COULD VE day celebrations explain a spike in the number of new Covid-positive patients in Bradford?

One day last week, the number of new coronavirus cases at the Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) jumped to 30 and Professor John Wright, who has been helping the hospital in its frontline response to the crisis, thinks there could be a link.

In a diary for the BBC, he said: "The day after the Prime Minister announced an easing of the lockdown, the number of new Covid patients in the hospital fell to a reassuring three. And two of them were my medical colleagues.

"The low figure partly resulted from delays in reporting, which happen every weekend, but there was still a collective sigh of relief. Maybe everything was going to be all right after all?

"But three days later, on Thursday May 14, the number of new Covid-positive patients had shot up to 30.

"It's just one figure, and in normal times we might discount it as random variation. However these are times of alertness, and every flicker of the Covid dashboard needle triggers nervous anticipation of a possible spike. There is a delay between infection and symptoms, usually about five-to-seven days. So these cases would have been incubating since the week before - and possibly since the communal gatherings on VE Day, six days earlier."

VE Day - the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe in World War Two - would have been marked in a huge way at any other time.

In the lockdown, communities did what they could amid the restrictions, but staff at the BRI's A&E unit said they began to see a collapse in social distancing.

Consultant David Greenhorn said: "On VE day we had patients in who had been assaulted in the middle of street parties.

"There were a number of assaults and it was quite clear that as the alcohol flowed, the street parties became closer and they were no longer street parties, and more garden parties - and then eventually front-room parties. And then, as often happens with parties, they were boxing matches."

Prof Wright said that after Thursday, the number of new cases at the BRI fell back to less than 15. Even before the prime minister's announcement on May 10, the lockdown had been slowly leaking, and the legacy of any leak is an increase in the number of Covid cases.

"It was reported on Friday that the R number - the average number of people each infected person passes the coronavirus to - has been creeping back up across the country, and nowhere more so than in Yorkshire and the North East."

Dinesh Saralaya, a consultant in respiratory medicine, has concerns about Bradford's Muslim population gathering in the evening to buy hot food.

"A few of us have been talking about a breakdown in social distancing - I'm worried about the possibility that this might be happening as we approach the end of Ramadan," he said.

He pointed out people are doing less cooking at home during Ramadan, when they fast every day until sunset, and that some restaurants have opened takeaways outside.

"They want the food to be hot when they break their fast, so they start queuing from around 8.30pm," he said.

"You can see lots of cars pull up and there are lots of people waiting. I think that it could be exposing people and worry that we will start to see some impact of that."