Coronavirus spreading in wake of Champions League clash 'interesting hypothesis'

A top government Scientific advisor has said the idea that high profile sporting events could have spread the coronavirus more widely in the days before lockdown was an “interesting hypothesis”.

It came after government ministers came under increasing fire for allowing Liverpool’s Champions League match against Athletico Madrid to go ahead, despite warnings that events could be spreading the virus.

Earlier today the government faced similar criticism over the decisions to let the Cheltenham Festival go ahead.

Deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean said it was an “interesting hypothesis” that Liverpool hosting a football match against Atletico Madrid could have spread coronavirus.

Asked about the game on March 11, she said: “The question you’ve raised has to be put into context of the general policy at the time.”

When normal life was under way going to a football match was not a “particularly large extra risk”, she said.

“However, when you get to the situation of our strange lives as we live them now where we spend all our time basically at home, of course you wouldn’t add on an extra risk of lots and lots of people going off to the same place at the same time,” she continued.

“I think it will be very interesting to see in the future when all the science is done what relationship there is between the virus that has circulated in Liverpool and the virus that has circulated in Spain. That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis you raise there.”

Earlier today Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has defended the decision to argue the Cheltenham Festival should have gone ahead.

The four-day Festival saw 250,000 people gather in close proximity just ten days before lockdown began.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Dowden was accused by presenter Piers Morgan of “actively encouraging” people to attend the likes of the Cheltenham and the Liverpool versus Atletico Madrid football match after the Government decided not to ban major events until late March.

Mr Dowden said: “The scientific evidence we were being given was that, at a mass gathering, the threat at a mass gathering relates to the people who immediately surround you – the people in front of you and behind you.

“The risk at mass gatherings was no greater or less than it would have been in pubs or restaurants, and the advice at that point was that we did not need to ban mass gatherings.’

Asked whether the advice was wrong, the Cabinet minister replied: “As the situation developed, the scientific advice changed and we changed our guidance off the back of it.

“But mass gatherings are not different to any of those other events I described and at the appropriate moment we took the decision to close pubs, to close restaurants”


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