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Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Bond bounce: how the new 007 film may have caused a spike in cases

The rush to see the James Bond film could be behind the new spike in Covid infections in England, say experts.

No Time to Die opened to five star reviews just 11 days ago and has taken £50m at the box office with an estimated 7m million individual tickets sold to date – enough for more than one in 10 of the UK population.

Over the same period, Covid infections for most age groups have started climbing again, causing experts to wonder if the rush to cinemas could be behind the new bounce.

There were 40,224 daily Covid  infections announced on Monday, 816 new hospital admissions and 28 deaths.

Dr Duncan Robinson, policy and strategy analytics academic at Loughborough University and a fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, said the film provided an interesting “microcosm” of Covid transmission – “rather like the mixing that takes place in a shaken but not stirred martini”.

“Going to the cinema generally involves mixing with people you do not normally come into contact with – for a long period of time – and in the case of the James Bond release, cinemas are more likely to be highly occupied”, he added.

Dr Robinson added that, just as in July when the Euros were implicated in causing a bounce in Covid cases, there were likely to be multiple factors at play now.

“We are certainly seeing an increase in case rates, but this increase started in mid-September, before the opening night of James Bond, and includes age groups that should not be seeing a 12A rated film. So while James Bond may be partly responsible for a Covid spike, transmission from school children to their parents’ age groups is a factor that could also explain the increase”, he said.

Phil Clapp, Chief Executive of the UK Cinema Association, which represents nearly all UK cinemas, more than 700 of which have been showing the film, some as often as 50 times a day, said he had seen no evidence that cinemas presented an infection risk and that most were well ventilated.

“We are not aware of a single case of Covid being traced back to a UK cinema”, he said. “Unlike pubs and restaurants, those attending cinemas spend the majority of their time seated, all facing in the same way and not talking in a highly ventilated environment”.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, said: “There are more risks if you’re directly facing someone in terms of picking up the virus but the main issue is this virus is airborne – if you’re in an enclosed space with a lot of people, where ventilation is not great, no one is assessing carbon dioxide levels, and where people are sitting for a couple of hours and not wearing a face covering you’re in an environment where the virus can spread.”

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