Sports events in March “Caused increased suffering and death”
(FASTNEWS | COLOMBO) – Two major sporting events held in March “caused increased suffering and death”, the scientist leading the UK’s largest Covid-19 tracking project has said.
Data gathered from millions of volunteers found coronavirus “hotspots” shortly after the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid.
Professor Tim Spector said rates of cases locally “increased several-fold”.
The government said many factors could influence cases in a particular area.
Less than three months ago sport across the UK was continuing as normal, despite the impending threat of coronavirus – which had already prompted some European countries to stage such events without spectators, or completely call them off.
Sports governing bodies in the UK were taking their cue from Prime Minister Boris Johnson who declared in early March that people should “as far as possible, go about business as usual”.
On the first weekend in March, there was a full programme of football in both England and Scotland, five horse racing meetings, and Six Nations rugby at Twickenham between England and Wales – which the prime minister himself attended.
It was a different matter elsewhere. A forthcoming Six Nations match in Dublin had already been postponed, along with the Chinese Grand Prix and football matches in virus-stricken northern Italy.
The UK government’s stance remained consistent. Just 24 hours before Cheltenham opened its gates to 250,000 spectators on 10 March, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden rebuffed growing calls for a ban on mass outdoor gatherings.
He told the BBC: “There’s no reason for people not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage.”
But Prof Spector from King’s College London said “people will have probably died prematurely” because of the decision.