Thursday, September 23

From the government of the six to 6,500 policemen: Cornwall hosts the first G7 of the Covid era | Cornwall


meEveryone, from the youngest official to the president of the United States, will have to follow the rules. Perform daily Covid tests, wear masks at the right times, and respect everything from one-way systems at venues to limits on how many people can gather around a table to eat or drink.

welcome to G7 UK 2021, the first world summit in Covid times.

It will be extraordinary in many ways. The stage, to begin with. The Cornish seaside town of Carbis Bay and the towns of St Ives and Falmouth are the main focus, but beaches and tourist attractions are expected to be used as a backdrop.

Safety is paramount. Warships are anchored off the coast and UK and US military aircraft circle overhead. Police and secret service personnel rub shoulders with tourists.

Thousands of protesters will make their voices heard with planned demonstrations on the beaches, the sea and the streets. Residents are preparing for the noise, nuisance, and chaos of traffic.

The twists and turns of the pandemic made the UK and other G7 members wary of going ahead with the summit face-to-face, but it is seen as part of a broader openness of diplomacy to in-person meetings.

Saudi Arabia was deeply disappointed when last year’s G20 summit took place online, and the G7 has always been viewed as a “casual talk” that would lose its impact and value if it were held remotely.

There have been concessions. There was a plan for a banquet at Buckingham Palace, but the Queen objected to this, not thinking that a lavish dinner was appropriate and fearing that it might have been a potential wide-spread event. Joe Biden is settling for tea with her.

Still, a growing concern among Cornish people is that the summit could spark a Covid outbreak in an area with one of the lowest rates in the UK.

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in conservative-controlled Cornwall, Colin Martin, said it was misleading to suggest that all foreign visitors would be in a safe bubble. “Cornwall is one of the safest places, but all of this could be put at risk by crowds of politicians and journalists landing at Newquay airport and traveling,” he said.

Cornwall Director of Public Health, Rachel Wigglesworth, accepted that holding such an event during a pandemic entailed “clear public health challenges.” She said everything attendees were required to provide a negative Covid result before arriving and then perform daily lateral flow tests.

Cornwall’s advice was firm: “You won’t turn a blind eye when it comes to following the ground rules.”

All of this can make things like dinner arrangements complicated. How can the seven G7 leaders eat together when in England no more than six people are allowed to gather inside a pub or restaurant?

The Cabinet Office said: “All attendees and delegations will be required to follow UK public health regulations throughout the meeting. We will require them to abide by strict Covid security measures. “

When asked if this meant that leaders could only dine as a group of up to six, the Cabinet Office only said, “Leaders will also follow public health guidelines.”

Meanwhile, the security operation is in full swing. Some 6,500 police officers from across the UK are on duty, a fifth of them staying on a cruise ship anchored off Falmouth.

Police officers near the Carbis Bay Hotel
Police officers near the Carbis Bay Hotel. Photograph: Tom Nicholson / Reuters

There are 1,000 police vehicles on the streets of Cornwall, 150 waiting dogs and 18 police drones. Officers are armed with pistols, baton cartridges, stun guns, smoke and stun grenades, and incapacitating spray.

The Royal Navy ships HMS Tyne and HMS Tamar are among the ships found off the coast of Cornwall.

But most of the security is not obvious. For every visible warship or armed police officer, you can be sure that there are many more special forces officers. For every local police chief who comes forward as the talking head, there are many dozen security services specialists in London, GCHQ and Washington.

Perhaps optimistically, four “official” protest sites have been established, two in Cornwall (Truro and Falmouth) and two in Devon (Plymouth and Exeter). But in general, protesters will avoid them and try to get as close to leaders and the media as possible.

The demonstrations will be many and varied. On Friday, the youth of the Cornwall Youth Climate Alliance are organizing a strike for schoolchildren on Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth.

A banner on a building in Carbis Bay
A banner on a building in Carbis Bay. Photograph: Tom Nicholson / Reuters

Extinction rebellion (XR) is planning protests through art, music and dance on the beaches, at sea and in St Ives and Falmouth. About 500 people have arrived at his campsite in St Ives.

A group called Resist G7, which includes organizations such as the Anarchist Federation, the Penzance Socialists and the Stop the War Coalition, is holding a three-day protest, including a march to “kill the bill” on Sunday. Like XR, it asks people to get tested for Covid before traveling and passes on the public health advice that everyone connected to the G7 should get tested daily.

Some residents ask if it’s worth it. The government has announced what it calls a “Legacy of the G7”, including offers from the city worth over £ 65 million for St Ives, Penzance and Camborne (although political opponents argue that this is not really new as it was known, the money was pending).

The Rev. Chris Wallis, coordinator of the St Ives food bank, said he feared the attention the G7 summit would bring would hurt less well-off locals. “It will worsen house prices in this area. It will undoubtedly worsen the poverty of those who try to live here. “

Michael Davies, a store worker living in Carbis Bay, said he was concerned about the outage. But I think in general there is a mixture of excitement and apprehension. We don’t know what to expect. Nothing so big has ever happened before. “


www.theguardian.com

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