About this release
This release by Public Health Scotland assess how the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) held in Glasgow between 25 October and 13 November 2021 brought new and unique surveillance challenges with a large influx of visitors into Glasgow during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes the epidemiology of COVID-19 in the run-up to, during and after COP26 using established surveillance systems and through data collected by an enhanced surveillance system set up by PHS. This final report expands on the preliminary report published on 16 November 2021 and covers the period after COP26 to determine any impact COP26 had on COVID-19 epidemiologic trends in Scotland following the event. The findings of this report will be important in informing the surveillance response for future mass gatherings and large events in the era of COVID-19 in Scotland.
- PHS estimates that as of 26 November 2021, between 31st October to 13th November, around 2 in every 1000 people officially affiliated with the COP26 summit tested positive for COVID-19 through lateral flow device (LFD) and/or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. This compares to a survey of the Scottish population that estimated that between 11 and 12 in every 1000 people were infected with COVID-19 (between 6 November 2021 and 13 November). People officially associated with COP26 include United Nations Member State parties, UN staff, media, service staff and others with access to test kits supplied by COP26 organisers.
- Since 15 October 2021, 353 people across Scotland infected with COVID-19 (LFD and/or PCR positive) reported attending or supporting a COP26-related event during a potentially infectious period. Events could include the summit itself, as well as workshops, seminars, or protests and marches.
- Although the 7-day incidence rate of infection in Scotland began to increase during the COP26 summit, from 330 cases per 100,000 on 1 November to 389 cases per 100,000 on 13 November, this increase was primarily driven by rising cases among children between 5 and 11 years old. In the final week of COP26, case rates rose in the adult population aged 20 to 49 years old also, but stabilised and started to decline in the two weeks after COP26 alongside the rates amongst the younger age groups.
- Throughout the summit, the 7-day incidence rate of diagnosed infection in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde remained the lowest of the mainland Scottish NHS Boards. The rates in most NHS Boards increased during the summit but had stabilised at the end of the summit and decreased in the two weeks following COP26.
- Data available to PHS from enhanced and routine COVID-19 surveillance does not indicate a direct COP26 contribution to the increase in COVID-19 infections nationwide during the summit and there is no evidence of any connection between Omicron cases and COP26. With infections falling in the two weeks following the end of the summit, it is likely that COP26 has had little impact on COVID-19 epidemiology in Scotland.
In anticipation of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), Public Health Scotland (PHS) set up an enhanced surveillance system to monitor the epidemiology of COVID-19 infections amongst people with links to COP26 official and unofficial events. Implementing enhanced surveillance of large-scale international gatherings like COP26 can help to quantify and potentially mitigate any extra pressures on local public health and health service infrastructure stemming from these events. Enhanced event-related surveillance data can also provide timely reassurance that appropriate infection control measures are being taken to reduce wider transmission and facilitates evaluation of these measures to inform future responses to mass gatherings. Review of the enhanced surveillance data began by PHS on 15 October 2021 when United Nations (UN) Member State parties, observers, media, COP26 support staff and activists began arriving in Glasgow. The main summit was held at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, known as the Blue Zone, and was where international negotiations over climate change agreements and actions took place. The Glasgow Science Centre across the River Clyde from the Blue Zone was known as the Green Zone and open to the public to attend an extensive programme of events, workshops and performances.
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