DID SPORT SPREAD THE VIRUS?
THERE are growing calls for an investigation into whether sporting events led to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
New data suggests there was a spike in deaths in English hospitals near to where major horse racing and football events were held in March. But there is no confirmed link yet between sport and any COVID-19 cases.
The four-day Cheltenham Festival of horse racing, which attracted 250,000 spectators, took place from 10-13 March. At the time, it was thought there were hundreds of cases of the new coronavirus in the UK. We now know there were actually more than 2,000 cases by 13 March.
Last week, the chief executive of the governing body of horse racing in Ireland said the event should “probably” not have taken place, because it might have led to an accidental spread of the virus among fans.
Public health experts have already called for an investigation into whether the festival led to a rise in coronavirus cases locally. Professor John Ashton, a former director of public health for Cumbria, said that an apparent rise in COVID-19 cases in the Cheltenham area
“deserved to be properly investigated”. Organisers have defended the decision to go ahead with the event.
Edge Health, a data analysis company, published figures last week that they say showed the Cheltenham Festival, Liverpool v Atlético Madrid in the Champions League on 11 March, and the Manchester derby in the Premier League on 8 March, all resulted in a significant increase of deaths in local hospitals 20-35 days later.
Before the new data was published, the Government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean, had said it would be “very interesting” to find out if there was a link between the Liverpool v Atlético Madrid game and the coronavirus outbreak.
A Champions League match in February between Italian side Atalanta and Spanish team Valencia has been blamed by health experts and politicians for spreading the virus. The match was attended by 44,000 fans. One senior Italian doctor described it as a “biological bomb”.