aerial pictures showed densely packed queues streaming through the turnstiles as organisers battled to deal with the additional Covid checks they must carry out before the famous three-dayer kicks off tomorrow.

Revellers were also snapped arriving at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park this morning which, along with Reading, is one of the few large scale music festivals going ahead this summer.

The images follow Professor Ravindra Gupta, an expert who is advising the Government, warning that music festivals and schools returning will lead to a ‘significant surge’ in Covid-19 infections. 

These aerial photos show a sea of tents at Reading Festival in Berkshire which, with more than 90,000 people scheduled to attend, will be the biggest since the easing of Covid restrictions on July 19

Reading's organisers Festival Republic will be hoping the Covid rules it has put in place will avoid repeats of other events this summer, including Latitude and Boardmasters. Pictured: aerial photographs showing a sea of tents at the festival

Reading’s organisers Festival Republic will be hoping the Covid rules it has put in place will avoid repeats of other events this summer, including Latitude and Boardmasters. Pictured: aerial photographs showing a sea of tents at the festival

Reading, which also hosts a sister festival in Leeds, is allowing campers to pitch up from today ahead of the opening on Friday

Reading, which also hosts a sister festival in Leeds, is allowing campers to pitch up from today ahead of the opening on Friday

Revellers were also pictured arriving at Leeds Festival (above) in Bramham Park this morning which, along with Reading, is one of the few large scale music festivals going ahead this summer

Revellers were also pictured arriving at Leeds Festival (above) in Bramham Park this morning which, along with Reading, is one of the few large scale music festivals going ahead this summer

People pictured arriving at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park, West Yorkshire, this morning ahead of its first day tomorrow

People pictured arriving at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park, West Yorkshire, this morning ahead of its first day tomorrow 

Fans were in a celebratory mood as they passed the ice cream vans and fast food tents that had lined the approaches to the event, which is being held in the heart of Reading.

However, those who have not already made it into the grounds face a long wait before they can pitch their tents.

One party-goer said: ‘We had to queue for three or four hours to get in yesterday and we had the early-bird passes. I think it will be worse for people today. It is absolutely packed already.’ 

Inside the festival grounds, a patchwork quilt of tents had already taken up large swathes of the camping areas and worn footpaths were already turning to mud. 

Despite efforts by organisers to reduce the amount of litter left behind by the festival, the banks of the Thames were already covered in crushed beer cans, empty water bottles and discarded plastic bags.

The festival is taking place after health officials said they are investigating 4,700 cases of coronavirus which are suspected to be linked to the Boardmasters festival, which took place in Cornwall nearly two weeks ago.

Festival goers arrive with their shopping and belongings to start setting up their tents at the designated campsites at Reading

Festival goers arrive with their shopping and belongings to start setting up their tents at the designated campsites at Reading

Festival goers queue up outside Aldi to stock up on food and drinks before the music starts at Reading on Friday

Festival goers queue up outside Aldi to stock up on food and drinks before the music starts at Reading on Friday

These two young women were seen carrying what appeared to be their tent bag as they arrived at the festival site today

These two young women were seen carrying what appeared to be their tent bag as they arrived at the festival site today

Tooled up: This young woman looked well prepared as she arrived with two bags, a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and cushion

Tooled up: This young woman looked well prepared as she arrived with two bags, a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and cushion

This pair looked as though they might have stuffed too much into their shopping bag as they grimaced while carrying it together

This pair looked as though they might have stuffed too much into their shopping bag as they grimaced while carrying it together

Ready to party: This trio were dressed for good weather as they walked around the site ahead of the start of performances tomorrow

Ready to party: This trio were dressed for good weather as they walked around the site ahead of the start of performances tomorrow

This group of friends carried bags of food and drink as they made their way into the site before the first day of the festival tomorrow

This group of friends carried bags of food and drink as they made their way into the site before the first day of the festival tomorrow

A reveller smiles as she is pictured while getting her hair done outside the festival site on Friday

A reveller smiles as she is pictured while getting her hair done outside the festival site on Friday 

This group of friends were sitting outside their tents in a circle of chairs as they enjoyed themselves on Thursday

This group of friends were sitting outside their tents in a circle of chairs as they enjoyed themselves on Thursday

One reveller arrives at Leeds Festival ahead of its first day tomorrow. Elsewhere it has been reported that more than 1,000 people who attended Latitude Festival at Henham Park in Suffolk last month have tested positive for the virus

One reveller arrives at Leeds Festival ahead of its first day tomorrow. Elsewhere it has been reported that more than 1,000 people who attended Latitude Festival at Henham Park in Suffolk last month have tested positive for the virus

