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Thousands flock to Download Festival in UK amid fears over COVID-19 third wave

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By Euronews with AP
Metal fans most at Download Festival in England on Saturday after a two-year-long hiatus
Metal fans most at Download Festival in England on Saturday after a two-year-long hiatus   -   Copyright  Joe Giddens/AP
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Thousands of heavy metal fans have descended on a park in England for the country's first full music festival since March 2020, despite warnings from scientists that a third wave of infections may already be underway.

About 10,000 people are camping, singing at live gigs - and even moshing - at Download Festival in Donnington Park, Leicestershire this weekend.

Headlined by such heavyweights as Enter Shikari, Bullet for My Valentine and Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, the festival is part of a series of 'test' events aimed at seeing whether mass gatherings can safely resume.

Attendees all took COVID-19 tests beforehand. They do not have to follow social distancing guidance or wear masks for the duration of the three-day event.

Concertgoer Alexander Milas told AP that recent torrential rain across England and muddy conditions had not marred the atmosphere.

"In a way it makes it better,'' he said. "It brings people together: the sheer misery and joy of being around a lot of like-minded, wonderful people. Weather be damned, we are going to have a great time.''

'Race is on' between UK vaccine rollout and Delta variant third wave

Download Festival got underway, however, amid rising concern that the UK may be on the verge of a third peak of infections while the domestic vaccine drive is still incomplete.

The UK has recorded almost 128,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second-highest official death toll in Europe after Russia. Although hospitalisation and death figures remain low for the time being, new infections are on the rise.

The increase to 77 cases per 100,000 last week - about 14% of the winter peak - is thought to have been driven by a recent easing of restrictions and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant first identified in India, which now accounts for 99% of new cases.

Last week the government delayed the lifting of remaining social and economic restrictions for four weeks from the planned June 21 date.

On Saturday Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "It’s going up. Perhaps we can be a little bit optimistic it’s not going up any faster, but nevertheless, it’s going up.

"This third wave is definitely underway. We can conclude that the race is firmly on between the vaccine programme, particularly getting older people’s second doses done, and the Delta variant."

About 46% of the population has now had both doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Health aim for everyone aged over 50 to be fully vaccinated by July 19, and for everyone aged 18 and over to have received at least their first jab.

Despite the concerns, massive crowds of football fans filled the streets of Central London on Friday ahead of the England v Scotland Euro 2020 match. A total of 22,500 fans were allowed to watch the game at Wembley Stadium, which ended in a 0-0 draw.