In Depth

Is a second wave of rave sparking new Covid outbreaks across Europe?

Authorities struggling to close down illegal parties in London and other cities around the continent

Police have arrested revellers at a series of illegal parties in London as health experts warn that similar illicit raves across Europe may trigger a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Seven people were arrested for offences including firearm and knife possession at “unlicensed music events” in Newham, Kensal Town and Maida Vale on Friday alone, says the BBC.

Police had been pelted with stones and other objects while trying to disperse a street party in Notting Hill on Thursday, and more than 20 officers were injured during clashes at an event in Brixton on Wednesday.

Is rave culture back?

Months of lockdown and isolation across Europe have led to makeshift parties in streets, parks and households in lieu of nightclubs and bars.

In Paris, thousands gathered at the Canal Saint-Martin and Marais district last week for the annual Fete de la Musique, “while in Berlin more than 100 officers broke up a demonstration that turned into a spontaneous, 3,000-person party earlier this month”, The Guardian reports.

Police in the German capital have also warned of a spate of illicit raves in the city’s parks.

In Portugal, the government has announced a tightening of restrictions on several areas of Greater Lisbon following reports of parties attended by hundreds of people, The Telegraph says. 

And in London, the Metropolitan Police were called to deal with further illegal gatherings over the weekend.

“If it wasn’t for coronavirus and the killing of George Floyd, this wouldn’t have happened. Coronavirus has got everyone depressed,” Kensal Town resident Tanya Kabir told Sky News last week. “My mates went to the party to have a good time, and it only got out of hand when the police arrived.”

Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the force had a “duty” to stop the “illegal and reckless” parties, adding:  “These events should not be happening.” 

Even legal parties have caused problems in European countries where nightclubs have been given official permission to reopen. In Switzerland, the authorities have ordered 300 people into quarantine after a “superspreader” was found to be at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak at a Zurich club, reports The Independent.

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Could these parties spark new coronavirus outbreaks?

Experts have warned of the potential infection risks posed by the so-called new wave of rave, as Covid-19 cases across Europe begin to creep back up.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that around 30 European countries had reported surges in new cases over the past two weeks.

Announcing new social distancing restrictions in Lisbon last week after around 1,000 revellers descended on a beach party near the capital, Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa said:  “After doing everything right, we’re not going to ruin it now.”

Portugal was “hailed as one of Europe’s success stories”, but has reported hikes in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks. The country now has “a rate that ranks among the continent’s highest when it comes to new cases per 100,000 inhabitants”, says The Guardian.

Elsewhere, the total number of cases in Germany had climbed by 37% in the past week, while France has seen a 12% rise in cases, according to the newspaper.

In Spain, health officials have been warning for weeks of the risks posed by social gatherings.

“An outbreak brought on by a small, innocent party... just one outbreak could be the start of a new, nationwide epidemic,” epidemiologist Fernando Simon, who is heading the country’s response to the virus, said in late May.

Simon spoke out after a cluster of cases in northeast Spain was linked to an illicit birthday party that saw four of the 20-odd attendees later testing positive for Covid-19.

Days later, Spain fined Belgium’s Prince Joachim €10,400 (£9,500) after the royal attended a party in the south of the country. He subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

The UK authorities are also ruling out parties for its citizens for the foreseeable future. 

Government guidelines stress that even after the planned relaxation of lockdown rules from 4 July, people “should not gather indoors in groups of more than two households…[or] hold or attend celebrations (such as parties) where it is difficult to maintain social distancing”.

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