The mercury is set to hit 71F this weekend with a mixture of sunny and cloudy conditions forecast, according to the Met Office. Pictured: revellers arriving at Leeds Festival yesterday

The mercury is set to hit 71F (21.6C) this weekend with a mixture of sunny and cloudy conditions forecast, according to the Met Office. Pictured: revellers arriving at Leeds Festival this morning

Festival goers arrive laden with their possessions and home comforts for the start of Reading Festival in Berkshire on Friday

Festival goers arrive laden with their possessions and home comforts for the start of Reading Festival in Berkshire on Friday

Aerial pictures showed densely packed queues streaming through the turnstiles as Reading organisers battled to deal with the additional Covid checks they must carry out before the famous three-dayer kicks off tomorrow

Aerial pictures showed densely packed queues streaming through the turnstiles as Reading organisers battled to deal with the additional Covid checks they must carry out before the famous three-dayer kicks off tomorrow

People pose for the camera as they arrive at Leeds Festival in West Yorkshire today ahead of the event's first day on Friday

People pose for the camera as they arrive at Leeds Festival in West Yorkshire today ahead of the event’s first day on Friday

Two police officers are seen studying the festival site map in Reading, Berkshire, ahead of the three-day event this weekend

Two police officers are seen studying the festival site map in Reading, Berkshire, ahead of the three-day event this weekend

Crowds pictured arriving with their belongings and camping equipment at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park, West Yorkshire

Crowds pictured arriving with their belongings and camping equipment at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park, West Yorkshire

Oxfam stewards check for proof of Covid vaccinations at the entrance to the festival site in Reading, Berkshire, on Thursday

Oxfam stewards check for proof of Covid vaccinations at the entrance to the festival site in Reading, Berkshire, on Thursday

Revellers arrive with their belongings at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park today ahead of a weekend of camping and music

Revellers arrive with their belongings at Leeds Festival in Bramham Park today ahead of a weekend of camping and music

Elsewhere it has been reported that more than 1,000 people who attended Latitude Festival at Henham Park in Suffolk last month have tested positive for the virus.

But Reading’s organisers Festival Republic will be hoping the Covid rules it has put in place will avoid repeats of other events this summer, including Latitude and Boardmasters. 

Reading, which also hosts a sister festival at the same time in Leeds, is allowing campers to pitch up from today ahead of the opening. 

Asked today if a surge in cases is inevitable amid summer festivals and the imminent return of schools and colleges, Prof Gupta told BBC Radio Four’s World at One: ‘Of course there is going to be an associated surge in cases, given that the young people in these events are largely going to be unvaccinated.

Eager fans started to arrive on Wednesday morning to get a prime spot as early bird campers with the rest of the camping areas opened up today

Eager fans started to arrive on Wednesday morning to get a prime spot as early bird campers with the rest of the camping areas opened up today

An aerial photograph showing the main arena and stages as well as the tent city at the Reading Festival site in Berkshire today

An aerial photograph showing the main arena and stages as well as the tent city at the Reading Festival site in Berkshire today 

Technicians could be seen making final preparation on the event's giant stages, which are set to play host to Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher over the course of the three-day event

Technicians could be seen making final preparation on the event’s giant stages, which are set to play host to Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher over the course of the three-day event

Tens of thousands descended on the Thames Valley town for the festival, which pumps millions of pounds into the economy

Tens of thousands descended on the Thames Valley town for the festival, which pumps millions of pounds into the economy

An aerial photograph showing the main arena and stages as well as the tent city at the Reading Festival site on Thursday

An aerial photograph showing the main arena and stages as well as the tent city at the Reading Festival site on Thursday

A sea of tents pictured at Reading Festival site in Berkshire today before the famous three-dayer kicks off tomorrow

A sea of tents pictured at Reading Festival site in Berkshire today before the famous three-dayer kicks off tomorrow

‘That’s just something that is predictable and will happen, despite best efforts.

‘We know that Delta is far more infectious, it ramps up very quickly. We know the lateral flow devices are not perfect. So we just have to be realistic and say that this is going to lead to a significant surge in infections.’

The member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), who said he was speaking in a personal capacity, noted that some of the Government’s pilot events earlier in the year – which were concluded to have shown ‘no substantial outbreaks’ – had taken place when the Delta variant was not dominant and community transmission was relatively low.

He said: ‘I think if you did a large event now, and did the same study, you may find something different because, of course, the Delta variant is dominant at the moment.’