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Coronavirus: Music festivals cancelled as government raises risk level

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Crowds at the Milford Music and Art Festival
Crowds at the Milford Music and Art Festival

EVENTS across the New Forest are being cancelled by organisers concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The New Milton Music Festival had been scheduled to take place this weekend amid celebrations for its 20th anniversary, but has now been stopped.

The Milford Music Festival due to take place in July has also been abandoned by organisers.

The announcements came as the government said the UK is moving out of the “contain” phase and into “delay”, with the risk raised from moderate to high.

In Hampshire the number of confirmed cases rose yesterday to 15, up from 13 the day before. In the BCP Council area, the level remained at three. Across the UK there have been 590 recorded cases with eight deaths.

Hundreds of performers were set to converge on New Milton for competitions in various classes, culminating in a gala concert at Arnewood School on Sunday.

Organisers had even commissioned local composer Alison Hedger to write a special piece that would have been performed by participants.

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To slow the spread of infection, government advice is for people to wash their hands with soap and water more often, for at least 20 seconds.

People with a high temperature (37.8C or above) or a new, continuous cough are asked to self-isolate for seven days, regardless of whether they have travelled to affected areas.

This means staying at home and avoiding all but essential contact with others from the point of displaying mild symptoms. If symptoms do not improve after seven days contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk, call NHS 111, or 999 in an emergency.

In a statement, the New Milton Music Festival organising committee said: “With the greatest regret, we have made the decision today to cancel the music festival this weekend.

“We have reviewed the volunteer staffing levels, many of whom are in an at-risk health category, and concluded that we can’t run the festival safely and in the manner that you would expect.

“We are also mindful of our responsibility not to exacerbate any risk of transmission of Covid-19 so would have been encouraging any performers or supporters in an at risk category not to attend.”

It added: “As you can imagine, we are extremely sorry for all those entrants who have been practicing their performances and to the teachers and families who have been preparing and supporting them.

“We had been looking forward to celebrating the efforts of those who initiated the festival 20 years ago and performing the commissioned piece by Alison Hedger – that will all have to wait for another time.”

Another fixture being called off later in the year is this summer’s Milford Music Festival which attracted hundreds of visitors to the village in 2019 and had been scheduled for 16th-19th July.

Organisers made the judgement as they faced having to decide whether to spend £18,000 in the coming weeks on costs such as staging, insurance, PA hire deposits for bands.

A beach clean and microplastics survey at Barton organised for Sunday has also bee cancelled by the New Forest branch of the Friends of the Earth. The group said in a tweet that a lack of hand sanitiser was one of the problems.

Noadswood School in Dibden Purlieu said it was rearranging a series of events until after Easter "to minimise the risks to our community", including all sporting fixtures with immediate effect.

Also suspended this month are the Year 8 options evening, a parent forum, and Year 7 parents' evening.

Testwood School in Totton last night its parents' evening for Year 8 pupils. Headteacher Jenny Pitman stressed there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus.

In a statement hours before the event, she apologised and said the action was a precaution and not due to advice by Public Health England. Teachers will instead email parents with an update on their child's progress.

Mrs Pitman added: "This is not to cause panic but to take steps to keep staff and students as safe as possible."

This article was updated on 13th March 2020 with further cancellations.

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